Sunday, September 8, 2019

All in Green Went My Love Riding, by Megan Arkenberg


(Historical Fantasy) At a special girls’ boarding school, the fun and games are interrupted when someone kills a girl from the local town. Margot and her friends are sure they can take care of themselves though. (6,007 words; Time: 20m)

Recommended By: πŸ‘STomaino+1 (Q&A)

"All in Green Went My Love Riding," by (edited by Sheila Williams), appeared in issue 09-10|19, published on by .

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

Review: 2019.492 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: This is pretty much the story of how the threat developed and what Margot and her friends learned. We also learn that Margot and her friends aren’t entirely human (technically I think they’re satyresses). I have to admit, I was expecting a more magical defense, but sharp hooves work well enough, particularly if the villain wasn’t expecting it.

Con: I’m confused about the ending. Why did Miss Olwen leave abruptly? Why were only some of the satyresses taught to fight? And what’s the point of the reference to Caitlin living in a vagrant’s camp?

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4 comments (may contain spoilers):

  1. Only the girls from the Red Dormitory are satyresses*. The girls from the Gray Dormitory, like Caitlin, are lionesses: Caitlin is described as having paws and golden eyes, and several references are made to the teeth of the girls from the Gray Dormitory. While it was the vagrant who raped the girl from the village, it was Caitlin who attacked the sheep and killed the first girl. The animal den that Miss Darwin and the villagers found was Caitlin's. Caitlin, Anna Clare, and Sally Evangeline don't have to be taught to fight, because they already know - note that these are all girls from the Gray Dormitory. Note also that the line is "But what about the girls who were never taught to be dangerous?" The contrast is with the Red Dormitory girls, who are taught to be vulnerable. There's also Margot's conversation with the doctor, concerning the identity of the killer: "I believed him, of course, about the girls from the Red Dormitory. But there was still a question I didn't know how to ask." That question being, "What about the girls from the Gray Dormitory?"

    I think that Miss Olwen is actually Caitlin's older sister - they are both pointedly described as freckled - who always keeps an eye on Caitlin because she's worried about her behavior. Her abrupt departure is connected with her realization that Caitlin was the killer. Whether she told anyone else of her suspicions, and whether she was fired or left of her own volition, is uncertain. And I think that the ending is intended to convey that, unlike Margo, Brigit, Leah, Nimue, and Janet, who have all graduated from the school and integrated into society (in their way), Caitlin has fled into the wilds, such as they are, and lives alone. There was no fire in the "vagrant's camp" the two girls found, just as there wasn't in the cave, because lionesses don't need fires.

    I also inferred that all the girls at the school are the result of medical experimentation. At the end Margot tells us that she works with Mrs. Morrow's sister, who "still spells her name the French way", i.e., Moreau**. And of course Mrs. Morrow's father is a doctor.

    I would easily give this four stars, because the prose is so terrific, and because I love stories that reward close reading and unpacking.

    *Initially I assumed that they had two legs, but the double-hoof imprint on the chest of the dead vagrant that Nimue kicked clearly indicates they must be quadrupeds. I'm still not sure how they can climb trees.

    **Although this seems like a minor slip-up on the author's part: since this seems pretty clearly a Victorian-ish society, surely Morrow would be Mrs. Morrow's husband's last name, and so her sister's last name would be different.

    1. Well done! It looks like I missed quite a bit of this one. I'll give it another look when I get time.

      Note that in Victorian times "Mrs." was applied to women in authority whether married or not.

    2. I did not know that! Okay, clearly that was my slip-up, not Arkenberg's. And of course, that means Mrs. Morrow's father is Dr. Morrow. (Although I've always assumed, possibly incorrectly, that the name of Wells' titular character is pronounced "More-oh", with the accent on the second syllable - possibly just because that's how it was pronounced in the Charles Laughton film, which I probably saw as a child before I read the novel.)

      Fascinating article; I also had no idea that "Mrs" used to be pronounced "Mistress".

    3. I'm always surprised by how much you can learn about history and literature from reading SF/F. Foundation made me curious about the Roman Empire when I was a kid, for example. But there are little bits and pieces everywhere.