Isidora’s Pawn by Erik Hofstatter is a long short story, though it’s listed as a novelette and the first thing I thought when I finished was that I wanted more of it. It is well written and the plot moves fast and pulls you through the forty or so pages at a break neck pace making the story seem a lot shorter than it actually is.
Isidora’s Pawn follows a man named Orrin who is traveling from England to Spain in order to work in a library for a woman, Dores, he met on Instagram. While working in the library, things are not unfolding the way he thought they would. Although Orrin has developed feelings for Dores, the work for her at the library and his living accommodations, also in the library, are less than adequate. There are also strange things happening at the library which Orrin can not explain.
The creepiness of the setting makes this story. Although there is never a militia-page description given of the library, where the bulk of the story takes place, enough detail is given to make readers uncomfortable the entire time just by being in that place with Orrin. The tone of the story is dark and gloomy and the writing reflects that from beginning to satisfying end.
Orrin, a man who only wants to find true love is falling for Dores. But, at the same time Isidora, the beast-like sister of Dores and the other employees of the library, is falling in love with Orrin. Even in the short number of pages, the reader becomes invested in this bizarre and beautiful love triangle as events unfold.
The story comes to a conclusion that is both satisfying and leaves the reader wanting more. I needed to know more about Isidora and her strange, weird relationship with her siblings and how she came to be the way she is. I needed to know more about the library and how it came to be the home for a beast such as Isidora. But, given all of that, I felt like the story hit a perfect home run with the ending. There are some stories that end and I always think “the story would have been great if it ended this way...” but with Isidora’s Pawn, I could not think of or envision a better ending than the one Hofstatter came up with, it is the perfect ending for all of the characters, and the only one that makes sense knowing the personality of each.
This story takes about a half hour to read but also gives the reader a lot to unpack. It has a weird Clive Barker vibe with a little bit of a Adam Nevill thrown in for good measure. Give this one a read. Solid 4/5 from me on this.
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