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

Strange Horizons -- March 4, 2019

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Strange Horizons, March 4, 2019

"The Skinwalkers Ball" by Hammond Diehl

Reviewed by Mike Wyant Jr.

I'll admit, the beginning of "The Skinwalkers Ball" is confusing. I was a few paragraphs in when I started thinking this review was going to be terrible, but Diehl's beautiful imagery and vivid descriptions kept me reading. I can say without a doubt, I'm glad I did.

Diehl crafts a tale that, at its heart, is a story of revenge. Set during the course of a mystical creature fashion show where contestants wear discarded bits of other beasts, "The Skinwalkers Ball" tells the story of an alchemist searching for the person who is murdering his children.

The narrator, trustworthy or not, is interesting and the near disinterest threaded through it all is reminiscent of, say, a cat who decided to record the events of a sunny day. There's a tension Diehl pulls on as the story progresses, tightening the focus and the net until you're left reading the end in a rush. By the time you finish the story, you're either impressed by Diehl's plotting and ability to tease you through with tiny nuggets of information or you're frustrated and annoyed by it. I count myself amongst the former.

Overall, a great story, despite the early confusion.


Mike Wyant, Jr. is an ex-IT guy, who has finally committed to a writing life out in the Middle of Nowhere, New York.