Friday, April 13, 2018

The Barrow Will Send What it May, by Margaret Killjoy

[Tor Novella]
★★★★☆ Interesting Characters, Good Action, Cool Plot

(Dark Modern Fantasy; Danielle Cain) A group of young, anarchist, demon hunters come to a town where some of the dead are walking. (27,064 words; Time: 1h:30m)

This story largely stands alone, but readers will benefit from reading “The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion” first. See related articles on

"," by (edited by Diana Pho), published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: This story has a large cast of characters, but they’re well-described and easy to tell apart from each other. In fact, it’s remarkable how much we end up learning about the characters:

Danielle, the narrator, is the only character with zero physical description. In addition to solving the mystery, she wants to be with Brynn.

Vulture, an African-American trans man, has the most distinctive voice of anyone besides Danielle. His simple directness makes him easy to love. “Where do you get all those cell phone, Vulture?” “I steal them.”

Brynn, who becomes Danielle’s lover, is a white woman with gray eyes.

The “Days” (Thursday and Doomsday) are a mixed race heterosexual couple (Thursday might be bi if he wasn’t joking about having a crush on Idris Elba.) Thursday’s a black man, and Doomsday is a heavy-set white woman.

It’s easy to forget that the core group of five are all about Danielle’s age (28), since they show very different levels of maturity.

For the rest, Vasilis is just ten years older than Danielle’s crew. His deep love for Heather and his fear of losing her make him pretty sympathetic too.

Gertrude Miller is great. She’s a non-nonsense midwestern woman, but she’s so cheerful it’s impossible not to like her. A great moment comes after the awkwardness of them stopping her from asking Vulture too many personal questions about his being trans. They discover that she’s a zombie, and then worry that they’re being just as intrusive by asking her how she died.

Sebastian Miller avoids being a cardboard villain simply because he was trying to get Gertrude back. Yes, he was doing it for himself, not her, but his reasons are understandable, which makes him a good antagonist.

As far as the plot goes, it both starts and ends with the core five characters fleeing the law. At the start, they only imagine someone is following, but at the end, they can see three carloads of “magic FBI” coming for them. It makes for nice closure and leaves things open for a sequel. In-between, they solve the mystery of what happened to Gertrude, and Isola, Damien, and Loki. They lose Heather, and it’s a great twist when they manage to resurrect her long enough to pierce the green force field. By the end, all the loose ends are nicely tied up.

It’s a serious story, but it has plenty of light moments. For example, it’s very funny that they come to the town because they (mis-)used their magic to help them hitchhike. Sure enough, the spell sends them a dead person to help find their way, and she takes them right to where they’re needed.

Finally, as with the previous story, a lot of the fun here is learning about the anarchists and their “squat.”

Con:  I didn’t feel any emotional attachment to the people in the story for some reason. Not when Heather died. Not when she came back. Not when Danielle and Brynn got together. I think this is at least partly because Heather and Brynn are probably the two least-developed characters.

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