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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Short Story Saturday: "Fearless" by Rachel Vincent


In Rachel Vincent's "Fearless" Sabine Campbell is a 15 year old girl who has ended up on the wrong side of the law too many times, and is being sent to Holser House for Girls as a last resort before a state correctional facility.  She insists she's not a danger, that she's not really violent, but her record of attacking those who try to take advantage of her speaks against her.  But more so, Sabine makes people uncomfortable, though they don't know why.  Because Sabine has a secret: she's a mara, a living "nightmare" -- she feeds off of the bad dreams of those around her.  Holser House seems like the perfect place for Sabine to thrive: an entire building full of girl's with troubled pasts acting as an unwitting buffet for Sabine.  But all is not as it seems at Holser House, and Sabine may be in over her head...

I chose Fearless to read because I'd never read anything by Rachel Vincent and I was curious.  Though I wasn't head over heels for this story, I did like it, much more than other stories I've read from this anthology (Kiss Me Deadly).  There was a great set up for an antihero story, and an interesting one, because it's a sort of rootforable antihero; it's not like Sabine can help what she is.  There are some really dark elements and an unflinchingness to the story that I enjoyed.  The first time Sabine feeds off a girl in Holser House, it sort of made my skin crawl.  And when Sabine meets her match in Holser, there are some interesting issues raised that are completely spoilery, so I can't really get into them.  Let's just say, it was really sort of weird, what it came down to, and it was hard to know who to root for because both people were doing bad, but in an odd way that was hard to purely condemn.  I wasn't completely sure who I wanted to win.

The inevitable romance in this story (it is "13 tales of paranormal romance," after all...) was one of the better ones.  Sabine is in love with Nash, a male bean sidhe with the ability to Influence people with his voice.  I actually really did like the relationship between them, and felt the power and the connection, which is impressive in such a short work.  Vincent was wise in making the romance an established thing, rather than having them meet during the story and rushing a romance.  They seemed authentically dedicated to each other, too, and could relate to each other because of their dubious abilities, but they both have things they need to overcome, and it added nicely to the dynamic.

The only real drawback for me was that I felt it would have been better as a full-length work.  I liked Sabine and her story, but it would have been more powerful if had the luxury of length to really layer it and develop everything, especially the ending.  I feel like there's so much backstory, too, that's hinted at, and Sabine's feeding on nightmares is actually pretty symbolic, and it would have been interesting to watch her confront some of her past, or have more extensive flashbacks.  It was a nice story as it was, but I think it could have been even better as a full length work.

"Fearless" is found in Kiss Me Deadly; my version of Kiss Me Deadly is an ARC, so the story could have changed dramatically, just so you know.

Rachel Vincent is the author of the popular Shifters and Soul Screamers series.
StrayMy Soul to Take


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