Friday, March 26, 2010

Aaron's Story Recommendation of the Week :: Deutoroi by Samantha Henderson

DeutoriMy story recommendation of the week goes to Deutoroi by Samantha Henderson, from the First Quarter, 2010 issue of Abyss & Apex. This is Henderson's second SROTW, putting her in strong company with Paolo Bacigalupi, Catherynne M. Valente, Aliette de Bodard, Leah Bobet, and Eugie Foster.

Our protagonist Merea is the Thessa, a woman able to communicate (to a degree) with animals, trees, even the wind. As the story begins, Merea is pursued by would-be king Dathan, who needs her to help track down the Deutoroi, the white stag whose blood is necessary to give a king legitimacy in this land. Merea is drawn to this destiny but also fears it will drive her insane:
The Thessa must surrender to madness to find the Deutoroi, and all Thessa went mad in time. That's what she had come to understand after her mother died, and what she most feared. The horror of losing herself in the wind that lashed the tops of the trees, or giving in to the voice that called her from the west, from the Narcos Wade. The horror and delight of it. She heard it in the whispering of the plum trees when she was sent to pick their fruit, in the smell of a breeze that brought her up short, prickling all over.
I just loved this story. The writing is evocative but never ostentatious. It has a simple, pastoral setting, but Henderson hints at fascinating complexities to this world. The tale moves quickly in a predictable direction, yet still packs several surprises. Our sympathies are initially with Merea, hunted and used by Dathan, but we soon learn that Dathan is motivated by a sincere desire to prevent war, and we begin to wonder if Merea is truly blameless or has shirked her responsibilities. A similar pattern unfolds as they begin their hunt for the Deutoroi.

Webzine Abyss & Apex is one of the most reliable free sites for excellent fiction by up-and-coming authors. In the past two years alone, it has published work by Camille Alexa, Marie Brennan, Aliette de Bodard, Vylar Kaftan, Ruth Nestvold, Tony Pi, Cat Rambo, Patricia Russo, Ken Scholes, and Lavie Tidhar, among many others. Go give it a read, starting with "Deutoroi".

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