Short Story Review: “In Syllables of Elder Seas” by Lisa L. Hannett

2 of 5 stars.

The orphan trope in folktales gets an update with a new low in horribleness. The orphan longs for his parents, and for freedom, and to please. But, he finds that none of his efforts will appease his nameless aunts who keep him locked up. Worse, it’s not even abuse by neglect, but rather abuse in a cultish desire to use the poor young prisoner as a pawn, or a sacrifice.

The protagonist, known only as Aitch in a deliberate effort on the aunts’ part to dehumanize him, spends most of his time sealed in brine-filled glass jars in a locked room in a lighthouse. He doesn’t know what happened to his parents or why he’s treated the way he’s treated. However, his treatment gives him fever dreams of Innsmouth-like dysmorphic fish-people and possibly of Cthulhu. Aitch sketches his visions and the aunts collect his works of art before sealing him back up again.

Like many an orphan stuck in a horrible situation, Aitch vacillates between wanting to get away from the cultish aunts, and trying to please them into better treatment of him . . .

This tale appears in the New Lovecraftian anthology, The Mammoth Book of Cthulhu edited by Paula Guran. I received my copy of the anthology directly from Prime Books. I’ve previously reviewed this author’s excellent “The Female Factory” written with Angela Slatter and “Forever, Miss Tapekwa County”.
[Check out my other reviews here.]


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