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SH Flashback: "Valiant on the Wing," by Chris Szego

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As I noted last week, I've embarked on a weekly Strange Horizons retrospective. The format of this entry is the same as last week: I'll link to a story, then provide a brief non-spoilery description, then add some further discussion after a spoiler warning.

This week's Strange Horizons Flashback story:

Valiant on the Wing,” by Chris Szego
I'm having a hard time describing this in a way that will make it sound as compelling as it is. It's a slow, quiet sort of story: a family of siblings, grieving a loss of their own, nurses a lost young woman back to health. But it's lovely. I cry every time I read it; there's sadness in it, but also healing. Published in 2008. (4,300 words)

 


SPOILERS FOLLOW


 

I find this story lovely and sweet, despite the sad backdrop. And I love the way that it retells Snow White from an unexpected point of view, and gives the seven siblings a backstory. The first time I read it, I completely missed the descriptions of Letty that mark her as Snow White: the “skin pale as snow,” the “Black and white and stained with red.” I even missed her name: Bianca Scarlett Ebonie, white red black; des Neiges, of snow. But that was fine, because there's more to the story than that. For example, I love the portrayal of Letty: smart, skillful, charismatic, very socially adept, patient, willing to do hard physical labor. And I love the portrayal of Larke: quiet, observant, grief-stricken.

I feel like at the core of the story, it's about grief and loss and healing (“we hadn't smiled often since . . . well, since.”), and particularly about the ways that people can help each other to heal. “We were no longer seven who should have been nine. We were eight, bridging that awful gap.”

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