The lovely Giselle Renarde has done it again, first capturing my attention, and then completely surpassing my expectations - if this keeps up, I'm afraid my expectations for her work are going to become simply unreasonable!
Like Spring Fever, the Red Satin stories, and The Third Rail (see my reviews here, here, and here), this is another well-written story with a strong transgender theme. In contrast to the deliberately grounded, realistic nature of the others, however, Secrets of the Solstice Sacrifice is very much an imaginative work of fantasy. Giselle dedicates this one to "those who believe in magical transformation" and it's as beautiful a sentiment as it is a story.
At the heart of the story is a young woman named Trysta. Only half fairy (her father was human), she is a solitary victim of her mixed heritage. While fairy mothers have the power to 'wish' their children's gender while in the womb, her mother's wish for a daughter could not wholly overcome the son that her father's human blood so strongly demanded. The result is a young woman, perfect and beautiful in every other way, except for the she shameful secret of her male genitalia. Desperate for answers, she has travelled a great way to see assistance from Professor Selyf, an hermit-like fairy dedicated to pursuits both scholarly and magical.
This is a story filled with humour, romance, and a great deal of heart. You cannot help but feel for Trysta's "female problem" (her partner, Bedwyn, does not know her secret), for Selyf's instant attraction to this beautiful woman who has intruded on his solitude, and for Bedwyn's steadfast dedication to seeing his partner through trials he doesn't need to understand to appreciate. The erotic elements are largely limited to the climactic solstice ritual near the end of the story, but it's a very pleasant journey that leads us to that final reward.
Very much like the first Red Satin story, there were several passages here that put a lump in my throat and a tear in my eye. Giselle demonstrates a true understanding for the mental and emotional turmoil inflicted upon Trysta, and never once resorts to exploiting her secret for a quick thrill. Although I don't want to spoil the how and the why of it, I have to say this probably her happiest and most thoroughly satisfying ending yet.