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

Strange Horizons, December 15, 2014

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Special Double Review


Charles Payseur & Nicky Magas


Strange Horizons, December 15, 2014

Nkást íí” by Darcie Little Badger

Reviewed by Charles Payseur

A ghost story pulling two young women along the edge of some very dark waters, "Nkásht íí" by Darcie Little Badger succeeds both in its horror and humanity. The story begins with Annie and Josie, both runaways living on karma, hearing the story of a man's crash in a small town, a crash that killed his wife and, according to the police, his daughter. But the man is convinced that something else, something supernatural, is to blame for his daughter's death. Annie, whose great-grandmother taught her about such things, agrees to check it out, enlisting Josie on a road trip to the crash site. The two women, drawn together by their ability to listen, by their alienation from their families, by their need for human contact, investigate and find that the man was right, that something dark and deadly did occur on that lonely bridge where he crashed. But finding out the truth also opens them to danger, opens a door that should have been kept shut, and Annie discovers first hand that her great-grandmother’s warnings are not to be ignored. Dark and yet held together by the bond between Annie and Josie, not romantic but a friendship deep and powerful, the story manages to both shock and soothe. It dips its toes into another realm, making me yearn for whole books of the adventures of Annie and Josie, making me want to see what happens next.

Charles Payseur lives with his partner and their growing herd of pets in the icy reaches of Wisconsin, where companionship, books, and craft beer get him through the long winters. His fiction has appeared or is forthcoming at Perihelion Science Fiction, Heroic Fantasy Quarterly, and Fantasy Scroll Magazine, among others. You can follow him on Twitter @ClowderofTwo

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Strange Horizons, December 15, 2014

Nkást íí” by Darcie Little Badger

Reviewed by Nicky Magas

In a story that is equal parts haunting and moving, Darcie Little Badger’s “Nkást íí” introduces readers to a world of ghosts and heartache. Josie and Annie, two young women from broken homes with troubled pasts, set to gathering karma by listening to the troubles of strangers. What they get instead is a mystery when a man approaches them with a story of loss, malevolent spirits and the unexplainable drowning of his infant daughter. His tale takes the girls a full day’s journey away to Willowbee, the scene of the accident and a town straddling a razor wire between this world and the next. What begins as a quest to bring closure to a grieving father takes a dangerous turn as Josie and Annie drift closer to the world below, pulled along with the baggage of their tattered relationships, and their link to each other.

The prose style—a somewhat disjointed jump between the main narrator (Josie) and the inner monologues of Annie—gives the story a rushed, frazzled feeling that compliments the plot perfectly. Sharp, clipped sentences bump the reader along, but don’t disrupt the overall flow. Information about the girls’ lives (which the reader comes to crave as much as the mystery narrative itself) is scattered like breadcrumbs throughout the plot, leading the reader on with increasing urgency toward an uncertain conclusion. At its core, “Nkást íí” shows readers the bittersweet, deadly edge of love. It’s a tangibly creepy story, with an ending that leaves the reader craving so much more than what a short story can offer.