Friday, June 22, 2018

The Sweetness of Honey and Rot, by A. Merc Rustad

★★★★☆ Bittersweet

(High Fantasy Horror) The Life Tree protects the villagers, at the price of human sacrifices. When it takes Jiteh’s brother, she starts looking for ways to escape. (8,915 words; Time: 29m)

"," by (edited by Scott H. Andrews), appeared in issue 254, published on .

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

Pro: There’s a good, strong plot: Jiteh wants freedom from the Tree, even if she has to destroy it in the process. Her use of her bees to protect herself adds a nice touch of drama at key points.

It also does a nice job of developing her bond with Mateu, starting with his shy request to court her, and then showing how their love ripens over time. When he’s taken from her, we really feel her pain.

Her strategy to kill the tree is clever: mixing the traitor’s breath flowers with honey and feeding it to everyone until all future “tithes” are poisonous to the tree. Her strategy has had a heavy cost: many more tithes than usual (aka dead villagers) plus the loss of most of her bees.

The fact that she doesn’t know whether the barrier is needed or not doesn’t really matter; long before the end of the story, it’s clear that survival on these terms isn’t worth it.

Con: Why didn’t the tree take Jiteh instead of Mateu once it knew she was a problem?

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