The Horrid Glory of Its WingsThe Horrid Glory of Its Wings by Elizabeth Bear
My rating: 5/5 cats
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarOne Star

jess was right, this is an amazing story.

“Mama Alice would say that God never gives us any burdens we can’t carry.”

The harpy says, Does she look you in the eye when she says that?

wow, so i waited too long to write my review for this, and between jess and karly and kat stark, i don’t know what is left to say. there will be echoes between their reviews and mine, but i hope i am able to say at least one new thing – one thing that will encourage someone else to read this one, even people who don’t usually like dark fantasy/magical realism or short stories. this story does what the best of this genre do – they take a situation that is all too real; the kind of real that is so devastating that you kind of wish it were just fiction, and then it infuses the story with just enough magic that it enhances, instead of distracts from, the heartbreaking real, so the fantastic elements serve a symbolic purpose without cheapening it.

and it’s just perfect.

as karly mentions, it opens with a peter. s. beagle quote:

“Speaking of livers,” the unicorn said, “Real magic can never be made by offering up someone else’s liver. You must tear out your own, and not expect to get it back. The true witches know that.”

Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

whose aptness will be made clear by the story’s end. and it’s not just because of this:

this is about 17-year-old desiree, born twisted and disfigured due to severe health problems which require a cornucopia of pills every morning. she loves her foster mom, but in her most bitter moments, she admits to herself the reality that even if she is loved, there is still a financial benefit to mama alice’s care. desiree has already lived much longer than anyone had anticipated, and living on this borrowed time is a tremulous situation; the waiting for the other shoe to drop, uncertain if making plans for the future is futile.

I’m dying. Just not fast enough. If it were faster, I’d have nothing to worry about. As it is, I’m going to have to figure out what I’m going to do with my life.

desiree yearns for a normal life – a baby, an education, but she is naturally hesitant, considering the big “what if” of her life. but she is also stubborn, and proud.

she goes most days to visit the harpy living in the nearby alley, feeding her garbage that the harpy will turn into bronze. she feels a kinship – a sisterhood – to the harpy, whose ugliness is aggressive enough to suggest strength and freedom. they form an uneasy friendship, as much as a young dying girl can with an immortal being:

I wonder if the harpy only loves me because I’m garbage. If it only wants me because my blood is poison.

there will come a time to make a decision.

just read the story. it is one of the best tor shorts i have read so far.

read it for yourself here:…

read my reviews on goodreads

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