Rubies’ reminded me of Bradbury’s tales of supernatural families, not only in its subject, but in its sensuality: ‘Her hair, black as mine, glittered with diamonds that outshone the early stars…’ And later, as Kryssa, her hair threaded with rubies, looks at her reflection in a lake: ‘Yes, I could see myself. Or…I could see moon-pale flesh shimmering with gold, and the pinpricks of red stars surrounding me: Grandpa’s rubies blurred with the millions of worlds above…’
Rubies’ is romantic, lush, Gothic, and, like the other stories, has a theme of rebelling against the rules your society insists you live by and, mostly, gaining a kind of victory.
Roberts imagines other worlds and other ways: her characters walk between worlds, meeting singers whose voices can heal or kill, savage unicorns and soul-leaders. There is horror, and humour, and beauty.
‘Mars Take Seed Make Man’ is the closest to science-fiction, set in a Martian colony where soldiers are grown to supply Earth with fodder for its wars. Earth is a bully, threatening to conscript Mars’ sons, unless more space is found to grow more ‘men’, even if it means destroying homes.
The final story, and perhaps my favourite, ‘Empire of the Hare’ is historical-fantasy, featuring the most audacious take on Boudicca I’ve read in a long time: and possibly closer to the truth than the usual druid-hugging, noble freedom-fighter. As in her wonderful book, I Am The Great Horse, Roberts demonstrates that although she mingles fantasy with history, she is sharply aware of the machinations of politics, both ancient and modern, giving her stories a cynical edge.
The Death Singer will appeal to those who like short stories with a fantasy, sci-fi twist.
Reviewed by Susan Price
The Death Singer is available in Kindle format .
Find out more about Katherine Roberts