Monday, October 14, 2019

The Edges of the World, by Grace Seybold

★★★☆☆ Honorable Mention

(Dark Fantasy) An old alchemist, exiled for resisting the empire, writes a last letter to an old friend before he attempts his escape. (2,688 words; Time: 08m)

"," by (edited by Scott H. Andrews), appeared in issue 288, published on .

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

Review: 2019.588 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: As we read this sad little story, we gradually understand what happened thirty years ago and we get a clearer idea what Nalatachet is actually doing.

First, although Nalatachet accepted exile thirty years ago, his friend Bexeletl refused it and was burned at the stake. That’s why he’s always young. That’s how he “escaped exile.” And that’s why he burned brightly. Nalatachet has faithfully been writing letters to a dead man all these years. He burns them at the end so the Empire won’t get them.

Second, Nalatachet has been drinking a special potion, “the other tea, the grey one, from which there’s no returning.” Like poison, it’s painful to drink. His body is transforming into a turtle, little by little. We know this isn’t just a metaphor for suicide because he expects the Empire to search for him, meaning they won’t find his body.

Finally, once he’s a turtle himself, he solves the mystery of where the turtles go in the winter; they leave the Earth and travel to the sky.

Con: Although the story is sad and moving, it has very low stakes. Nalatachet simply gives up on life and escapes this world. He might as well be dead for all the effect he’ll have. And we never really understand why he and his friends rebelled when they did nor why he personally accepted exile.

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