Oh, how I loved this one. “Zora’s Destiny,” found in Skin Deep Magic: Short Fiction, is the kind of contemporary (or recent historical) fantasy I love the most: a single character coming face-to-face with the sense of something other behind the normal sheen of the world, but it’s also a twofer, in that it’s also a story about that same character leaning about themselves. We meet Zora when she’s made up her mind to visit the local “witch” when her mother’s migraines show no sign of passing. She has heard gossip between other women in the town about Miss Hattie, specifically in her ability to undo pain, and so Zora gathers her courage and sets out.
This core of wanting to help carries Zora beyond where her own bravery might have ended, and the interaction between the two women is steeped in Zora’s mix of “I want to believe” and “I know I’m being desperate and this is likely a hoax.” But as the two women talk, and Zora learns of what it takes to have belief turn into power, the conversation takes a different turn, and things stop being about Zora’s mother, and turn to Zora herself.
Another way in which “Zora’s Destiny” is a favourite sort of story for me is how it could easily be the first chapter of a novel about Zora. That’s not to say the tale is not complete, which can easily be a flaw of stories about discovery. “Zora’s Destiny” ends with possibility, but it does end, drawing a loop in narrative closed even as I wish I had chapters and chapters more to go.