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"Footsteps" / Marie Brennan

from Shroud Magazine / Issue 9, Summer 2010
Reviewed by: Daniel R. Robichaud

Shroud Magazine's ninth issue opens with Marie (Midnight Never Come) Brennan's variation on a classic fairy tale.

In "Footsteps" readers find a prince searching for a wife, a grand ball attended by masked guests, and a mysterious party crasher who rushes away at the stroke of midnight, leaving muddy footprints.  Of course, we are squarely in "Cinderella" territory. The tale is brief, yet readers will find several different masquerades, a kingdom-wide search for an unidentified lady (complete with specially crafted footwear), a heartfelt proposal, and the big reveal that this is not a happily-ever-after story but a chilling tale of an unwelcome surprise guest.

The plot is straightforward and perhaps predictable to anyone familiar with the "Grim Fairy Tales" from Haunt of Fear comics. The Rule of Three tells savvy readers how many balls there will be. This tale's appearance in a magazine dedicated to the macabre tells us not to expect a straight "Cinderella" retelling. However, the story remains enjoyable due to its descriptions, its playful skewering of the familiar, and several enjoyable turns of phrase. Just take a look at the first line:

"Among the noble flowers that have gathered for the ball, the hopeful young ladies in lavender and spring green and pink, she stands out like a rose, red-black as venous blood."

How could readers resist venturing on?

Since 1993, Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling have edited several anthologies that offer dark re-imaginings of fairy stories (like 1993’s Snow White, Blood Red). Brennan's tale hearkens back to those anthologies in all the right ways; it uses the familiar to weave a well written dark fantasy.

"Footsteps" is a tasty treat, a literary morsel to be savored for its rich sentences, its images, and the way it builds to a chilling conclusion.

Purchase Shroud Magazine, Issue #9 (Summer 2010), which includes “Footsteps” by Marie Brennan.

Posted on Monday, December 13, 2010 at 09:30AM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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