Friday Review: Burning Girls by Veronica Schanoes

Burning GirlsBurning Girls by Veronica Schanoes

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This dark fantasy short is set partly in Poland and partly in the United States. Deborah is born to a Jewish family in late nineteenth century Poland. Her sister is a talented seamstress and is following their mother in garment making. Deborah has the family gift for magic and is trained by her grandmother in healing, potions, and spells. Eventually, the pogroms against Jews find their village, and Deborah’s mother, father, and younger brother are killed. Deborah and her sister emigrate to New York to start new lives away from the fears of their homeland. But Deborah’s grandmother made a pact with a demon, and although Deborah managed to foil it once, it follows the girls to their new life to claim its due.

This is a sometimes grim retelling of a familiar fairy tale, built around several real world historical events and a good dose of Jewish folklore and tradition. The author weaves those elements into a readable story that touches on the familiar fantasy theme that magic always has a price, as well as family relationships, and a bit of karma. There is a fair amount of Jewish tradition in the tale, but a reader doesn’t have to be conversant in it to get the sense of what’s being done. The real life history is woven in well, and flows well with the fantasy elements.

The story was nominated for a Nebula Award in 2013, and for good reason. It’s a very good story.

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