I think this may be my favorite thing I've read by Claire--and I've read lots, all of which I've enjoyed. But this was just--it was a whole other level. It reaches for something really big and achieves it.
It starts out an acrobatic tale of an angelic city that's really a kind hell hole--(most of) the angels are creepy abominations who delight in human sacrifices offered them by starving refugees desperate for the safe haven the city represents in a war-torn world. OVERTONES, right?
(I say "acrobatic" because Claire has this prodigious imagination and she lets it run all over the place--it darts hither and yon like fireflies and then holds you fixed while it dances on a high wire like Philippe Petit. She's a roller coaster, but if you just let yourself ride the roller coaster, it's actually taking you to a destination.)
So the angelic city is pustular and awful, but there's more beneath the surface waiting to erupt than at first meets the eye. Our narrator, for instance is a secret saint (in this story, saints are humans who can see angels and who have a special relationship with one particular angel). And then another saint is revealed, and. Well, stuff happens. In the end I was left with the impression of Hieronymus Bosch blended with CS Lewis--in the best possible way.
Here are some quotes that run the gamut:
He'd sung to me that day, in that way angels have of singing (which was a little like having your head held under water and your feet set on fire, while being tickled)
Mom was born with an ineffable talent to make herself and everyone else around her believe her every lie, and if she wanted to teach me how to bake our ancestral benison cake from a recipe that didn’t yet exist, who was I, merely her daughter, to argue with her?
He was like a cricket some kid had poured diatomite over. He was a murderer. A fanatic for the angels. Worse, a teenager.
And the two that are words to live by:
“Weakness is killin’ someone for their bread. Strength is splittin’ your last loaf with them.” --Right? RIGHT?!
“it is never good for gods or angels or human-kin to forget the world beyond their walls.” --AMEN
and hell, one extra, because it's a great benediction:
“Be safe, my sister; be swift and sly!”
On the strength of this story alone, A Sinister Quartet is worth purchasing, but from the excerpts I heard the other day, the other three stories will also be wonderful. Now I'm on to Jessica Wick's An Unkindness--with ancient-ballad-level menacing faery folk. This entry was originally posted at https://asakiyume.dreamwidth.org/938505.html. Comments are welcome at either location.