Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Boy Who Loved Drowning, by R.K. Duncan

★★★☆☆ Honorable Mention

(Fantasy Horror) A child apprenticed to a master diviner learns how to find answers at the bottom of a holy lake. (4,230 words; Time: 14m)

"," by (edited by Scott H. Andrews), appeared in issue 272, published on .

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

Review: 2019.140 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: It’s not clear that Bit actually drowns during these sessions; he just holds his breath until he sees visions. What he’s doing is so dangerous that the whole story is full of tension; every trip to the bottom of the lake could be his last, and his lack of fear makes the tension stronger because we know he’s not really alert to the danger.

Kal doesn’t seem very affectionate with Bit until the very last, and we have lots of hints that he fears her, so it’s not a huge surprise that he’s willing to kill her when the lake coaxes him to do so. In fact, given he was just five when he was taken from his family when she "bought" him, it's surprising he doesn't harbor more resentment of her.

It’s an open question whether she was truly jealous of him or merely afraid that the lake was pursuing its own agenda. We don’t know what it was telling her in her own visits to the bottom, but given that she cancelled appointments, one might guess it had quit talking to her at all.

Con: Bit is a rather passive protagonist. At the start he simply does what Kal tells him, and at the end he simply obeys the lake. And he never once questions whether it's telling him the whole truth.

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