The Bride Price

Cat Sparks. Ticonderoga, $13.99 trade paper (286p) ISBN 978-1-921857-43-0
The prolific Sparks has won numerous Aurealis and Ditmar awards in her native Australia. This debut collection of 13 stories, two of which appear for the first time here, will give readers an idea why. Sparks sets the tone early with “A Lady of Adestan,” whose protagonist must rescue her sister from the abusive noble family into which she married. Themes of abuse (particularly by men), disappointment, and struggle abound; even those men who at first glance seem desirable often turn out, like obsession object Tom in “The Sleeping and Dead,” to be unworthy of regard. Desperate refugees in “Arctica” are met with fatal beatings, while even the protection offered by wealthier patrons in “Seventeen” proves all too temporary once the weak have outlived their usefulness. Sparks’s prose is clean and clear, her visions of futures consistent and grim; although there are moments of hope, these too often prove phantasms. Readers looking for random acts of kindness would do well to look elsewhere; fans of beautifully staged scenes of despair will find a wealth of them here. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/22/2013
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 288 pages - 978-1-921857-42-3
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