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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
Willow: A Spellster Short Story by Aldrea Alien is a fantasy fiction tale about a highly respected dwarf named Ylva—a hedgewitch of the High Circle—who has been captured by humans and brought to a castle in an attempt to crush her connection to nature, the essence of her being, like they have done to so many other dwarves before her. The short story encompasses the end of Ylva's journey from her homeland to the castle by boat, and the brief but highly emotional walk from the dock to the courtyard of the castle where she is confronted with an excruciating and soul-crushing scene: the cruel enslavement of one of nature's most beautiful creations, now confined and corrupted in the most unnatural and dangerous ways.
Willow is more than just a bit of fantasy. This is, first and foremost, a work of literary fiction that harnesses fantasy into its story line. Aldrea Alien writes with superb eloquence that is unusual to find in the genre, evoking emotion through descriptions that are piercing. "The pier creaked, its wood, both dead and alive in the fresh water, had been left to scream in its half-submerged agony." Both the narrative and story enchant, accomplishing this in a weighty and substantial tone throughout Willow's beautiful tale. This is not a light story, nor does it culminate into a frothy, auspicious finale. It grips and it holds, resonating long after the last line is read. I have not read any other work by this author and even though my first foray is a short story, I'm inclined to see what Alien can deliver when given the opportunity to stretch her storytelling skills into a full-length novel. I loved this. It's likely the best short story I have read in years. Very highly recommended.