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Short Story of the Day #3: “Seasons of Glass and Iron” by Amal El-Mohtar

After This Is How You Lose the Time War, I’ll read anything Amal El-Mohtar writes. The third Short Story of the Day is “Seasons of Glass and Iron,” a quiet love story that blends a few classic fairytales into one hopeful narrative.

Why “Seasons of Glass and Iron”?

A lot of my favorite fairytales—”The Necklace of Princess Fiorimonde,” “The Wild Swans,” “The Maiden on the Glass Mountain”—lie a ways off the beaten path. Although “The Wild Swans” has gotten a lot of renewed attention in the last few years, I’ve found that many folklore and fantasy nerds just haven’t heard of some of the stories I loved the most growing up.

That’s why “Seasons of Glass and Iron” struck such a chord with me. Eagle-eyed readers will spot references to a number of classic stories here, including:

  • “The Brown Bear of Norway”
  • “East of the Sun and West of the Moon”
  • “The Maiden on the Glass Mountain”
  • “The Wild Swans”

This is no convoluted amalgam of fairytale tropes, however. El-Mohtar’s story is a thoughtful examination of what we give and take in our relationships, the bounds of what we are willing to label as “love,” and how we heal from the trauma of abuse.

It does all this, yet the message here never feels hamfisted. The romance at the heart of this story isn’t some sweeping epic with dramatic fight scenes and the heroines’ long tresses blowing in the wind. Instead, it’s quiet. Comforting. And you’re going to love it.

My favorite line:

She remembers a story about nettle shirts thrown up to swans, and wonders if she could reach up and pluck a feather from them to give herself wings.

Click here to read “Seasons of Glass and Iron.”

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