Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Thirty-Three Wicked Daughters, by Kelly Barnhill

[F&SF]
★★☆☆☆ Not Recommended

(Fairy Tale) The old king’s 33 daughters just want to make the kingdom a better place, so why do all the nobles, priests, and guilds call them evil? (10,631 words; Time: 35m)

Recommended By: πŸ‘STomaino+1 (Q&A)


"Thirty-Three Wicked Daughters," by (edited by C.C. Finlay), appeared in issue 05-06|19, published on by .

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

Review: 2019.281 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: This retelling of the founding of England (aka “Albion”) tells the tale of Albia and her sisters in a completely different way. In this tale, the only people who call them wicked are the men whose power they threaten, and rather than murdering their innocent husbands, they’re trapped into “marriages” they never consented to.

The Barons are the real villains of this piece, and once the sisters have disposed of them, they head off to the land of the Giants, which they rename Albion.

Con: The story has a very strong radical feminist/Marxist message, which wouldn’t be fatal—this is a fairy tale, and fairy tales can be entertaining even when they carry much more distasteful messages—except that this message gets hammered in in almost every paragraph. And the message amounts to 1) men are all stupid and almost all evil 2) Women are smart and compassionate 3) anyone with money is evil 4) the working class (which didn’t even exist in medieval times, but never mind) are noble and selfless 5) We can achieve utopia if we just kill enough people. There’s very little story attached; the message is almost all there is.

Ironically, this makes dimwitted King Diodicias the real hero of the piece because, despite his handicaps, he rises to the occasion and on his own initiative, uses his pigeons to save the day. It also makes the Barons’ capture of the daughters impossible to believe, because the Barons are so stupid, the daughters are so smart, and the common people are so noble that there’s no way they’d have even come up with such a plan, much less been able to execute it in secrecy.

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