Title: At Reparata
Author: Jeffrey Ford
Collection: The Fantasy Writer’s Assistant and Other Stories
Publisher: Golden Griffon Press
Release Date: 2002
Castle Reparata is a refuge for those on the fringes of society, criminals, madmen, and orphans alike, all given an extravagant title and position by the jovial King. But when his Queen dies, he descends into a dark depression, and the ragtag group of misfits who make up the Royal court have to find some way to cure him of his grief, the outcome changing all of their lives forever.
I first read this story in the VanderMeer’s New Weird anthology, and it was my favourite story in the collection. It has a really strong premise, a great cast of eccentric characters, and deals with conventional themes in a complex way.
At Reparata is many things; it is a tale about subversion of common tropes, and also about transformation, a story about loss, and a story about love. It begins in the fantastical and ends in the normal. Ford is a real master at crafting stories that are full of wonder and originality.
There is also something psychological about the story, as a King who deals in the fantastic is only cured of his grief by the deconstruction of his world and goes on to live a normal life.
At Reparata is a wonderful short story, a highly imaginative fairy tale in reverse, and yet more proof as to why many of his peers consider Ford to be not only one of the best writers in speculative literature, but also one of America’s best living writers of fiction.
Paul Charles Smith writes a wonderful blog called EMPTY YOUR HEART OF ITS MORTAL DREAM and is currently re-reading The Gormenghast Trilogy.