Two short story reviews this week, each very different from the other, both dealing with magic and life. And death.
Portrait of Lisane de Patagnia by Rachel Swirsky
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This short story was nominated for the Nebula Award, and was made available by Tor as a free download. It tells of a dying artist, and her last charge to a former student to preserve her in a portrait. The catch? The painter uses magic to capture the essence of her subject in the portrait, which is exactly what Lisane wants.
It is a different take on a Dorian Grey style story, told from the perspective of the painter. It touches on love, obsession, passion, talent, favoritism, and more than a bit of ego and perhaps cruelty, at least in the emotional sense. It is also a captivating read, and raises questions about talent and magic.
The writing is lyrical and flowing, with a lovely sense that fits well with the artistic nature of the story. Renn’s emotions, both now and in the flashback sequences, are drawn with depth and feeling. It is quite lovely and dark at the same time. The line between art and magic is a treacherous thing, indeed.
A Game of Cities by Michael Montoure
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
This is a totally different story than the one above. It is about a gunslinger, of sorts. A man who is a master of his craft, and who has done all he cares to in a world of destruction and death. But it’s hard to get away when you are the best, and Frank Geary is the best. When a young challenger shows up, Frank is forced to join the Games once again, and the lives of many people in the city are affected in their battle of wills and horror.
The story itself is chilling, with a twisted explanation for the horrible things that happen to innocent people. As Frank and Jake battle for their lives, tempers flare, fights break out, and blood is shed. When it’s over, Frank has won again, but his life is once again turned upside down. Until the next challenger shows up.
On the surface, the story is fairly simple, but there is a chilling undertone that you can’t quite put a finger on. The writing is spare and stark, and fits the dark aspect of the tale quite well. It’s not stay-awake-with-the-lights-on scary, but it stay with you. And sometimes, that is even more frightening.
The story appears in his collection Counting From Ten