- File Size: 398 KB
- Print Length: 48 pages
- Publisher: Tor Books (June 19, 2013)
- Publication Date: June 19, 2013
- Sold by: Macmillan
- Language: English
- ASIN: B00CQY7REK
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Not Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #443,753 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
Price set by seller.
Burning Girls: A Tor.Com Original Kindle Edition
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If you like Grimm's Fairy Tales (Kindermarchen), you will really like this story.
If you're Jewish, or if you relish Buber's Tales of the Hasidim, you will really like this story.
If you know U.S. history... you'll better appreciate the ending of this story.
If you enjoyed the Rashi's Daughters books, this should be right up your alley.
Here's the thing I come away thinking about... In the ancient tales, the virtue of humility is the reason the hero/heroine triumphs. Here, humility is either the result (not the cause), or it doesn't happen... but if it doesn't happen, maybe that's why the story ends as it does.
Schanoes displays command of multiple traditions and histories in this deft re-telling of a much loved folktale.
Schanoes also understands how those much loved stories from childhood were not simply stories for children.
Set in the late 19th century, Burning Girls is about Deborah, the daughter of Polish Jews in the years after Cossacks stopped burning villages but while the threat of pogroms against Jews was still very real. While her sister is raised to follow her mother as a seamstress, Deborah is trained by her grandmother to be a witch. She uses a white magic that draws on arcane and mythical Kabbalah-like Jewish writings and beliefs. As her power grows, she learns of a demon stalking their little family. Then, one day, the long feared pogroms come for them, and they set their sights on America, to start over, to escape the violence, and to escape the demon.
Part of what I enjoyed about this fantasy (a period fantasy, maybe?) was how it felt authentic, while at the same time avoiding cliches. Sure, there's a bit of handwaivium going on, but the magic is not without a cost. Based on language and the calling on power from certain angels and names of God, Deborah uses the magic to help women, and it lends a certain sense of sympathetic feminism to it.
And yet, it's Schanoes use of pathos, rather than magic, that makes the story worth the read. They struggle, grow, hurt, and are hurt. They grow together and apart, are tossed and turned in the trends and politics of the day. With each obstacle overcome, sympathy builds until a final denouement that both surprises and moves.
Burning Girls was nominated for the 2013 Nebula in the novella category, and while it didn't win, it was a worthy nominee.
Does it succeed in living up to its ambition? Clearly, based on its Nebula nomination and some of the Amazon reviews, it works well for a lot of people.
However, the story did not really "speak" to me for a number of reasons: I'm not big on horror, I prefer science-fiction to a lot of fantasy, and my knowledge of Jewish customs and folklore is so scant as to be nonexistent.
I guess I also felt it was a lot more sheer narrative and a lot less character development -- which is always a detraction for me. If I don't feel that I get to know the characters, it is a lot harder for me to care about what happens to them. I'd give this 3.5 stars, and I usually round up for Amazon -- but in this case, I have to round down to 3 stars.
I wouldn't rave about this novella, but I did still find it worth reading. If you're really into fantasy, horror, fairytales, historical fiction, and/or Jewish-themed literature, you might find it just your cup of tea.
The ending was hard to get through. Not sure if I can call it unfitting, but it sure was jarring... I hope/wish there will be another story tied if not to the characters, to this universe!
The story sets a familiar fairytale in early 20th century New York City. To tell which fairytale would ruin the story, but in a battle between good and evil, evil wins. No happily ever after here. The story uses many Yiddish words, which, though unfamiliar to me, lent atmosphere to this story of young Jewish immigrants working in the sweat-shop factories of the time. (The folktale setting is reminiscent of Isaac Bashevis Singer.)
One-hundred and forty six people, mostly young Italian and Jewish immigrants, died in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of March 1911. Many jumped from eight to ten story windows to avoid burning to death. Hard to believe that a similar fire killed 117 Bangladeshi workers in 2012.