Review: Cherry Crow Children by Deborah Kalin

ccckalinSeries: Twelve Planets #12
Published by:
Twelfth Planet Press
ISBN 13:
9781922101099 (paperback)
B018A3GJFI (kindle)
April 2015
Format reviewed:
Author Site
Publisher Site
Book Page
Five out of Five
Related Reviews:
A Journey Through Twelve Planets / Site for the challenge

Cherry Crow Children is the twelfth book in the Twelve Planets series, released by Twelfth Planet Press, which showcase the talent of female Australian authors. There is now to be a thirteenth in the series, but that’s a review for another time. The brief given to authors was to write several short stories of up to 40,000 words in total. The stories could be separate, discrete narratives or linked through character, setting or theme.

This collection contains four short stories that aren’t dramatically connected, but feel of the one place even if the characters or setting isn’t reoccurring. As you can see at the bottom of this post, I think this is the best performing collection as far as our Australian awards go, collecting the most so far.

Wages of Honey

A man is on the search for his cousin, who has been missing for some time. He makes his way to Tulliæn where the locals seem to have an unhealthy fixation on death, and a high level of love for their locally produced honey. The directions the man has to follow to make his way around town are lyrical, but that doesn’t make them wrong, the inn-keeper points out. He consults people of the township one by one on their recommendations – try the gatekeeper, the innkeeper, the prefect… and then even random villagers in the market, which is fortuitously on that day. He gets little closer to finding his cousin, other than a deepening suspicion they all know much more than they’re actually telling him straight.

This is a beautiful novella to start us off with. It’s beautiful and horrific in equal measure, with characters you empathise for even if they’re not particularly good, or even less likely, trustworthy. The description of the quaint little town is effective at springing alive in your mind, making ti somewhere you almost think you’d like to visit someday before you realise how utterly stupid that would be – the place is a (beautiful) nightmare!

The Briskwater Mare

In Briskwater there’s a girl who died, and the residents all know to avoid her – which is tricky, as she inhabits anything that involves water which surrounds the town. Eli has been told all of her life that one day the girl will claim her – it sends her father to drink, and her younger brother to try desperate and brave things to save her… and even those in charge of the town to avoid looking at her directly. Ashamed, and yet also not wanting to change what they expect and even need to happen.

Then a hunter arrives and through a mix of pride and greed, will be the changing force this town needs. Maybe.

Written in first person we feel an instant connection with Eli, and affection for her brother who is the only one who is desperate (or even the slightest bit interested) to save her life. This novella doesn’t leave the reader in mystery as much as the first novella does (being first person makes that much harder), but it still grabs you with the ending. Simply beautiful.

The Miseducation of Mara Lys

Mara wishes to gain acceptance into an elite school, if only to prove her mother’s failings aren’t hers, and to be able to provide for her family. She’s barely given a chance and instead serves rather than studies at the school, and faces cruelty after cruelty – her only comfort in that others experience her own injustices and council her on how to survive. Mara, however, weighed down with her intelligence and determination to seek justice brings out the secrets of the elite to the reader, and you can’t help but want her to succeed with as much determination as she attacks everything.

Part is gruesome in the best of ways. I read parts with my face twisted in horror – one eye closed and one squinted as if to protect them, all the while thinking ‘to hell with that!’ I think my stomach twisted, also. Kalin sure knows how to pack a punch with her words, and this novella, well, it’s no surprise that it cleared the awards with flying colours last year. I think it’s my favourite of the four.

Cherry Crow Children of Haverny Wood

A child comes to a woman who has ruined herself with it, and returns home to her village despite the gossip. The child, Claudia, she raises is special, and while the village may gossip that she needed a better upbringing, it doesn’t stop the fact that these two women talk truths when the village would rather live in silence. Claudia, one day desperately scavenging to make ends meet through a harsh winter, meets the children of Haverny Wood, who trade parts of themselves in other to be wild. A boy she meets, has traded his heart for one made of wickerwood.

This one is probably the most lyrical and beautiful of them all. The injustice one feels at the small village mentality, or the child that everyone wants to blame or belittle is one often seen, yet not often done with as much justice as we see in this final and powerful novella. Absolutely amazing, and very much a treasure in the novella universe.

This collection has the following mentions:

The Wages of Honey – Shortlisted Best Horror Novella – Aurealis 2015

The Wages of Honey – Best Novella – Ditmar 2015

The Briskwater Mare – Best Horror Novella – Aurealis 2015

The Briskwater Mare – Best Novella – Ditmar 2015

The Briskwater Mare – Shortlisted Novellette – Shirley Jackson 2015

The Miseducation of Mara Lys – Best Horror Novella – Aurealis 2015

The Miseducation of Mara Lys – Best YA Short Story – Aurealis 2015

The Miseducation of Mara Lys – Best Novella – Ditmar 2016

Cherry Crow Children of Haverny Wood – Shortlisted Horror Novella – Aurealis 2015

Cherry Crow Children of Haverny Wood – Best Novella – Ditmar 2016

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