Mistress Gideon is a witch. The locals of Edda’s Meadow, if they suspect it of her, say nary a word-Gideon has been good to them, and it’s always better to keep on her good side. Just in case.
When a foolish young shapeshifter goes against the wishes of her pack, and gets herself very publicly caught, the authorities find it impossible to deny the existence of the supernatural in their midst any longer; Gideon and her like are captured, bound for torture and a fiery end.
Should Gideon give up her sisters in return for a quick death? Or can she turn the situation to her advantage?
This is another novella from Tor.com, and yet more proof that their acquiring editors are dedicated to quality over familiarity. It seems there is more freedom in publishing targeted at an online market; they are free to look at all manner of works, and not just those that fit the formula of what the average reader says they want.
The main character in Of Sorrow and Such is in the margin between Mother and Crone. Like Hollywood, literature has long had a drought of viewpoint characters who are not nubile young teenagers. Angela Slatter was fearless in her choice to focus on a woman who is powerful and older. Mistress Gideon is mature and thoughtful as the result of many years of life, not out of any uncanny skill. Her thoughts are juxtaposed with her adopted daughter, Gilly’s, actions – Gilly is young, sought after by young men, and stubborn. In many ways, in the beginning, Gilly is the typical fantasy character prototype, and it is refreshing that the story instead focuses on Mistress Gideon.
The attention to detail is exquisite. Novellas are short enough that every word needs to move the story forward. There is often little room for meandering descriptions. Angela Slatter has the ability to write a truly lovely (or, frankly, disgusting) sentence that also is necessary to move the plot forward. For example:
“On the surface before her is a clump of dead white that, when she is not kneading it this way and that, moves of its own accord, seeming to breathe and shiver. It’s living clay, dug from the earth of certain graveyards, replete with the juices of the dead, redolent with the scent of rot.”
If that does not make you want to read this book, I have one more suggestion.
The novella takes an unexpected turn. I can’t tell you why – you have to find out for yourself – but the events unfolding are not what they seem.
Angela Slatter specializes in dark fantasy and horror. (I’m going to rip through her backlist!)
Of Sorrow and Such is available via Amazon HERE and from other book retailers.