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Iron Shoes
J. Kathleen Cheney

J. Kathleen Cheney
Born and raised in El Paso, Texas, J. Kathleen Cheney's parents actually were rocket scientists (they worked at White Sands Missile Range). After graduating with degrees in English and Marketing, J. Kathleen worked as a menswear buyer for retail department store chains before changing careers to become a teacher. She taught mathematics ranging from 7th Grade Arithmetic up to Calculus and served a brief stint as a Gifted and Talented Specialist. She has twice attended the summer Writer's Workshop at the Center for the Study of Science Fiction under the tutelage of James Gunn. In 2005 she decided to take a sabbatical from the academic world to work on writing and has since enjoyed seeing her stories published in Jim Baen's Universe, Writers of the Future, and Fantasy Magazine, among others. Her short fiction has been a finalist for both the Nebula Award and the PRISM Award.

J. Kathleen Cheney Website
ISFDB Bibliography

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Trent Walters

Iron Shoes Nominated for both Nebula and Prism awards, Iron Shoes details the hard times of Imogen Hawkes, a widowed woman of the early 1900s, who tries to restore the family racing horse ranch to its former glory. Her husband had made some poor choices, which his mother and wife are now paying for. Now they either have to start selling horses, which will prove they are in dire straits, or pin their hopes to Blue Streak, the horse who stands the best chance of winning the ranch some money.

Enter a horse she just bought, sight unseen. Paddy, the ranch's best trainer, tells Imogen it's sick and he doesn't know what to do. Imogen knows immediately. The horse is a fairy, Guiare, trapped in the horse form due to all of the iron binding it -- from harness to the shoes. Against her better judgment, she releases Guiare, and one night he comes into her room, naked, with a bargain she can't refuse. There's a reason why she knows he's a fairy: it's a secret buried deep in family history. Meanwhile, Mr. Hammersly, her neighbor, continues to badger her about joining their ranches in a permanent union, which she rejects. Worse, Blue Streak, the horse they thought would help out the ranch, is shot while Paddy is riding it. The horse falls and breaks Paddy's leg. The ranch, stunned, has to come up with another way to get the money.

Perhaps as an ordinary male, this reviewer will find some aspects of this romance difficult to understand. One ordinary man approaches her with words, one magical man approaches her boldly naked, sneaking into her bedroom unasked. Which does she choose? Men out there will have to wonder if this is the way to go: magic tricks and birthday suits. Of course, these are fantasies, and men have penchants incomprehensible to women. But it is curious and worth noting. Granted, Hammersley is a baddie, but her response is cold before we learn to the extent to which he'd go to get Imogen.

It's a fun read, nonetheless, because we're all rooting for the protagonist as she fights to save her ranch and to fall in love. Imogen returns in a sequel, Snow Comes to Hawk's Folly. Perhaps these will all be collected into one book. J. Kathleen Cheney seems the type of author who could attract a strong and passionate platoon of faithful readers.

Copyright © 2012 Trent Walters

Trent Walters teaches science; lives in Honduras; edited poetry at Abyss & Apex; blogs science, SF, education, and literature, etc. at APB; co-instigated Mundane SF (with Geoff Ryman and Julian Todd) culminating in an issue for Interzone; studied SF writing with dozens of major writers and and editors in the field; and has published works in Daily Cabal, Electric Velocipede, Fantasy, Hadley Rille anthologies, LCRW, among others.

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