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The Language of Knives

3.59  ·  Rating details ·  230 ratings  ·  56 reviews
"The Language of Knives" by Haralambi Markov is about the death rituals of this secondary world. A strong-willed daughter is guided by her unloved parent in the customs of how to respect the remains of her favorite parent.
At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
ebook, 32 pages
Published April 8th 2015 by Tor Books (first published February 4th 2015)
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Average rating 3.59  · 
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Sep 04, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Behind you, your daughter stands like a shadow, perfect in her apprentice robes. Not a single crease disfigures the contours of her pants and jacket. Not a single stain mars her apron.

She stares at you. She judges you.

She is perfection.

You wish you could leave her and crawl in the oven with your husband.

yet another tor short written in second person.

and yet another tor short that tries to murder you with your own feels.

"you," as it were, are preparing your husband's body according to the
Julio Genao
Dec 23, 2015 rated it liked it
Recommended to Julio by: The Shayne-Train
Shelves: shorts
powerful, coy, and transgressive.

a bit ponderous, but i'm okay with that.

the story is as complete as i'd want it to be.

good shorts always make me want to flesh out the story in my mind.

great shorts make it so i never have to.
Apr 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, fantasy, shorts
Not for the faint of heart, this story is more than a bit gruesome, but so loving, and beautiful at the same time. One of the most poignant stories about love, loss, and family I've ever read. The second person POV is not my favorite, but here it worked to bring me into the story. It didn't allow me to stand outside what was happening, it made me feel part of it, and it made me understand the feelings and honor of what was done. Breathtaking. I will be reading more by this author, that is for ...more
How refreshing, a story told in second person. Dark, beautiful, and not for the faint of heart.
The Shayne-Train
Dec 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What a gorgeously written and quickly read short story this was. Every bit of it was amazing. Damn you for making me cry at my desk at work, Haralambi Markov.
Anya (~on a semi-hiatus~)
Dec 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Anya (~on a semi-hiatus~) by: karen
I finished this Tor short in the evening; now it's a little over 1 am and I find myself still floundering over words that would make sense and/or be fair to the story.

The human civilisation has always honoured its dead. Pyramids have been erected, tombs, mausoleums; samskaras, rituals have been performed to ensure proper send off of the spirit to the otherworld.

Fascinating funeral traditions from around the world.

The Language of Knives at its very heart focuses on the death ritual of a certain
Amy (Other Amy)
That's just ... wow ... read this. It's gory, but read this.

**Original review 7/22/15, updated 12/23/15**
Looking back, this bloody gem has stayed with me, stuck stubbornly in my mind, all year. I underrated this one for some reason when I first read it. Correcting that now. Five stars, easily. I don't want to review it or undress it in the slightest. (Not that it doesn't deserve it, but that it just might be best experienced with no prior explanation.) Really, just read it.

I wonder if there is a
Ellen Gail
I literally have no idea how I feel about this. I liked it? Maybe? It's sad and strange and I think I need to sleep on it and sort out all my feels in the morning.
May 04, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018
I have been meaning to read this one for quite some time and luckily finally managed to do it. What can I say about this one?

I am not quite sure…

It was unsettling, but also tender. If I have to describe it in one sentence, I would say - certainly a different way to look at losing a loved one and grief. But different doesn’t mean bad. The story really pulled me in for that short while, when I was reading it.
Jan 15, 2017 rated it liked it
...The Language of Knives is a powerful story, one that swings between extremes. It is a story in which prose and perspective are used to emphasize this and as such, it is a well written tale. Whether all readers will appreciate having their buttons pushed quite so forcefully is doubtful but this story shows Markov is a talented author. I understand he is working on a novel at the moment. I for one, am curious to see what he can do in the long form.

Full Random Comments review.
A story about mourning and the relationship between parent and child. Interesting choice of narration (second person) and quite an interesting twist mid-story. Lovers of beautiful descriptions of blood, flesh and gore will like it. Also, the author has a good way of letting little details about the characters' surroundings, appearances and relationship seep into the story little by little, instead of using one-two paragraphs for an infodump. Good use of sensory detail, which adds to the story's ...more
Hákon Gunnarsson
Apr 03, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
Goodreads recommended this short story to me, and as it is free on I thought I'd see if they were right.

And they are. I liked it. This is a strong short story, strange, and with a dark undertone. One of those stories that are short, but seems to tell a much longer story than the actual word count would indicate. Quite cool.
I'll say with assurance that although This was part of my summer reading, there is nothing lite or fluffy in "The Language of Knives" by Haralambi Markov. There are almost no words spoken in this entire short story. I could not help but feel sorry for both of the characters, A father and daughter preparing the body of his partner and her favorite father. Yep, for all you homophobes out there be aware! It is heart rending to read about the father's pain, not only of loosing his lover and life ...more
A (very) short story, available as a free read on

The fantasy tale of the death rites being performed with a daughter, on a husband.
Weird and beautiful, the tale matches the writing, which set a dramatic atmosphere, is moody and consistent with the setting. Great writing.

And the freaky picture is a part of the making of this story.
Mar 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Well, that was different. One of the best short stories I've ever read. A unique style that I haven't witnessed before, and done in such a beautiful way. The hints at a fantasy world were a nice touch too. Not sure what else to say...just need to read this.
Nov 10, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: tor-com, shorties
A subject shrouded in fear of the unknown. Markov does an excellent job expressing the regret, memories and sadness that is often felt when saying goodbye to a loved one.
This could easily be a ritual observed in some far off land. Beautiful and gruesome.
Apr 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
This is a daring and sensitive short story about death and love. It details the death rituals of a hypothetical culture carried out on a dead man's body by his own wife and daughter. It is inventive not only in the topic but also in the choice of the narrative's point of view.
In spite of being a short story, several topics are presented apart from the account for the ritual, which consists in making a cake out of a corpse. There are also strokes of other topics, such as the generational relieve
Nadine Jones
You remember what it took you to bake your own mother into a cake.

This was deep and dark and mysterious and complex and even beautiful, but in the end, I had a hard time getting past the squick factor. What kind of bizarre society bakes their dead into cakes? I mean, really, WTF?

And the entire story is shot through with passages such as:
Behind you, your daughter stands like a shadow, perfect in her apprentice robes. Not a single crease disfigures the contours of her pants and jacket. Not a
Caleb Hill
Mar 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
Interesting play with narration; not everybody can pull off second-person in such an alien world where the dead are cut up and baked into cakes. Harrowing and dark tale that cuts deep surprisingly and is ultimately satisfying by the end.

Favorite quote: Your daughter excels in this preparatory work—her blade is swift, precise, and gentle.

How can she not? After all, she is a gift from the gods. A gift given to two lovers who thought they could never have a child on their own. A miracle. The
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, read-2017
Oh! This is great. It's not for those with body horror: there's detailed mentions of the anatomy as the main character breaks the body of his husband into its constituent bits. The purpose, after all, is to bake the body into a cake as an offering for the Gods.

And this one ritual is beautifully described. The POV character is reminded of his husband at every step of the way. It's a good story about loss, contextualised in ritual.

I also liked that the POV character is quietly mentioned to be the
May 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, lgbt
The Language of Knives is centered around the complex death rituals to prepare the body of the husband of the main protagonist. The unnamed main protagonist and his strong-willed daughter follows the customs of how to respect the remains of their loved one, while thinking about their life together.
Feb 07, 2015 rated it really liked it
Dark and tender.
--And great use of the second person--
Feb 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
Poignant. Beautiful. And a fantastic homage to the love of a parent for their child - and their spouse.
A little dark and creepy, but a good bit of beauty and grief and parent/child relationship, and hinting at a fascinating broader world beyond the story.
Feb 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Yeah... ummmm, I don't know... I just don't know...
Feb 20, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015
Creepy, but quite tasteful haha
Feb 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2015
Very Creepy!! Skinning humans sounds like a nasty business!
Apr 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
Dark, twisted, and beautifully written. This may be the first story I've read that used 2nd person. It took a minute to get used to it, but once I did I was hooked!
Feb 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy, short-story
Very different and quite sublime. A place where the death ritual involves turning the deceased into a cake. Not yummy, but a profound closure.
Ryan Watson
Mar 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
It was morbid, yet fascinating.
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