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the genre's premiere review magazine for short SF & Fantasy since 1993

Shadowed Realms, #9, Jan/Feb 2006

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“Edges” by Lyn Battersby
“Silk and Pearls” by KJ Bishop
“The Sacrifice Makes the God” by Deborah McDonnell
“The Bat’s Boudoir” by Kyla Ward
“The Softening” by Kaaron Warren
“Surrender 1: Rope Artist” by Deborah Biancotti
“Cold” by Kirstyn McDermott
“The Ice Bride” by Cat Sparks
“Last Bulkhead” by Susan Wardle

The latest issue of Shadowed Realms contains scarring pieces of dark flash fiction, ranging from the believable (“Surrender 1: Rope Artist”) to the unbelievable (“Silk and Pearls”) to the it-frightens-me-to-believe-this (“The Softening”).

Lyn Battersby’s “Edges” is a quick look into the disordered life of Simon and his wife, Toni. The only problem is that Toni is also four or five personalities, all trapped in one body. One of them, Aurelia, Simon has slept with, and the other, Joe, has a tendency to cause others pain. But Simon only wants Toni, which is a shame since I knew how this was going to end just by the title. That’s not a bad thing, but more of an appropriate consequence for Simon’s previous actions.

“Silk and Pearls” by KJ Bishop is downright creepy. A mother only wants her son, Pearl Boy, to marry a woman of high rank. When he falls in love with Ping, a woman of little or no significance, his mother goes to the local magician asking for help. He gives her a magical cloak that promises to solve all problems. Well-written prose and a captivating voice carry “Silk and Pearls” from start to end. It’s a fairytale gone horrific.

Betrayal, bargains, and bloodthirsty gods are the trivial pieces of “The Sacrifice Makes the God” by Deborah McDonnell. This was the most engaging read for me of the current issue of Shadowed Realms and to give away any more of the plot wouldn’t do it justice. The writing is fast with beautiful prose; the action is gritty and grim, and the outcome cruel but justly right. Read it, and then do what I did—read it again.

Kyla Ward’s “The Bat’s Boudoir” is an elaborate glimpse into the world of one Madame Chiroptera, a woman who, by the story’s title, is more than just that. Though richly written with detailed descriptions, I just didn’t feel enough happened in “The Bat’s Boudoir” to keep me interested.

Inspired by a piece of artwork by Stephen Harrison, “The Softening” by Kaaron Warren shows what happens to a home when its owner dies. The soul takes to the walls, softening them, living in them. The unnamed narrator’s Grandmother has just died, and it becomes her desire to understand more about this strange phenomenon. But will her own soul survive the quest for knowledge? A great story that, by the time you are done reading, will have you touching walls just to make sure they're solid.

“Surrender 1: Rope Artist” by Deborah Biancotti is a learning piece of fiction. A case of kinky, sexual exploits gone bad: a man is tied up with ropes while a mysterious woman toys with his body in ungainly ways. And he paid for this treatment. What ensues later though, is something he did not pay for nor necessarily wants. Biancotti’s writing is deep, well researched, and full of fruitful language. Definitely a strong entry.

Dark, a descriptor used for all the stories found in Shadowed Realms, is most apt for “Cold” by Kirstyn McDermott. Giving away too much about “Cold” would be silly, but I do urge readers to take the time to experience the creepy feeling given by the unknown narrator. It’s that sick, voyeuristic voice that makes the hair on your neck stand up, and McDermott has mastered it wonderfully in “Cold.”

“The Ice Bride” by Cat Sparks is a great piece of flash, using every word to dress the scene in a chilling tone. The ice bride is looking to have a child, but her husbands keep ending up dead. She has just chosen Artaniel to father her child, and everyone expects to see him dead in a few days. But things turn out a little differently than everyone expected. Sparks’s writing is beautiful, colored with original imagery and lush descriptions, and I was quite sad to see the story end where it did. “The Ice Bride” could have worked better as a short story or novella; as a work of flash the reader gets only a curt glimpse into a world far more developed.

While cleverly written, “Last Bulkhead” by Susan Wardle didn’t evoke the same feeling of dread that the other stories did. It had a couple poignant moments, one mainly involving the narrator’s cat, but other than that “Last Bulkhead” suffered from not being clear enough for me. The ending seemed wrong, as if it still had more to tell.