Review: “The Wild and Hungry Times” by Patricia Russo

3 of 5 stars.

This short story imagines and attempts to chronicle the layers of history of a richly introduced world not unlike Tales from Atelinor by Lopez or The King Killer Chronicle by Rothfuss or Gentlemen Bastard by Lynch. Unlike these other series, this lone short story doesn’t give much space to fill in the historic chasms. It also opts to have the story told from a temporally removed vantage.

After the fall of a great society [Resenna] and before the age of the scarred conquerors lies the wild and hungry times of folklore. The tale within this tale emerges from that darkened time as chronicled by the scarred scribes of the later period. Those scrolls were then lost for centuries to be found by an historian [Nietta the Younger] of yet a later age–the current age. The speaker notes all these layers and the scholarly opinions surrounding them in the last 80 years since Nietta found the scrolls. A novel or novel series could more fully embrace this rich layering of scholarship.

The tale within is of a time when magic was believed, and every child was given a token at birth to bestow a precise magical skill to the child. Peero was given a stone for strength [physical and moral]. His unnamed sister was given a drop of pure water for clear sight, which turns into a Cassandra’s gift and a weariness from always knowing. After many stillborns, the youngest son Bairen is given breath for long life. Like the sister’s gift, the tokens give something often unintended . . .

“The Wild and Hungry Times” appears in The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy: 2015 edited by Rich Norton and published by Prime Books. It first appeared in Not One of Us, September 2014.
 
 
 
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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