Thursday, September 26, 2019

Portrait Of The Artist, by K.J. Parker

[BCS]
★★★☆☆ Honorable Mention

(High Fantasy) The narrator paints the best portraits, and her work commands the highest prices. But she needs a lot of money, and she puts her work to a darker purpose. (10,407 words; Time: 34m)


"," by (edited by Scott H. Andrews), appeared in issue 287, published on .

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

Review: 2019.562 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: Although it’s clear from the start that the narrator is up to no good, it’s not clear until the end exactly what she does with the extra portraits nor why so many of her subjects die mysteriously.

The back story is a bit sad, where we learn of her father’s financial failure and suicide, highlights the story’s big theme: there’s a fine line between success and failure. (Three-quarters of an inch.) Her father came very close to being wealthy but ended up with nothing. Her portraits have to be measured very precisely or they don’t work. And she has a very precise amount of money she needs for them to successfully develop the iron deposit they own—falling short by just a trifle is enough to spell ruin.

Con: It’s hard to decide how to feel about her. What she’s doing is accessory to murder. What she’s earned is blood money, and she has no compunctions about it at all. Yes, at the end she pays with her life, but even then it’s a little hard to see how that was her only option.

It’s also hard to believe that the sum required to develop the mine could be determined that precisely.

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K.J. Parker Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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