Fifteen-year-old Caroline comes home from school one day to find that her naïve grandmother has allowed a bailiff into their home. The man has marked most of their worldly possessions as impounded and given them five days to pay their debt. When the ladies are unable to come up with the money, the bailiff returns to haul the items away. Both Caroline and her grandmother are distraught by this turn of events, especially since one of the items the man took was a picture of Caroline's dead mother. With the help of her animal friends and a little magic, Caroline sets about taking back what's rightfully theirs.
Payment Due is an imaginative story about a teenage girl named Caroline who lives with her gentle and slightly naïve grandmother. One day, the older woman lets a bailiff into the house. The man proceeds to make a list of their household items and gives them five days to pay their debt. When they are unable to come up with the money, he returns and takes all the items away. Caroline then proceeds to get them back in a very creative way.
Payment Due is short story of only about fifteen pages. We learn just a little of Caroline's background. Her mother, who obviously meant a lot to both her and her grandmother, died and that's why Caroline lives with her grandmother. There is no hint though, as to how Caroline came by her powers. She isn't directly called a witch, although since this entire anthology is about witches and wizards, she must be one. At the very least, she wields certain magical powers that make it possible for her to talk with animals and make body exchanges with other creatures. I found both of these qualities to be very unique to the fantasy and paranormal genres of literature, or at least, I've never seen them in my reading of these genres. This made the story intriguing. Also the way in which Caroline goes about getting their possessions back was quite clever. Overall, despite its brevity, I did enjoy Payment Due. I had never read anything by Frances Hardinge before, but this taste of her work shows a lot of promise and makes me interested in possibly reading more stories by her. Payment Due can be found in the anthology Under My Hat: Tales from the Cauldron.
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