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

Strange Horizons -- February 11, 2019

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Strange Horizons, February 11, 2019

The Imaginary Palace of the Winter King” by Sarah Tolmie

Reviewed by Christos Antonaros

The historical short fiction “The Imaginary Palace of the Winter King” by Sarah Tolmie, takes us back to the 16th century and the aftermath of King Frederick V’s exile. Frederick V of the Palatinate remains known in history as the “Winter King” for his reign over Bohemia lasted only one winter. Frederick V resides in The Hague when the famous painter Bartolomeu Van Bassen comes with an offer to redecorate an old convent in Utrecht where Frederick V and his family shall have a palace worthy of their royal status. Along with him, Van Bassen brings a painting to demonstrate how he plans to decorate the interior of the convent.

Throughout the narrative, we read three different perspectives on the presented situation. A depressed exiled king who wonders if he still possesses any political power and who is still haunted by his defeat on the battlefield. A painter, who perceives his art as the only way to express his calling without the annoyance of demanding royalty—people whose wealth and status allow them to ask other people to imagine for them. A queen who feels mistreated by her father for marrying her to an unworthy husband. Through a series of meaningful inner monologs and images, we adapt to the depression that followed Frederick V’s exile. We feel the grief and the emotions that have overcome every character. Finally, we become witnesses to endless combat between a gruesome reality and illustrious artistic values.