Title: Bitter Draught
Author: Michael Earp
In: Kindred (Michael Earp)
Rating Out of 5: 5 (I will read this again and again and again)
My Bookshelves: Fantasy, LGBTQI
Dates read: 7th May 2020
Format: Short story
Publisher: Walker Books
5th sentence, 74th page: The stories say that shopkeepers and traders will hear a knock on their door close to midnight.
Simeon has always been content in his little world with his parents, his sister and Wyatt. But a horrible illness and a journey to find the village witch rip his world apart.
Starting this story, I was really intrigued to find out where the “bitter draught” was going to come from. I was honestly expecting something that dealt with prejudice or the difficulties in realising that you are LGBTQI+. But, it wasn’t that at all. Like the first few short stories in this collection, the fact that Simeon was gay wasn’t even dealt with in any way expect to say that he had a significant other who was also male. I love this acceptance and simplicity in the writing. What I wasn’t sure on though was what the “bitter draught” would then end up being…
Simeon’s desire to help his sister, even if it means following a floating pebble and finding a witch that he’s kind of scared of was a nice little journey. It didn’t have that horrifying intensity of some of the similar stories that I’ve read. But it still lent a sense of urgency to Simeon’s journey. The fact that cracks in his relationship with Wyatt begin to appear just helps lend this sense of surrealness and intensity to their adventure. Even if it is technically all about saving Simeon’s sister…
The reveal of the “bitter draught” at the end of this story is bittersweet. It’s not as tragic as I was expecting, but it is also quite sad. Mostly, this story serves as a reminder that sometimes the most painful thing in the world is just the truth. And that can be quite a bitter pill to swallow…