Pros: Fantastic worldbuilding
Rating: 5 out of 5
Benjanun Sriduangkaew’s novella Then Will the Sun Rise Alabaster takes place in the same world as her book And Shall Machines Surrender [review]. In this story, a woman named Panthida (referred to as Sister Josephine) lives in an Abbey. Many orphans are taken in and trained to join the sisterhood here. There is much use of corporal punishment (Panthida has scars all over her back), and old names and identities are driven out of the young women. One day, someone from the armed Order of Eshim arrives, Anoushka, bringing a new sister, Numadesi, to join the Abbey. Panthida is drawn to them both, but it takes little time for her to realize that they’re dangerous to her carefully-ordered world. What could their agenda be?
Content note for explicit lesbian sex (f/f and fff). Anoushka, if you’ve read some of Sriduangkaew’s other tales, is also known as the Alabaster Admiral. I really love this character, so I’m thrilled to see more of her. She’s a powerful, dominating warlord with a thirst for women.
The worldbuilding is probably my favorite part of this. It’s told from Panthida’s point of view, and the dystopian future it paints is quite vivid and detailed. Still, there’s a sense of hope to it all. This is a wonderful short story in an engaging universe. If you want to see a little more first, there’s an online story called Where Machines Run With Gold that first introduces Numadesi to Anoushka. (Content note for very explicit sex!)