O Res Mirabilis by Iyana Jenna
Publisher: Alfie Dog Fiction
Genre: Young Adult, Historical, Holiday, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (5 pages)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe
London, 1853. An orphaned boy, Timmy had to leave the orphanage when he grew up and had to work as a chimney sweep in people’s houses when their residents were not home.
That night didn’t start well for Timmy. He lost his coat and the money he earned earlier to some bullies before he went to clean a chimney. It wasn’t so bad despite the smothering dust. Then he fell and cracked his ankle.
When a chimney sweep is badly injured while working alone in a cold, dark house, he has no choice but to wait for someone to find him before it’s too late. The problem is, Timmy’s a homeless loner who doubts anyone has noticed he’s missing.
This story was so descriptive I could smell the soot on Timmy’s clothing and feel the bitterly cold night air seep into my bones. Every day is a struggle to survive for this character, and my heart ached for him as he works incredibly long hours in a dangerous environment in order to eke out a living. Even though I know the cultural mores were different in the 1830s, it’s difficult to imagine how any of the adults in his life could have been ethically comfortable with forcing a boy barely into his teens to sleep on the streets and face the constant threat of starvation.
Take my age recommendation for this piece seriously. Timmy lives in a violent, chaotic world that too dark for younger readers. Abuse, neglect, and child abandonment are rampant in this story. While none of the descriptions of these things are particularly graphic, Timmy has never had a loving relationship with a parent figure to counterbalance his traumatic experiences, and he is so deeply scarred by his past that he doesn’t realize how much he’s missed out on. His only positive memories of the orphanage involve having a warm place to sleep and a few bites of food in his stomach.
The final scene made me wish I could keep following Timmy’s path. It provided closure for the main character’s biggest conflicts, but it was open-ended enough to allow for multiple interpretations of what actually is happening and what Timmy should expect to discover in the near future.
O Res Mirabilis is a modern-day Dicksonian fable. I highly recommend it to readers who like detailed descriptions of another time and place and see ambiguity as a chance to choose their own ending for a sympathetic protagonist.