Review written & published on www.criticalwrit.com
I don't often read stories shorter than a full-length novel. If you follow my reviews, you’ll notice that I read a lot, and nothing feels long enough for me (it’s a curse, I tell you). I tend to prefer more drawn out stories, which I find can offer more complexity and at the same time more room to process what you read.
But I do make exceptions, and the 15,000 words novelette Dreamsnare by Althea Claire Duffy is one that I don’t regret. I believe it’s only the second novelette she’s written, so not quite a debut work, but definitely a work of fiction from a new author.
Kereda is a broken woman. She’s lost everything: the right to ply her trade as a shoemaker, her unborn child, her husband, her home, and to top it all, her family won’t talk to her anymore.
So when her roommate tells her that the very best pair of shoes she’s ever made might be cursed and the cause of all her pain, she knows that she doesn’t have anything left to lose anymore. She sets out to find Serin, the dreamworker, and ask her to remove the curse and free her from this seemingly unending string of failures. But the curse is not what it seems, and both women get more than they had bargained for when it traps them in the dreamworld.
Dreamsnare introduces us to a complex but enticing form of magic that’s somewhere between spiritual healing, with an strong emphasis on emotions, and more classic enchantment, all woven into one craft. It did take me two readings to understand it better, and perhaps the limitations of a novelette made the medium not well suited to the task. I felt there was too much telling and not enough showing, and some elements were still left a bit unexplained. Serin still does a good job of explaining to us how her craft works, but you’ll need to concentrate to make sure you don’t miss anything— this is not a story for us to relax into.
Still, I really liked the dreamwork, and I enjoyed the way it dealt with emotions, such as Kereda’s strong self-loathing and depressed thoughts coating the fabric of her shoes. It was an unusual, more abstract way to depict depression, and it spoke to me.
Strong emotions are the key element of the story— guilt, self loathing, depression and failure all weigh heavily on the hearts of our characters. But it is also a story about healing, about opening old wounds that never quite healed properly. It is about taking a glance back in order to set out forward again. Definitely a good short read from a promising new author.