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2014 Story 30

From Fiction River #5: Hex In The City, edited by Kerrie L. Hughes

30. KING OF THE KINGLESS by Jay Lake  Lake's urban fantasy about the "king" (term used loosely within the story) of the Portland wizard community, Fauntleroy Chen, and his encounter with a somewhat-rival witch is equal parts despair and hope. Lake uses the entropic degradation of cities in general and Portland in particular to mirror the way the world beats Chen down, from his hopeful early days as an apprentice to his almost-acceptance that cancer is killing him. He talks, in metaphorical terms, about the differences between women and men (building with light, breaking down with darkness, expansion versus entropy, etc) and how they deal with the world.  The question of who is right, if anyone is, is not broached, but that didn't stop me from wondering whether this witch would build Chen up or tear him down. Can opposites work together?  Can we change our inherent nature? Some tough questions come out in this piece. I found myself satisfied with the answer (or lack thereof) Lake provides.  (And I have to wonder: if Jay were not dying of cancer, would this be the start of an ongoing series? Because I liked Chen and Isadora. Then again, one could also wonder: if Jay were not dying of cancer, would this story have been written and would it have the same emotional punch?)

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