“The Tomato Thief” by Ursula Vernon
Series: Jackalope Wives, #2
Published by: Apex Magazine on January 5, 2016
Rating: 3 stars (★★★☆☆)
Grandma Harken lives out on the edge of town, away from most everyone else. Many speculate on why that is: Is it for privacy? Is she a witch? Does she just not like people? But maybe the real question is: Does it even matter? One thing Grandma Harken does like are her prized tomatoes. When they start disappearing from her garden, however, she finds herself with her own set of questions about the thief. And what follows is a double lesson on why one should never make assumptions or judge people based on the little information we can get from just a glance or two.
There was no question for me that this was destined to win the Hugo Award in the novelette category once I had a chance to read all the finalists. In a relatively short space, Ursula Vernon packs in a well-paced fantasy story with a touch of mystery and some action to go along with it. The storytelling is gripping, and while the overall message seems like a serious one, I felt a lightness to it all that kept it from becoming too heavy. I do find reviewing shorter fiction to be difficult because sometimes I worry about having enough to talk about without spoiling the plot. There is so much here, though, that I know I have not even come close. The story is available to read for free on the Apex Magazine website, so I suggest checking it out when you get a chance.