by Melina Marchetta
Plot Summary:A short story featured in Review of Australian Fiction.
Lady Celie of the Lumateran Flatlands is visiting the Belegonian spring castle on the isle of Ferragost. Cut off from the rest of Belegonia by poor weather, she is confined to the island with four others, including the mysterious castellan of the castle. When the body of one of the guests is discovered on the rocks outside the east tower, Celie is not only considered a suspect, but finds herself embroiled in events that are entwined with her own kingdom's cursed history, as well as the future of the entire land of Skuldenore.
Review:This short story takes place between Froi of the Exiles and Quintana of Charyn, and gives a little backstory to what Lady Celie was doing by request of the Lumateran Queen. In Froi and Quintana, there are hints that Lady Celie would not have been thought of as a good spy for Lumatere because she is so delicate, but in this story it's great to find out that she is anything but. She does use that perception of herself to her advantage though, and I would love to read more of her spy adventures because she has a great sense of humor, and it's so fun seeing how easy it is for her to manipulate the people around her.
Of course this is Melina Marchetta we are talking about here, and all her characters have great depth. But it's particularly noteworthy here how great her characterizations are because this is such a short story. The reader gets a very complete picture of the personalities of all the characters by just a few words and how they interact with others - and this story is very tightly written and manages to convey so much plot and backstory. It does help to know the world of the books, but I think this story does very well as a standalone too - there's enough information given about some of the key characters in the main series to give you an idea about Lady Celie's relationships to them. And the mystery brewing is very intriguing with a solution that I didn't see coming at all!
The other element of this story that had me totally enthralled was the possible romance between Celie and Castellan Banyon. Banyon, the character, is very reserved yet I felt like I knew him so well - and I would love to have seen more of him in this story - he's just the type of male romantic hero I like - brooding, conflicted, ruled by duty and with a sly sense of humor that only Lady Celie was able to bring out of him. There's so much more that can be done with this pairing! I hope someday Melina Marchetta writes more of their story!
This was a wonderful little mystery, romance and adventure story with wit and humor and some very emotional moments. And it's a perfect complement to the Lumatere Chronicles!