Elora Bishop, Crumbs (Elora Bishop, 2012)
A short from a series called Sappho’s Fables, and if the rest of them are anything like this one I’ll be digging in sooner rather than later. Cumbs is a retold version of Hansel and Gretel that takes place in a world that seems about midway between 28 Days Later… and Jonathan Maberry’s Benny Imura books. Greta and her brother (want to take a stab at his name?) live with their parents in the Heap, a post-apocalyptic collective that has taken root in a defensible garbage dump outside a blasted city. Their parents see an opportunity for salvation and seize it, but are forced to leave the kids to fend for themselves (this note rings oddly wrong until about halfway through the story, when it suddenly makes sense); the beautiful dream of Heap-dwellers is the fabled safety of the city, and so the siblings make their way there, where they run into a bit of trouble and are saved by a kindly candy-maker. Or…maybe not so kindly. Greta has to figure out which side she’s on, while trying to make sense of her rapidly-growing feelings for her savior.
The Jonathan Maberry comparison above—specifically to a YA series—was not casual; if you’re looking for cheap-thrill erotica, this is not the place to be. One might be tempted to call it “paranormal romance”, though that term brings along a lot of unnecessary (and inappropriate to this story) baggage these days, and even then, I’d say the central love story here has more innocence about it than that genre does, in general. There is much more sweating over feelings than over gymnastics. None of it, despite the post-apocalyptic setting, feels unrealistic in any way, and the resolutions to both the romance angle and the larger mystery are satisfying enough, though I ended up wishing this had been novel-length so we could have explored more of everything from the romance to the worldbuilding. There’s a lot to like here, even if it’s more a taste than a meal. But then, given the original story, that makes a kind of sense. *** ½