This story was published in Strange Horizons. It currently has nine recommendations on the Nebula Reading List.

Anabeth has bought back a son with crocodile teeth from the Godswalk. Her sister Viette wants a child, too. She has suffered a succession of miscarriages, and her marriage is failing as a result. The Godswalk is a beautiful oasis that appeared suddenly in the marshland after bright stars appeared in the night sky. Since then, the villagers have grown barren. Anabeth advises Viette not to go to the blood trees and ask for a child, because there are costs. Regardless, Viette sets off. She meets a monster child in the Godswalk, and finds that the trees not only want blood, but produce a crop of children that are mostly monsters. She is pleased with all the children she gets in return for her blood.

This might be slipstream, as I’m not sure whether to take it as science fiction or fantasy. It’s another story that plays on emotions, a mother’s desire for children. There’s a little social commentary, maybe, about how mothers are willing to accept the flaws in their children, and about how all children are monsters. I’m not sure this is intended.

Viette is expecting to cause trouble by accepting all her crop of monster children, but I’m not sure this revolutionary theme is justified. Is she expecting the villagers will attack her for bringing all her children home? That the children will be bullied? Everyone who has these children knows the truth about their birth, after all. This is a fully developed story, including imagery, character development and world building. Slight horrific undercurrent. Very sentimental, but no political messages that I can identify.

Four stars.

Potential nominee.