“The Story of Love”, by Vera Nazarian, opens with an interesting passage offering the thesis that love unifies two opposites into something like steel.
Then we meet Crea, who has just been beaten by her father, carefully, so as not to spoil her beauty. We learn that her father, Nahad, grieves for her mother, as he grieves for none other among his wives and concubines. Seeing Crea fills him with rage. Having come into her full beauty, Crea puts on her mother’s dress and utterly enchants her future husband, Belam.
There’s something very calculating about the way her nurse encourages her, and the way Crea doesn’t even look at the face of the man she hopes will take her away from her father. And yet their marriage is happy and fruitful. Vivid, evocative language describes how their passion blossoms. She bears him daughters and sons, and ends what painful communication remains with her father.
Then word comes that her father is ruined, all his caravans and ships and sons lost. He asks her to come home, which she does only out of duty. She is shocked when Belam asks her to visit the God of Love, and ask him to teach her to love him. Nothing seems to come of her prayer until she sees her father. It seems that the god grants her a vision that allows her to see her father as he is, not as she feared and hated him, and to forgive him.
Though beautifully written and moving, it doesn’t make sense to me. How exactly does this make her like steel? How does this show Belam that she does indeed love him? It doesn’t seem fair to Nahad that Crea doesn’t forgive him until he’s lost all power over her. The ending fits the beginning of Crea’s story, but it doesn’t fit the prologue. Who is taming who? Who is yielding up the self to the other?
Also, I’m not sure how exactly this is fantasy. The god may or may not be real. The setting seems to be an alternate world resembling Central Asia, where traders take caravans across the Compass Rose, between deserts and oceans.
Despite the objections of the fantasy purist in me, I like it anyway.
Tomorrow: The Last Stand of the Elephant Man