Rating: 5 of 5 stars
The following is a duplicate of my review on Amazon and Goodreads for this novelette.
The author really knows how to get inside his characters' heads and describe their motivation. Unlike many male authors writing a female character, he doesn't linger on unnecessary descriptions of her anatomy. Tala is an ordinary young woman who lives in a time and place where women are treated as objects to be done with as males see fit. She faces manhandling by the old woodsman whom she is attempting to assist, and worse from the realm's boorish prince and corrupt priest.
One night while leaving the old woodsman's cottage, Tala is attacked by an unknown creature and mysterious changes begin to take place in her life, subjecting her to moments of terror and rage as she tries to comprehend what is happening.
Tala is a brave and level-headed young woman who faces truly awful situations both from the supernatural realm and the natural world in which she resides. Although there are uncomfortable scenes in this story with regards to men's treatment of women and girls as sex objects to be used as a man sees fit, these scenes are never gratuitous or unnecessarily explicit.
There are jokes about male authors writing women in an overly sexualized fashion. Michael J. Allen manages to avoid being on the receiving end of the joke by writing his female characters with empathy rather than salacity.
I finished this story in one afternoon. It is a compelling page-turner.