Short Story Review: “The Lily and the Horn” by Catherynne M. Valente

The Lily and the HornThe Lily and the Horn by Catherynne M. Valente
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, takes on a provocative new meaning in this highly imaginative fantasy in which the affairs of noblemen are no longer settled on the battlefield, but rather at the tables of women. This is a new face of war, a battle of wits and talents with lives lost less brutishly.

Noblewomen are either Lilies, aka poisoners, or Horns, aka healers. And wars have become battles of their abilities with the last proxy standing [surviving] deciding the war. The lily that narrates this tale is one of the best using all sorts of powders and elixirs derived from mushrooms and flowers, serpents and unicorns. She’s even been known to goad the king into new wars against a certain land to the east, just to battle the horn of that country–their deadly dance being all that’s left of their schooldays’ affections . . .

This tale appears in a couple “best of” anthologies. The Best Science Fiction and Fantasy of the Year, Volume 10 edited by Jonathan Strahan, I received from Netgalley. The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: 2016 edited by Paula Guran, I received directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously read Valente’s “A Delicate Architecture”, “Palimpsest”, and “Urchins, While Swimming”.
[Check out my other reviews here.]

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