Published by Tor.com on October 13th 2015
Mistress Gideon is a witch. The locals of Edda's Meadow, if they suspect it of her, say nary a word—Gideon has been good to them, and it's always better to keep on her good side. Just in case.
When a foolish young shapeshifter goes against the wishes of her pack, and gets herself very publicly caught, the authorities find it impossible to deny the existence of the supernatural in their midst any longer; Gideon and her like are captured, bound for torture and a fiery end.
Should Gideon give up her sisters in return for a quick death? Or can she turn the situation to her advantage?
Rarely am I so unsure about how I felt about a book. I’ve let a little time pass (about a week) since reading this to see if I could better sort my thoughts on it. But I am still finding it hard. Slatter’s prose is simple, to the point, and yet somehow not plain or boring. She creates a very realistic narration for a well spoken and intelligent character. I would say her words are precise in the most interesting of ways, with little to nothing extra.
Mistress Gideon is a witch, but she lives in a time and place where such things are not tolerated or talked about. If anyone knows or suspects her, they certainly don’t discuss it. She is doing good for the community, treating and healing their sick, carefully hiding her true witch-y nature. However, when a shapeshifter gets caught, the supernatural world can no longer be denied and of course, the story goes as it these tales of witches and supernatural beings often does. The fear of the unknown drives humans to immediately go on a literal witch hunt.
People known or suspected of supernatural abilities are rounded up and locked up. Instead of looking for understanding and answers in any sort of sane, humane or logical way, once again ignorance breeds hate and hence confinement and torture is the inquiry of choice. Through this, the story turns into an interesting examination of loyalty and features some wonderfully strong women characters.
When it comes down to it, I can’t say there’s much I didn’t like about this story other than perhaps my perceived slowness of the story at times. I really think that is just a stylistic trait of how the story is told, and I don’t think it is a fault of the book. Honestly, this book would not work as well if it were written any other way. I suspect it was just maybe not quite the right tone and pace for me at the time I chose to read it because I really can’t say anything else negative about it. And while I say I perceived slowness at times, keep in mind, this is also a novella, so it is a quick read.
Definitely recommend for anyone looking for a book that focuses on strong female characters that use something other physical strength to be strong. It also illustrates many social issues that are quite relevant in today’s world.