Author: Tanith Lee
In: Under My Hat (Jonathan Strahan)
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Easy reading, Fantasy, Witches
Format: Short story
Publisher: Hot Key Books
5th sentence, 74th page: There was still a lamp burning in the lower room.
Radlo is on a journey when a passerby stops him on the road to warn him not to go into the forest. He says an evil young woman with the eyes of a cat and covered in fur lives there. Thinking the man is mad, Radlo continues on his way, and when he reaches the other side of the woods, he finds a village. There, the people seems to like the cat-girl. Annoyed by all these tales he’s not even sure he believes, Radlo goads his way into meeting the cat-girl, and is shocked to find she’s real. Felidis looks exactly like the man on the road said, and she lives with dozens of cats, one of whom appears to be her favorite. Fascinated by her, he spends the night at her house, intending to leave the next day, but soon, one day turns into several, and several days into seasons. Radlo can’t seem to bring himself to leave Felidis and thinks he may be falling in love with her, but she says that she has no interest in marriage. After spending so much time with her, Radlo knows that she is a witch, but he has no idea how she works her magic. Before he finally leaves, Felidis offers to grant him a request in exchange for all he’s done for her. If she won’t give him her love, Radlo wants to know how she does magic, but the truth may surprise him.
One of the things that I love about short stories is the way in which they generally get turned completely on their heads. Or at least, some of the best ones – like Lee’s Felidis. A furry, clawed witch girl saves a boy. He falls a little in love. Then he finds out her truth. Which is completely unexpected and brilliant.
It took a little while for this story to gain traction, and for me to see where it was going. At the beginning of the story actually, I was finding it a little boring and fully expecting to put it down in disgust within moments. However, just at that crucial turning point, it dragged me in. Felidis was suddenly in the story with her cat companions and her mystery developed.
This was a really well written, slightly obscure short story. Unlike others, I don’t want to dive back into the world again, but I will happily read this tale again and again.
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