Primary Genre(s): Historical Fantasy, Short Story
Published: 14 December 2016 by Tor Books
Page count: 30
My Format: free ebook at Tor.com
Ending: Heartbreaking, but satisfying
Would I recommend it: Yes
Commission Link: Buy The Autobiography of a Traitor and a Half-Savage
My rating: ★★★★★
Oona’s blood is a river delta blending east and west, her hair red as Tennessee clay, her heart tangled as the wild lands she maps. By tracing rivers in ink on paper, Oona pins the land down to one reality and betrays her people. Can she escape the bonds of gold and blood and bone that tie her to the Imperial American River Company?
After recently reading Alix E. Harrow’s debut novel The Ten Thousand Doors of January, I have absolutely fallen in love with her writing style. I knew she had written at least a couple of short stories so I went searching for them. Lo and behold, I found this one free online (click here to read it)!
In this story, the earth is protecting itself from westward expansion of the Easterners into the lands of the indigenous people (called Amerinds in the story). While Easterners try to map the land west of the Mississippi, the land will shift and alter and make their maps useless; however, if a mapmaker (a Amerind that knows how to control the land) is working with the Easterners, the earth can be held still and settled permanently. Oona desperately needs work and, as a half-Amerind, agrees to be a mapmaker for the Imperial American River Company. However, her job requires her to betray her heritage.
In our language, the word for mapmaker is also the word for traitor.
Here are my pros and cons for The Autobiography of a Traitor and a Half-Savage:
- Like her novel, the writing in this short story is top-notch. How does she do it? On the surface the writing appears to be quite formal and perhaps even verbose at times, but it also just rolls off the tongue like honey and is completely mesmerizing. It is like reading a dream or something. I honestly can’t get enough of it.
- This story involves a fantasy world, but it is subtle… almost elusive. Harrow has created this adjacent version of the world we know – one where the earth can shift and alter to protect itself.
- I thought the conflict between Oona’s feelings of betrayal to her people and her need for work (even though she hates her job) was developed well. She desperately feels the needs to escape her job, but her contract is iron-clad – the company essentially owns her.
- The plot line involving Oona’s half-brother is heartbreaking.
- The footnotes were intriguing.
- Best line in the story, that also happens to be the very last line – “To be freed, and know the cost of it”. Powerful!
- I wanted more… but that isn’t necessarily a con, is it?
I’d love to delve deeper into just about every situation and relationship in this short story. I would actually love to see this expanded into a full novel. I definitely think it has a strong foundation for a more detailed version.
If you would like to have a Kindle copy of this short story, please consider purchasing through this link: Buy The Autobiography of a Traitor and a Half-Savage. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. Thanks!
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(image from Goodreads)