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His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light

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I am not a fighter. I am a trapeze master.

An act of compassion puts a trapeze artist in India on a collision course with a terrifying supernatural power in His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light: a Tor.com Original from Dalit writer Mimi Mondal.

At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.

28 pages, ebook

First published January 23, 2019

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Mimi Mondal

14 books68 followers

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5 stars
36 (16%)
4 stars
77 (36%)
3 stars
76 (35%)
2 stars
20 (9%)
1 star
3 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 58 reviews
Profile Image for Nataliya.
784 reviews12.5k followers
September 19, 2020
I had really big hopes for this Nebula-nominated novelette, but sadly they fizzled out.

A young circus trapeze master Binu also happens to be a master (and lover) of a jinni Shehzad, although he considers the jinni to be free. Jinni, having lived centuries beholden to those who have owned his lamp, knows that his life is a succession of kind and less kind masters. And then one day Binu is talked into helping a young devadasi girl escape her involuntary servitude to a goddess because her plight breaks his bleeding heart.
“I am not even an illicit child, merely a blessing received by my mother in the performance of her role, more property added to the coffers of the raja who owned her. I am cleverer, more beautiful, more talented than the princess whose wedding you graced with your performance, but she is the princess, and I am property. I am less than even the common free woman in the street.”

The kindness that Binu shows, however, sets unexpected events into motion. As they say, no good deed goes unpunished. There will be devastation, and sacrifice, and ultimately love.

It’s a well-written story, but it feels sadly incomplete, like an intro or a chapter from a longer work, ending up more as a sketch than a free-standing story. Some stories work as vignettes, but this one doesn’t. It is nice but ultimately forgettable. It needed more development, otherwise it’s really hard to care about barely sketched-out characters or the meaning of the sacrifices made. I love when a short story makes me want more of the world and the characters because they are well done — but not when it makes me want more just because what’s written feels incomplete.

But if the author decides to expand it into a novel or at least a novella, I’ll read it. Until then, not too impressed.

2.5 stars.

Read it free here: https://www.tor.com/2019/01/23/his-fo...


My Hugo and Nebula Awards Reading Project 2020: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.8k followers
February 4, 2019
Bumping from 2.5 to 3 stars on reread. It worked better for me the second time around. :) This story is free to read online at Tor.com. Final review, first posted on Fantasy Literature:

Binu is a master trapeze artist with the traveling Majestic Oriental Circus in India. He has the secret benefit of being the master of a jinni, Shehzad Marid, whose lamp has been entrusted to him. Binu is a benevolent master, perhaps partly because he’s also in love/lust with Shehzad. When the circus goes to the palace of the Thripuram raja to perform at the wedding celebrations for the raja’s daughter, Binu sees a girl, a devadasi from the palace, who strikes him deeply with her grace and beauty. When the girl shows up at the circus a few nights later and asks him to help her escape the palace and begin a new life, Binu agrees … little knowing what he’s setting in motion.

Mondal draws the setting in India well, including lesser-known people from that culture like the devadasi, girls involuntarily dedicated to the lifelong service of a god or goddess, and kuldevi, a local deity. The setting is the most interesting part of this story, which reads more like a chapter from a longer story than a self-contained story, with an open-ended conclusion that left me hanging. It touches on themes of loyalty and love, but absent the unusual setting, it’s not a particularly memorable story.

“His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light” is linked to another story published earlier by Mondal in Strange Horizons, “The Trees of My Youth Grew Tall”. Binu’s mother is the main character in that story, who spends two years wondering what has become of her wayward, headstrong son Binu. This story answers that question.
Profile Image for Elle (ellexamines).
1,097 reviews17.7k followers
September 24, 2020
OH. You can read this incredible short story for free here.

I finished this feeling... overwhelmed. It is the story of a circus, and an Alladin performer, and a Jinni, and the dynamics of freedom. It is the imagination and love behind the piece that ties it together: the love story, simple and steadfast and true. Mimi Mondal's character creation is excellent, enveloping you in these characters and their conflict with ease. It's a beautifully written piece, but I'll admit I didn't know how deep into it I was until the ending. I did not cry. But I definitely could have. I loved this, and I'll be thinking about it for a while.

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January 30, 2019
Note to self #1: next time you want to read a story about a jinni/jinn/djinni/djinn/genie/whatever either, 1) Rererereread this piece of wondrousness (these are evils guys as opposed to total bores, ergo instantly very delicious) or 2) Watch a marathon of the best TV show that ever was and ever will be.

Yes, I have Impeccable TV Taste, too.

Note to self #2: these Tor shorts? They are obviously hazardous to your reading health. So if unless they're written by Brooke Bloody Shrimping Bolander, DO NOT read them. Simple as that and stuff.
Profile Image for Michelle F.
232 reviews71 followers
March 5, 2020
A prettily written story of devotion and the bonds of non traditional love. A quick perusal of other reviews tells me I drew many more spiritual references from this short than the first-page reviewers did. I find this interesting, even given the title alone. I actually wish that I hadn’t read into it. As a non-religious person, I like the reading that everyone else got better. When I look at it from a friendship/romance/dedication perspective, I think it’s a beautiful little tale.

In a story this short, a summary becomes nearly a retelling, and Mondal did a lovely job on their own. It is worth the read, but the allegory I took it for keeps it from being too shiny, on a personal level.
Profile Image for Gary.
442 reviews195 followers
February 8, 2019
I love the groundwork Mimi Mondal lays for her story “His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light”. Binu is a trapeze artist for the Majestic Oriental Circus in India, who also plays the character of Alladin for a real-life jinni’s illusion show. The jinni, Shehzad Marid, trusts only Binu with the care of his lamp. This makes Binu his de facto master, though Binu doesn’t see it that way. While performing at the wedding for the raja’s daughter in Thripuram, a devadasi (holy courtesan), convinces Binu to let her run away with the circus, which has deadly consequences for all of them. There’s so much to savor in story—the warm friendship between Binu and Shehzad, the unconventional daily life of the circus troupe—that the letdown of the story’s ending sank lower than it should have. The climax makes up its own rules, and the resolution comes too easily.
Profile Image for Prabhjot Kaur.
1,052 reviews156 followers
June 23, 2021
His Footsteps, through Darkness and Light is about a circus group who perform at different towns a story about the famous Aladdin and his Jinni. It took me by surprise in the beginning as I really liked the world that it's set up in and the story progressed very well in my opinion but then it just stopped. I know it's a short story but I was at least expecting a bit more at the end of it as the end seemed incomplete and not in a good way.

This short story was full of some really good moments such as when Shehzad's existence is revealed and that Binu is in love with Shehzad. I just wish there was a bit more at the end of it.

3 stars
Profile Image for Silvana.
1,169 reviews1,140 followers
March 25, 2020
3.5 stars. Nice and refreshing setting, unique relationship among some of the MCs, though the saving-the-damsel-in-distress plot kind of took me away from enjoying it fully.

Speaking about setting, I am glad I was introduced to the concept of devadasis, which practice is apparently still rampant in India. Around 450,000 women are still imprisoned in its sex slavery scheme, which was shocking.

I agree with some reviewers that this feels like a first chapter of a much longer story. I'd like to have more from this world, please.
Profile Image for Alina.
771 reviews265 followers
August 10, 2021
I'll also put the name of the story here, in case Goodreads decides to merge it into some other work...
His Footsteps, Through Darkness and Light by Mimi Mondal - 2.5/5★

A story about a trapeze in a circus that falls for a devadasi ; contains many Indian-related terms and concepts, which detracted from my enjoyment of it.

The short story is found in Some of the Best from Tor.com, 2019 edition and can also be read on Tor.com.
Profile Image for Sahitya.
1,053 reviews215 followers
April 29, 2020
I’m usually not that fond of a circus setting but I fell in love with this traveling circus in India and the trapeze artist Binu. While we also get a bit of background about the devadasi customs and the main conflict in the story is kind of a damsel in distress subplot, the important theme here is that of freedom, friendship and love and I thought it was beautifully written.
Profile Image for Sarah.
689 reviews161 followers
February 2, 2019
This is weirdly the lowest rated of the Tor’s short fiction newsletter but right now it is my favorite. It’s about a traveling circus in India who puts on the show Aladdin. Their secret is that they have a real jinni in their midst.

It’s inclusive, being an own voices narrative and the MC is bisexual. It’s a love story more than anything else and I thought it was really sort of romantic, but it is also about the nature of freedom.

I thought it was really well done and I’ll be looking for more Mimi Mondal in the future.
Profile Image for Jen .
2,662 reviews27 followers
February 7, 2019
Meh. Interesting story, but not a lot of background info given. How did he get the lamp two years ago? Who had it before him? Not bad, but lacking in the info I wanted. 2.5 stars, rounded up for originality.
Profile Image for Daren.
1,328 reviews4,397 followers
March 9, 2019
I enjoyed this short story - available free on Tor.Com HERE

There are a number of reviewers who didn't enjoy it - and complained about lack of resolution and the abrupt ending, and referencing the fact this could have been a first chapter rather than a standalone story. These are all valid, but such is the way with short stories.

I won't outline the plot - too much of the joy of a short story is seeing where it goes in such a short time, and if you want a plot outline there are plenty in other reviews. Suffice it to say - circus, lamp, jinni (djinn, jinn, genie as you like), pretty girl, vengeful goddess.

Enjoyable for me was the descriptive narrative, the mystical aspects, the Indian setting and the quick pace.

3.5 stars, rounded up.
Profile Image for Rachel (Kalanadi).
735 reviews1,434 followers
January 28, 2019
One of those stories that just doesn't capture my interest. It's perfectly ok, but not what I really enjoy. I do love to see more jinni and such in fantasy, and this has a very nice take on the human master / jinni slave relationship.
Profile Image for Phoenix2.
864 reviews101 followers
June 28, 2020
This short story was somehow an Aladin inspired story, although that was in a few notions. The world built was pretty good, as the setting was intriguing and magical, with the circus and the deities. The ending was unexpected as well.
Profile Image for Gerhard.
1,078 reviews551 followers
February 10, 2019
'Enough time at the Majestic Oriental Circus opens the mind to all kinds of possibilities.' Interesting idea: a jinn in a lamp in love with its owner, but sidetracked by a subplot of letting a temple girl join the circus, with (predictably) unforeseen consequences.
Profile Image for Karishma.
73 reviews10 followers
January 24, 2019
My reading progression through this short story

Circus - nostalgia - Interesting start - tell me more about the lamp - *eyebrows raised* - don't just say Devadasis - explain what they are - oh good you did - getting so good -WHAT THE HELL - what was that absolutely incomplete story - I thought this was meant to be a short story instead it's like the first chapter of a book with so much promise 😣

Profile Image for Rebecca Crunden.
Author 20 books531 followers
September 24, 2021
And then there was an arm around my waist, holding me upright again, there was a hand wiping dust, blood, and tears from my eyes. It was Shehzad Marid—ever loving, ever loyal, always on my side in my hour of need.

This was a really good short story about a trapeze master and his jinni.
Profile Image for Silvia .
642 reviews1,429 followers
May 3, 2020
I really liked this story despite my intense dislike of anything that has the word circus in it.

It is at its core a love story, simple as that. The text leaves ambiguity enough that everyone can see the love portrayed as romantic, platonic, sexual or any other one of the forms love can take. I recommend checking it out for yourself!
Profile Image for Christina Pilkington.
1,536 reviews164 followers
June 5, 2020
*2.5 stars

Out of all the novellas I read that were shortlisted for this year’s Nebula award, this was my least favorite. It felt like a few scenes that were taken out of a longer novel; it just didn't work for me in novella format.

Set in India, this story is about Binu, a master trapeze artist with the Majestic Oriental Circus and also the master of a jinn. The circus is called to perform at the wedding celebrations for the raja’s daughter. When they are leaving, a young girl asks Binu to help her escape from the palace. Binu soon learns more about who she is and the consequences for helping her escape.

I didn’t care all that much about any of the characters because there wasn’t time to form any connection to the characters. Big emotional moments happened between some of the characters, and I was meh about it.

This story would have worked better if it was more fleshed out, its plot expanded and characters had time to develop. Like I said earlier, it felt like this story was a small part of a much larger story. And there was not resolution at the end either.

I will say I enjoyed the writing style and the author did a good job of creating an evocative setting, but it’s not something I would recommend reading. I’d be willing to try a larger work from this author, though.
Profile Image for Alex Sarll.
5,951 reviews243 followers
April 4, 2019
A circus troupe in India put on the story of Alladin (or maybe Alladdin, the spelling is inconsistent), with the audience little suspecting one of them is a real jinni. And then when they perform at the wedding of a raja’s daughter another trope includes on the troupe, because somebody wants to run away with the circus. Somebody it's morally imperative they accept, for all that you just know it's going to end badly. I feel like any story prodding at how freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose tends to win me around in the end.
Profile Image for Shomeret.
1,062 reviews208 followers
February 21, 2020
I read this short story because the Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Club has a buddy read thread this month. I also had already purchased it. So this gave me a good excuse to read it. I love circus stories.

The India folklore aspect was stronger than the circus aspect, IMAO. That was also very interesting to me. I'm the sort of person who enjoys researching things that I didn't know about previously.

So I recommend this to people who are interested in India.
Profile Image for Hafsa | حفصہ.
155 reviews157 followers
December 31, 2020
The Story

I've read less this year than I'd envisioned but the one goal that I had set at the start of the year, to have 80% of my reads be by BIPOC authors, that goal is going pretty well and this short novella was a perfect edition to it! I've tried to read from authors who are marginalized in various ways and Mondal is no different - she's a Dalit writer living in a country plagued with caste-based and other injustices. The story was brilliant in its depiction of friendship, love, responsibility, conflicted identity and discrimination, all presented in a subtle and succinct way, leaving room for the reader's imagination and interpretation. Perhaps, what I enjoyed the most was the representation and addition of ethnic and religious aspects like the kuldevi and devadasi because I was already familiar with them but had never really seen them used in stories. Overall, I would recommend this to anyone who loves short but absolutely captivating reads!
Profile Image for Miriam Cihodariu.
577 reviews124 followers
November 1, 2020
I loved this fantasy short story about jinns and gods and mortals locked in a grand scheme of intentions and motivations that often lead to surprising outcomes. It's a story of love, loss, and the burden of immortality, but it felt too short. I would love to see more of it in Mimi Mondal's future writings. :)
Profile Image for Gabriela .
778 reviews325 followers
September 26, 2020
Although it is a soundly written story it is ultimately not that memorable or unique.
The high point for me was the vivid and atmospheric setting. However, the dialogue is a bit rushed and the characters don't really feel real, which makes the story less engaging and developed.
Profile Image for Cami.
133 reviews
January 18, 2021

A beautiful, fantastical short story. In all honesty, I didn't realize how swept away I was with the imagery and mythology until I reached the end and realized I was, indeed, in the real world and not this one. Definitely a refreshing read for a not-so-great reading month.
Displaying 1 - 30 of 58 reviews

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