Speculative Fiction Reviews
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Huntswoman, by Merrie Haskell - Strange Horizons, 24 January 2005

Huntswoman, by Merrie Haskell

This week's Strange Horizons story is the strange and beautiful Huntswoman by Merrie Haskell. Although dressed in the clothes of a retold fairy tale, this story is something else entirely.

A huntswoman has been employed by a king and queen to track down the king's daughter, who has disappeared into the forest beyond the castle. All the fairy tale elements are present: the stepmother, the enchanted princess, the castle, the strange woods. But none of them are as they appear. The castle is shrinking around them. Time flows oddly. The huntswoman herself is subdued and non-commital, lost in her task and not knowing her purpose. The enchanted princess--Snow White--lies unwoken, the seven dwarves all dead except one. And the violent, bloody climax of the story forces us to re-evaluate everything that has happened and our assumptions about the fairy-tale roles.

In the end, this is a powerful story about growing up and reconciling oneself to that growing up. I won't pretend to have understood everything that happened in this story. It is highly nuanced and subtle. If you read it just once you probably won't understand much of it at all. But it is a story that deserves to be reread, and with each re-reading it will offer more to you.

The fiction at Strange Horizons has been excellent so far this year, and Merrie Haskell's piece is no exception. If you haven't read it yet, do yourself a favour and do so.

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