Of Sorrow and Such - Angela Slatter

At first glance, Of Sorrow and Such doesn't really appear to be a fantasy novella - the setting is a familiar, pastoral one, with women who know how to use herbs taken for practising witchcraft - but as we go on, there's more and more about magic being real. It is, however, written in such a matter of fact way that it doesn't jolt when something is revealed that pushes it closer to that genre. 

 

Our main character is Patience Gideon, long-time inhabitant of Edda's Meadow, where she makes a precarious living as a herbalist. She's well aware of how easily things could go wrong for her, having witnessed her mother being burned as a witch, but this doesn't stop her from also harbouring women who've been accused of witchcraft if they pass her way. The decision to involve one of those women with the aftermath of a terrible injury done to one of the locals, who is part of a small group of shapeshifters, starts a sequence of events that soon threatens to see Patience sharing her mother's fate. 

 

This is a novella primarily about women, with all the characters who appear being well-rounded and believable; they all have strengths and flaws, just like actual human beings do, which isn't always the case when they are written as fictional characters. In particular, Patience has to deal with the difficulties posed by her teenage adoptive daughter, who struggles with the fact that she doesn't have the same powers as Patience and also with more usual teenage issues around attention from the opposite sex. If there's one flaw (other than the fact it's only a novella, which could be considered a flaw, I suppose?) then for me it's how things get tied up in terms of Gilly, Patience's daughter, which seemed a bit of an afterthought. 

 

Anyway, I've enjoyed this author's short fiction, so I'm looking forward to getting my hands on something novel-length, though her first published novel (Vigil) is urban fantasy and that's not a genre of which I'm a massive fan. We'll see if Angela Slatter can convince me to overlook that and enjoy more of her writing anyway!