thiefofcamorr's review

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4.0

I appreciate Grandma Harken. Same last name as one of the QI elves from my favourite podcast, and living on the edge of town people majority of people are rubbish. This is a simple and enjoyable tale about an elderly witch who loves her garden - especially her tomatoes... so when they start to be stolen, one by one, it's pretty much as bad as it gets for Grandma Harken. (I can't stand tomatoes so don't really care, but...) It's a lovely story that keeps you reading, and well written to boot.

pamalalala_'s review

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5.0

Okay but Razorback wins. I am adding Ursula Vernon to my favorite authors.

shimauchiha's review

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4.0

It's wonderfully weird and atmospheric. The little details of it, from the train gods to the coyote seem to speak of the soul of the desert. I happen to love desserts and I've spent a fair amount of time in them and this story just captures that feeling beautifully.

nancyboy's review

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4.0

3.5- 4 stars

What a very charming story, it's about a grandma trying to find the person who stealing her tomatoes and it all unravels from there. I completely understand why it won the Hugo. If your looking for something short definitely check it out and its free to read on the apex magazine website, which is always good.

macthekat's review

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3.0

3,5 stars

It's a sweet and very quite story, where the first half is just an old woman and her garden. At some point it turnes into a weird magical realism thing. I liked the story, but I didn't love it. I did like the first half with the tomato-sandwiches better - possibly because I like Vernon writing about gardening. And it was easier to understand what was going on.

It is the sequel to Jackalope Wives

crowinator's review

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4.0

"The Tomato Thief" by Ursula Vernon

lsneal's review

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4.0

Great short story, very evocative and well-written.

erlkonig's review

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5.0

I've said it before, and I'll say it again - Grandma Harken is a stone cold badass and if one day I could be even a tenth of the woman she is I'd be utterly content.

This novelette has everything the discerning fantasy reader should need. A feisty old lady who refuses to fall asleep so hard she stabs herself with a ladle, Koschei the deathless, very ripe tomatoes on white bread with a pinch of salt and a dab of mayonnaise, and train gods and their priests. All things that I regularly look for, and finally, here they all are in one short story.

The writing is witty and evocative and playful, the story is tightly spun, and the characters are begging to be read more and more. I must say again, because once is not enough - Grandma Harken is everything I want to be in life and I aspire to be her.

morgandhu's review

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4.0

This novelette is a return to the magical fairytale desert Vernon created in "Jackalope Wives" and to its central character, the shapeshifter-become-human Grandma Harken, with her sense of responsibility and duty. There's a certain similarity of theme here as well, in that Grandma Harken finds herself - grumbling about her age and mortality but still shouldering responsibility for making things right - setting out to save a woman caught in a powerful spell by a man of power.

There are some marvelous touches to the story that show the desert magic as a growing, evolving thing, adapting to the changes forced on it by the encroachment of man. The building of trains to cross and divide the desert has brought about the existence of the train-gods, and fittingly, their priests are found among the descendants of those forced to work on the railroads for the benefit of men of power living in the industrial east, the children of Asian labourers and indentured European workers.

Grandma Harken needs the intervention of the train-gods to find the hiding place of the sorcerer, who has folded the land around himself - and when she enters his domain, she will need all her wisdom and cunning, and the allies she makes along the way, to set things right again, defeat the sorcerer, and undo the damage done to people, animals and land.

Again, I find myself loving the story, the words, the imagery, the worldbuilding, the characters, the skill that went into its creation, while being unsettled by the story's implications. The underlying politics - in the sense of power relations - are clear, as they were in Vernon's earlier story. It's a reflection of the politics of our own world. Men of power, rich men, white men, men who think they can take and use and make everything they want their own, do as they will, which mostly causes distortion and harm to the land, to the creatures of nature and to the people without power. And because someone has to do it, it's the ones who have suffered who do what they can to ameliorate the damage. It's accurate, but I think what bothers me is that as Vernon writes these tales, it's just the way it is. There's no sense that it's not just the actions of the powerful, but the basic underlying dynamic that makes the powerless responsible for the work of mitigating the wrongs of other, is in itself wrong. There's just Grandma Harken, and the train-god priests, and the little girl who will be Grandma Harken's apprentice, who heroically shoulder the burdens that belong to others.

kesterbird's review

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5.0

Grandma Harken is possibly my favorite fictional person

Merged review:

Ursula Vernon remains one of very few authors who can consistently make me cry when they want to make me cry.