Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Spoiler-Free Book Review: "Rainbird" by Rabia Gale

Before I go into my review of Rabia Gale's novella, I take great pleasure in announcing that my short story, "Atheists in the Cemetery," has been accepted for publication in Burial Day Book's upcoming anthology, "Gothic Blue Book 4!"


Just as the halfbreed title character of Rabia Gale's 31,000-word novella "Rainbird" belongs to neither one world nor the other, the story itself is neither one genre nor another. It has elements of Steampunk, but isn't, quite; there's a great deal of future noir, but it isn't all that; and the story itself is very heroic fantasy, without actually being heroic fantasy. It's a hybrid, like Rainbird herself.

And I love it.

I first discovered Rabia Gale while reading Sword & Sorceress 28. Her story about a kite-maker and the children she helps was done so well, the writing so tight and so ethereal, I had to look her up. I found "Rainbird" on her site and bought it without a second thought.

"Rainbird" takes place in some undisclosed time, presumably in our world, though even that's neither confirmed nor denied. What is told to the audience is that there is no more sun. No giant yellow ball of gas in the sky to provide light, heat, and life. Instead, the role of the sun is played by a giant heat lamp of sorts called the Day Sun, which travels on a track called the sunway across the land.

Oh, and that track? Runs along the spinal cord of a long-dead, continent-sized dragon who fell to earth.


Did I mention how much I love this?

Rainbird is half-human through her father Petrus, and half a species called eerie, angel-like creatures who resent the humans and their sunway and their Day Sun. The eerie have very specific rules about half-breeds, and Rainbird's mere existence is not part of those rules. As such, Petrus keeps her in hiding as his assistant inspector. They live and work in the skeleton of the dragon, helping the Company to keep the sunway running.

I. Love. This.

There's nothing about any of this I don't love. Gale's writing itself is strong and descriptive. She knows when to crank up the action and when to let you breathe. She knows exactly how much detail to give, and when. She's created a fantastical, whimsical, dark, world that is simultaneously familiar and utterly strange.

I love halfbreed stories, and I love stories of underdogs who become the hero through chance and circumstances. I love the sunway on the dragon's spine, I love the black market on Rib Three, I love the egg and mushroom houses along the dragon's bones. I love that a dragon fell to earth and got used in this way. I love the eerie's snark.

And I love the ending. Not giving anything away, but with a story like this it would have been very easy for Gale to take an extreme: either a very happy, sappy ending, or a very dark and sad one. She chose neither, and I respect that and love the choice she made.

I look forward to many, many more quality works from Rabia Gale, one of my new favorite writers.

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