cover image Sparks from the Fire

Sparks from the Fire

Rosalie Parker. Swan River, $40 (208p) ISBN 978-1-78380-023-0

“There are many ways to tell a story,” notes the narrator of this collection’s title tale, and that observation is borne out by all 19 of its magical stories, most leavened to varying degrees with the fantastic. In “The Bronze Statuette,” people who come into contact with a statue of Phthonus, the Greek god of sexual jealousy, are compelled to admit their personal indiscretions at the most embarrassing moments. A vacationer in “Holiday Reading” becomes suggestible to the salacious behavior referenced in the titles of lurid romance novels after visiting a supposedly haunted abbey. Parker (Damage) often cocks her eye wryly at the supernatural, as in “The Birdcage,” in which a pub that promotes the hoax that it’s haunted by a poltergeist invites the activity of a genuine mischievous entity. She occasionally explores the darker side of the paranormal, as in “Writer’s Retreat,” which implies that a weird predatory power is driving writers to compete with one another at a writers’ colony. Her treatment of the fantastic is often so light and ambiguous that stories in which it does manifest are of a piece with tales such as “Jetsam” and “Job Start,” sensitive character sketches whose celebration of life’s unforeseen surprises will appeal to fantasy fans as much as the book’s more overtly uncanny tales. Parker proves herself a subtle and versatile writer. [em](June) [/em]