Tag Archives: Magical Realism

A Review of The Red Pencil

Book cover for The red pencil by Shawna Reppert. Image on cover shows a red pencil lying on an opened spiral notebook. Title: The Red Pencil

Author: Shawna Reppert

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: September 26, 2015

Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary

Length: About 19 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 4 Stars


A young girl learns to be careful what she wishes for. . .and as an adult decides that some things are worth the cost. Contemporary fantasy by an award-winning author.

Although this story is inspired in part by the author’s childhood in Pennsylvania and her Pennsylvania Dutch heritage, it is contemporary fantasy/magical realism, not memoir. The magic in the book is entirely the author’s invention, although inspired by archetypes from several cultures. It is in no way meant to represent the Pennsylvania Dutch hex tradition.


Content Warning: Two brief descriptions of animal abuse and one brief description of a dead pet cat.

Everyone needs the right tools for their education.

Childhood isn’t always a fun experience. It was interesting to see how Mari coped with her jealousy over a classmate who seemed to live a charmed life. Those sorts of emotions can be intense, especially when the ordinary scuffles of recess spill over into other parts of life. Getting to know the main character was even more rewarding than it had already been once she shared how she handled her feelings and how the red pencil helped her learn an important life lesson at such a tender age.

I would have loved to see more world building in this short story, especially when it came to Mari’s relationship with the Huckster. He was such a mysterious figure that I would have loved to know how they first met and how he knew she was the right person to give the red pencil to. There was space to expand this world here, and I would have gone with a full five-star rating if the author had done that.

With that being said, I thought Ms. Reppert did a fabulous job of explaining the allure and danger of the red pencil. Some of the most memorable scenes for me were the ones that explored Mari’s relationship with what she originally thought was a perfectly ordinary gift from an acquaintance. I’ll leave it up to other readers to discover what was actually going on there, but this is the sort of magical touch to a plot that leaves me wanting more.

The Red Pencil was a thoughtful back-to-school read.

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Searching for Answers: A Review of Remote Control

Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor book cover. Image on cover shows a photo of a young Afrian woman superimposed on a tree and some robotic gear on her torso.Title: Remote Control

Author: Nnedi Okorafor

Publisher: Tor Books

Publication Date: January 19, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction, Contemporary

Length: 156 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library.

Rating: 4.5 Stars


The day Fatima forgot her name, Death paid a visit. From here on in she would be known as Sankofa­­—a name that meant nothing to anyone but her, the only tie to her family and her past.

Her touch is death, and with a glance a town can fall. And she walks—alone, except for her fox companion—searching for the object that came from the sky and gave itself to her when the meteors fell and when she was yet unchanged; searching for answers.

But is there a greater purpose for Sankofa, now that Death is her constant companion?


Content warning: Violence, blood, menstruation, death of parents, death of a child. I will not be discussing these things in my review.

There’s never been a meteor shower quite like this one before.

This novella freely wandered between genres and settings. It was a folk tale set in the modern day. The dreamy fantasy elements of the plot sometimes wandered into science fiction territory. It had drones and cell phones, but it also had possibly magical creatures who followed Sankofa around everywhere. I’ve never read anything quite like it, and I was often left guessing what might happen next.

Occasionally, I wished Sankofa would have been more straightforward about the connection between the strange seed that fell from the sky during a meteor shower and her becoming the adopted daughter of Death itself. Getting to know her better eventually changed my mind on this topic. Sankofa was quite young when these events happened, so it made sense that she didn’t explain them the same way an adult would. I won’t stop hoping for a sequel that might dive deeply into this part of the world building, but the way it was explained ultimately did make sense given who Sankofa was and what she’d been through.

Some of my favourite scenes were the ones that explored what the main character learned during the course of her travels. Her experience with the seed gave her magical powers that even many adults would struggle to understand, and there was no one around to teach her how to use or control them. Seeing Sankofa gradually figure out the rules of her abilities was nearly as satisfying as watching her learn to accept what had happened to her and begin to take the first confident steps into adulthood.

Remote Control was a wonderful novella that should be read by new and old fans of Okorafor’s work alike.


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