The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window
The Lady Who Plucked Red Flowers beneath the Queen’s Window by Rachel Swirsky is the winner of the 2011 Nebula award for best Novella and is also nominated for the 2011 Hugo for best Novella.
We join the aforementioned Lady as she is riding out to scout an army of raiders for her queen accompanied by a dwarf. It is fairly quickly evident that she is a member of an intensely matriarchal society and she is a sorceress. It is less evident if she is quite human or not. Her humanness doesn’t have much bearing on the story as when she is done with her scouting, she is immediately murdered.
Being murdered doesn’t stop her from being the main character for the rest of the story. Her spirit is bound such that it can be summoned. The stories of the various summonings across ages comprises the bulk of the story.
That’s the background. The main thrust of the story is how The Lady deals with the changes of times, beliefs and summoners as time proceeds. Her original society is not just king of matriarchal, but utterly so. The women procreate as the Lady says, somewhat uniquely, “it was I who placed my hand on her belly and used my magic to draw out her seedlings; I who nurtured the seedlings’ spirits with the fertilizer of her chosen man; I who planted the seedlings in the womb of a fecund brood.” The “brood” are subservient females and the men are barely tolerated.
For the first couple of summonings, she deals with the aftermath of her murder. After that, the summonings are more widely spaced in time and culture. The Lady is not particularly willing to change her own beliefs as all of this happens.
The story was interesting and well written. I didn’t particularly relate to the character of The Lady. I could see the affect Swirsky was going for, but it didn’t really grab me as much as it seems to have others. But, it is worth reading and is a decent nominee.