Since the Nebula finalist list is out, I’ll work through a few more reviews. This is a fantasy story published in The Starlit Wood and reprinted in Uncanny Magazine. It ended up with four recommendations on the Nebula Recommended Reading List.

Two women are bound by magic. Tabitha must wear out seven pairs of iron shoes in order to find her lost husband. Amira sits motionless atop a glass hill while suitors try to ride up and claim the golden apples that appear in her hands. On her journey, Tabitha comes across the hill, and her magic shoes allow her to climb the glass. Amira gives her an apple. Tabitha stays through the winter, wearing out her iron shoes against the magical glass, and the two women develop a relationship, exchange stories of their hardships. Can they escape the magic together, or are they forever bound?

This is a very well-done story, drawing from different fairy tales. There’s not much to the plot, as the two women only find one another and talk. However, the narration covers a lot of ground. First up is the observation about the different kinds of shoes men and women get to wear in fairy tales. Hm. Excellent point. Next, the conversation turns to men and after that, the women’s failings that led to their current loss of freedom. This makes it quite complex, as far as what it accomplishes goes. The story is also very absorbing, with excellent flow, good imagery, theme, etc.

On the con side, the story fails the Bechdel Test big time, i.e. whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man. It’s also message fiction with a troubling conclusion: that women should give up on husbands in order to find their freedom with each other. Isn’t same sex marriage subject to abuse and loss of freedom just the same as any other relationship? This has a slight misandrous feel.

Three and a half stars.

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