Cemetery Dance, February 2022
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Review by R. B. Payne
Cover illustration by Miruna Dumitrache
One of the joys of living abroad is meeting new writers and connecting as storytellers. Living in Europe, that means meeting poets, writers, and artists from various countries and cultures.
Cristina is from Romania. She writes in Romanian and English and also speaks Spanish and French. She is a member of the European Dark Fiction Writers group. She is a new writer, emerging onto the scene. It’s my pleasure to introduce you to her and encourage you to take the time to support her by reading her tale.
Without delay, then, let’s review The Headsman by Cristina Mîrzoi.
THE HEADSMAN is a piece of long fiction which can be characterized as a series of inter-connected horror fables which, when read in their entirety, give us insight into a rustic village and its axe-wielding executioner. The time and place are not specific – these are vignettes that occur when witches and fairies exist, titled Dukes rule, and the lives of peasants, merchants, and servants can be grim.
Especially if their fate crosses paths with The Headsman.
In these dark tales, we find a witch, a flower girl, a young fool, a merchant, a ‘big’ man, a Duke, a mother, a maid, a servant boy, and a martyr. We also find the Headsman and by the end of the story, we understand more of his life and the dark choices he has made.
The writing style of Cristina Mîrzoi is stylized, literate, and modern. It evokes all the senses but does not dwell on them. She demands an attentive reader; a reader who understands the subtleties that tie the characters together. Ultimately, for me, it was an emotive piece of storytelling that makes me hope that Cristina chooses to tell a longer and even darker tale.
In summary, The Headsman is a clever piece of long fiction and can be read on a commute or lunch hour. Or by the fireplace if you so desire. I recommend a download (buy it if you can’t access it for free – writers always appreciate some coinage!) and read it.
And yes, there is blood.
Three-Question Interview with Cristina Mîrzoi
RBPAYNE: Cristina, you are currently creating a writing presence in dark fiction and horror. Can you tell us a little bit about what drew you to the dark fiction/horror genre? How did you get started?
CM: I very much enjoy weird fiction. As a child, I was in love with mythology and folktales (this made me chose an MA in Religion later). Growing up in a small town in the 90s in post-communist Romania meant there wasn’t much diversity in terms of international literature (apart from the classics). I remember reading a lot of British authors as I enjoyed gothic fiction. However, the ground-breaking point for me was in middle school; I was around eleven when I started reading fantasy books in English. We used to have these special English classes with an American Peace Corps volunteer, and she organized a small library at school. Suddenly, it was like discovering a new world; one that was filled with ghosts, vampires, and other wicked creatures.
My first serious work began more like a therapeutic activity three years ago. I started a children’s fantasy novel about witches, in my native language, which will be published sometime this spring by a local publisher. It’s currently being illustrated by the same artist who did the cover for the Headsman (Miruna Dumitrache).
While this was a gratifying experience, I felt the need to move on to something adult-oriented. I love lyrical, descriptive dark prose.
I mostly read in English, occasionally in my native language, sometimes Spanish, and also a little bit in French. English, having such a rich vocabulary, was the most suitable language for me to find my voice. With some encouragement from a peer, I started writing flash fiction, since it seemed a challenge to fit a whole story within such limited characters.
In the end, I started putting together some of the flash bits and it resulted in this collection of intertwined stories (The Headsman), which was recently published on Amazon.
RBPAYNE: Of the stories that you’ve written, which one is your favorite? And which one would you recommend to a first-time reader of your work?
CM: This one is easy since I’m at the very beginning, so I am going to recommend The Headsman for the English-speaking public (for now). But there is more to follow. 😊
RBPAYNE: Can you tell us a bit about your next project? What are you working on now? And when will be able to read it?
CM: I’m really excited about it. I'm halfway through the writing process, but I don't want to rush things. It’s a deconstruction of the Hansel and Gretel fairy-tale. I would label it as dark fantasy novella in English; an adult Gretel returns to the “witch’s hut” in what we can call a journey of self-discovery and closure. The central point of the narrative is represented by her emotional evolution and the fantastical elements work as a background for all the turmoil. The descriptions are dream-like; I wanted the setting to feel very surreal for the main character, but also for the reader, as the plot slowly descends into various nightmarish situations.
Thank you very much!
© 2022 by R. B. Payne