At times horrifying, at times touching and sad, Elizabeth Bear’s The Horrid Glory of Its Wings is an intense testament to what the Fantasy genre can achieve when it sets out to explore some of the harsly human aspects of our own world. To say much about the plot and themes of the story (short, as it is) would be to ruin the potential emotional impact on the reader, but watching protagonist Desiree struggle with her demons — both psychological and physical — can be frustrating, uncomfortable, and left me feeling like a teenager watching a slasher flick, yelling advice at the page as Desiree struggles against her demons.
The story unfolds delicately, starting with Desiree speaking of the ‘Harpy’, whose tangibility is hard to grasp a hold of, and reveals each new layer of Desiree’s insecurities and the realities of her world at a perfect pace, painting a slow picture of a road with two forks, one light, the other dark. If it touches on melodramatic, it’s easy to forgive.
The Horrid Glory of Its Wings is a startling look at the human condition and our ability to shun help, support and success even when it stares us in the face. But through all this darkness, there is also that desire to overcome, to persevere and throw off our shackles and take what is rightfully ours. It is up to the reader to find the message in this story. Highly recommended.