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

Fantasy Magazine, February 2011

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Fantasy Magazine, February 2011

“Of Men and Wolves” by An Owomoyela
“The Lizard Dance” by Gio Clairval and Jeff VanderMeer
“The House that Made the Sixteen Loops of Time” by Tamsyn Muir
“The Celebrated Carousel of the Margravine” by Meg Arkenberg

Reviewed by Rhonda Porrett

An Owomoyela’s “Of Men and Wolves” is filled with myth, emotion and tension. A prince of the Sal is changed into a woman by the will of the King and a surgeon’s knife. This half-woman is given in marriage to an Odad prince in hopes that peace can prevail between the two warring tribes. Despite her bridegroom’s kindness, the half-woman resents him as she confronts the psychological scars of being forced to become a pawn instead of a prince.

She is taken to the sacred City of Wolves on her wedding night and the marriage consummated. When her husband is killed by wolves, she feels no grief, only fears for her people. His death threatens to renew hostilities between the Odad and the Sal. The half-woman finds strength and unexpected allies in minor gods as she attempts to save her people from retribution from the Odad for the killing of their prince.

I found the storyline hard to follow during my initial read, and the main character does little to affect the outcome. Subsequent analysis has given me a greater appreciation of the effort An Owomoyela has put into this tale. I recommend reading this in a quiet place without distraction.

Mai is a dancer trapped in the body of a fat girl in “The Lizard Dance” by Gio Clairval and Jeff VanderMeer. Tormented by her peers, Mai finds solace in making lizards dance at her command. Ballet, soft shoe, square dancing—the lizards want to teach her so she may find joy. But to find joy she must first overcome the negative body image imposed upon her by the social pressure she feels to become thin.

The thought of dancing lizards is wonderfully juvenile to me. The mean behavior of the future cheerleaders with their pointy noses and aquamarine eyes who bully the fat girl is overdone in my opinion. The clichéd beginning is saved by the gritty ending.

“The House that Made the Sixteen Loops of Time” by Tamsyn Muir is a character driven story about a quirky woman and her even quirkier house. If Rosamund Tilly, the homeowner, forgets to cut the grass, the house retaliates by turning her pet chinchilla purple. Daniel is Rosamund’s best friend. He spends a lot of time in the house and considers the building of mortar and brick a spoiled brat.

Signs indicate the house is preparing to have a temper tantrum, and Rosamund fears the worst. She finds herself in a time loop, reliving the same conversation with Daniel over and over again. Rosamund attempts to interrupt the aberration before it destroys the space-time continuum, but soon realizes she can use the time loop to her advantage.

Events such as crabs blossoming out of skin, gravity-defying water, and time anomalies make this a lighthearted and fun read, but the imaginative details also overwhelm the story. Reminiscent of the movie Groundhog Day, I found “The House that Made the Sixteen Loops of Time” to be long on atmosphere and short on plot.

The Margravine of Blois is dead, and Antoine the ghost hunter is hired to substantiate her haunting of the manor of Summerfall. Meg Arkenberg writes “The Celebrated Carousel of the Margravine of Blois” as a series of Antoine’s journal entries.

Disturbed by the many clocks that inhabit the manor and dreams of his dead wife, Antoine finds books opened to nonrandom pages, clocks behaving strangely, and a secret passageway in the library. He suspects the lady Porphyrogene—owner of Summerfall and the Margravine’s lover—is not being entirely truthful concerning the reason she hired him. To find the answers he’s looking for, he must investigate the renowned carousel created by the Margravine and confront the pain of trying to retrieve a lost love.

Meg Arkenberg creates a compelling mystery that takes into account the psychological process of bereavement. The speculative element, however, is not integral to the story. If the clocks and carousel were commonplace items that broke down due to a lack of upkeep, the premise would remain.