Living alone with his mother on the edge of an ever-encroaching swamp teeming with toxic magic, young Nereus Vestryn has grown up hearing stories about the feral people the ‘miasma’ has infected.
So when one morning he finds his mother crawling sickened from the swamp, he has no choice but to summon a mage to help her.
But mages are feared figures, reminders of the ways the swamp can twist people, and her arrival has greater repercussions than Nereus bargained for.
As long-held family secrets are uncovered and an unexpected threat arrives on the doorstep, Nereus must ask himself: what really makes a monster?
Miasma is a speculative fiction novella, part of the Luna Novella series (number 16), and the debut from Jess Hyslop. A fantastic work of worldbuilding, a young protagonist, and a story about dealing with grief and guilt.
Hyslop explores perfectly those themes through the story of Nereus, a young boy who is living near the swamps with his mother, avoiding those toxic vapours, deemed as responsible for making people go feral.
The sudden illness of her mother, due to the swamp, forces Nereus to call for a mage; the arrival of Chari to cure her will bring many familiar secrets to the surface. Mages in this world are a walking reminder of the miasma dangers.
With only 99 pages, Hyslop has written a really compelling story, exploring the limits of family, and how a mother will deal with the worse things to protect her offspring. Grief and guilt are explored making an interesting use of the different characters.
Despite its shortness, it has the time to explore a complex world, where the stories told and the reality don't always coincide. A dark story, and an excellent book if you are looking for a different kind of fiction.
Jess Hyslop is a writer of fantasy, fabulism, and science fiction represented by Ed Wilson of Johnson & Alcock Ltd. Her short stories have been published in venues such as Black Static, Interzone, and Cossmass Infinities. Her debut novella, Miasma, is out now from Luna Press.