Of Sorrow and Such
by Angela Slatter
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?
Novellas and novelettes are something I’ve developed more and more of an appreciation for during my time as a book blogger, so when I came across this Tor novella a few years ago and discovered a witch was at the centre of it I knew I’d have to get my hands on a copy.
Hi. My name’s Jess and I’m witch trash.
Of Sorrow and Such is a strange little novella in some ways because I enjoyed Angela Slatter’s writing – I’d like to read more from Australian writers, and Slatter is an author I’d try again in future! – and yet here I am, writing this review just a few hours after I finished it, and I already have a feeling that this probably isn’t a story that’s going to stick with me because it’s a story I’ve seen plenty of times before.
One of the problems with loving stories about witches is that it can be hard to find ones that feel completely new because, understandably, many western writers play on tropes that come from the history of Europe and North America. Stories don’t need to be completely new and different to be enjoyable either, and I did enjoy this story, but to be honest the characters didn’t feel all that different to characters I’ve encountered before in stories like this.
I was hoping to love Mistress Gideon, and yet while I certainly didn’t dislike her and I often felt sorry for her, she hasn’t got under my skin the way I expected her to or hoped she would. Her adopted daughter, Gilly, is another character I feel like I’ve seen plenty of times in stories like this, and she’s someone I’d’ve liked to have seen more from because I wasn’t quite satisfied with how this story left her – it didn’t seem to fit with who she was the rest of the time.
Part of my issues with this novella could very well be from what I discovered in the afterword, though, which is that Mistress Gideon is a character who’s popped up a few times in Slatter’s other work. I assumed this novella could be read on its own – and it definitely can be! – but I wonder if I might have got more from it if I was familiar with Slatter’s wider world and Mistress Gideon’s other appearances in it.
All that aside, I liked the way this story was written and this tale was an oddly comforting one in some ways because it hits all those beats I’m familiar with from other witch stories and I think other readers who love witches would appreciate that, too. Alternatively, if you’re someone who rarely reads about witches then this novella would be a great introduction to a lot of the themes that are guaranteed to appear in a story that has witches at its centre.