Bittersweet pain conceals a deeper beauty.
I received Mirrors & Thorns through Our Write Side in exchange for an honest review.
5. Snow Bride by J.M. Ames
In a cold, backwater inn, a young man fresh from the mine hopes to barter his treasure for a little female comfort. He never considers what she might want, or what she’d be willing to do to get it.
A perfectly sized snippet of storytelling. The brevity of the story is surprising, but the narrative feels perfectly suited to this length; a quick example of the everyday events that happen in this world. Strong details manage to simultaneously reveal character and setting without ever slowing down the pace.
Through it all there’s a jovial levity, a kind of open adventure that seems reminiscent of Robert Howard’s Conan stories. It is odd, to refer to such a grim story as jovial, but it is true. There’s a reckless abandon about the story; one that made me sorry to see it end so quickly. No unanswered questions linger, but there is a clear sense that for these characters, the adventure is never over.
Two girls, trapped in a deadly game; serving as sport for their cruel master. Time after time they try to escape, and each time they fail. Then a stranger offers them a cryptic hope. His words lead them to a place of lost memories, where the greatest danger may be the temptation to let go and forget.
At first it all feels very “by the numbers”; a young protagonist, protecting her sister from an adult tormenter, and a vague prophecy foretelling his downfall. It’s a familiar pattern, and a fun one, particularly when it’s so well executed, but gradually the story grows into something more. The “otherworld” of Malos proves both provocative and mesmerizing; a place of subtle dangers, and unique opportunities. Through her experiences there, both the protagonist and the audience explore the nature of identity, memory, and life. In due time the story returns to the “ordinary” world, offering up an obligatory “final confrontation” before bringing the story to a very fitting, if bittersweet ending.
Mirrors & Thorns 4of6