The dual layers of “A Tiny Feast” work well: ordinary world and faerie, mortality and immortality, emotional vulnerability and aloofness. As I read this the two layers overlap and merge and shift focus. On the surface, the king and queen of faerie are humbled by unfamiliar human emotions of grief and helplessness over their dying adopted son. Underneath (which is cleverly presented as the false glamour that the faeries project) is an ordinary self-involved yuppie couple whose bland lives are made magnificent by their emotional turmoil and grief. The effect is transient in both layers of reality.
The writing only hiccupped twice for me:
“Within a few days, the poisons had made him peaceful. Titania could not conceive of the way they were made, except as distillations of sadness and heartbreak and despair, since that was how she made her own poisons, shaking drops of terror out of a wren captured in her fist, or sucking with a silver straw at the tears of a dog.”
This was distracting, in an “oh, the author is showing off” reaction. On reflection it added to the story.
“Titania was the only one among them ever to have ridden on a roller coaster, but she didn’t offer up the experience as an analogy, because it seemed insufficient to describe a process that to her felt less like a violent unpredictable ride than like someone ripping your heart out one day and then stuffing it back in your chest the next.”
This didn’t work and came across as a writer’s intrusion. I can’t really imagine Titania, or her ordinary equivalent, pondering word choice like a writer.
Overall: strong concept, strong execution, strong emotional payoff. Very fine indeed.