Posted on 1 Comment

The Wandering Fire

The Wandering Fire is the second volume in the Fantasy trilogy The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay.  After the defining and devastating events at the conclusion of The Summer Tree, the main characters are irrecoverably changed. While some characters like Kim and Dave have found a sense of belonging and self-discovery, others like Paul and Jennifer are so altered by experience they struggle to re-define themselves. Fionavar is gripped by an unnatural winter and threatened by impending war. A central sacrifice is made by Kevin, a defining act that brings release from the pressures assaulting Fionavar and grants true belonging to Kevin’s restless soul. With war closing in and the Wild Hunt released into Fionavar, darkness and light battle beneath the unfolding tapestry and the watchful gaze of the omniscient Weaver.
Guy Gavriel Kay did not disappoint with this second volume of The Fionavar Tapestry. Working beauty, sorrow and honesty throughout the novel, the story fulfils what began with The Summer Tree.

Posted on


The wendigo legend forms a central part of tales and lore from Amerindian tradition in the forested areas of the Great Lakes in Canada and the northern United States. Despite numerous indigenous cultures inhabiting this region, the legend of the wendigo remains consistent with only two main variations. The majority of tales describe the wendigo is a giant or monstrous human-like creature associated with the harsh winters, insatiable greed, violence, murder and cannibalism.

The wendigo is reported as a giant, often several times the size of an ordinary man or the wendigo can be an evil spirit capable of possessing humans. If possessed, the individual becomes afflicted with traits associated with the wendigo, including, lying, acts of violence, murder or cannibalism.Among the Ojibwa, the wendigo lore is detailed. For example, the wendigo is an evil spirit but takes the form of a giant monster with glowing red eyes, fanged teeth and a lipless mouth. The wendigo consumes anyone who ventures into its territory. Lore states a wendigo is also capable of possessing a human, turning that individual into another wendigo. The afflicted person now enacts the traits associated with the wendigo with cannibalism, often acting without compunction and consuming those once held dear.The common and underlying theme of the wendigo legend is the damned nature of the monster. The wendigo is often described and depicted as both gluttonous but emaciated, suggesting that despite the craving for human flesh, no satiation exists once cannibalism is committed. Doubtless the legend of the wendigo serves as a ghost story and warning fable of times when harsh winters and famine were real concerns and reminding those of the desperation resorted to in acts of cannibalism.

Posted on 2 Comments

The Summer Tree

The Summer Tree is the first volume in the epic Fantasy trilogy The Fionavar Tapestry by Guy Gavriel Kay. Five university students from Toronto are transported by a mage into another world, to Fionavar, under the pretence of witnessing a celebration, the enduring peace of a thousand years and the continued binding of Rakoth, a god-like figure who once tried to conquer Fionavar by force. Since Rakoth’s defeat a thousand years before, he has remained chained beneath his former mountain fortress. Of the five Toronto students, each has hidden strengths and will play pivotal roles in the epic battles to come. In a spectacular catastrophe, the mages are betrayed and treachery sees Rakoth freed. The Summer Tree focuses on the importance for two of the five Toronto students. Kimberely becomes a Seer, enriched with foresight but given the power to summon armies to war against Rakoth. Paul, filled with self-guilt, entered Fionavar without a future remaining in Toronto. Paul sacrifices his life for Fionavar, hoping to repay a debt, believing incorrectly he was to blame for the death of his in a car accident. Paul becomes sacrifice to the god of the Summer Tree, the custom to deliver drought-ending rain. The gods have another fate for Paul and Fionavar and so Paul is saved from death, returned to life but always Twiceborn, conscious of ebb and flow between life and death, Paul becomes the Lord of the Summer Tree, an intercedent for the gods of Fionavar.
The Summer Tree begins a trilogy of epic battle, rich storytelling, full of fable and myth. The philosophical concept underpinning The Fionavar Tapestry is the destiny of all universes relies on the fate of the first world, Fionavar. The complex threads of fate can only be unravelled, the universe destroyed by Rakoth, the one god from outside the realms of Fionavar and seemingly beyond the effects of fate.

Posted on

The Wild Girl

The Wild Girl by Kate Forsyth proved greater than expectations for a recounting of the romance behind the classic collection of fairy tales for which the Grimm brothers’ found fame.While The Wild Girl recounts the friendship and romance of Dortchen Wild and Wilhelm Grimm, the enduring romance provides a space apart from the bleak reality of Hesse-Cassel during the Napoleonic Wars. The darker aspects of life in war-ravaged Europe are abundantly clear in the Grimm brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm, too poor to travel throughout Europe and collect folktales for their scholarly volume, instead relying on pieces donated from many sources. Dortchen, the middle daughter of the apothecary next-door, is one source and provides many of the most vivid and loved tales in the collections.
The Wild Girl is a rich historical tale, revealing the dark elements of Napoleonic Europe, the silent history behind the classic fairy tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm and the untold story of Dortchen Wild.

Posted on 1 Comment

The Crow Garden

From the Blurb:

“When Nathaniel Kerner takes up his new position as a mad-doctor at Crakethorne Manor, the proprietor, more interested in phrenology and his growing collection of skulls than his patients’ minds, hands over the care of his most interesting case.

Mrs Victoria Harleston’s husband accuses her of hysteria and says he will pay any price to see her well. But she accuses him of something far more terrible . . .

Nathaniel becomes increasingly obsessed with Victoria and her condition: is she truly delusional or is she hiding secrets that should never be uncovered?”


I read The Crow Garden by UK author Alison Littlewood for my 2017 Halloween Reads.

Set in the bleak Victorian landscape amid asylums and seances houses, The Crow Garden follows Nathaniel, a young male psychiatrist on his posting to the North Yorkshire moors and the crumbling ruins of Crakethorne Manor. There, Nathaniel begins with high aspirations of curing what he considers some of the most-forgotten asylum patients in England. Nathaniel soon discovers the proprietor is more obsessed with the study of skulls, often those of former patients once they have died, than seemingly caring for their minds during life. The eerie garden feared by all the patients with its waiting crows and the seemingly endless supply of skulls alerts Nathaniel to a worrying suspicion of how the proprietor obtains his skull collection. Before Nathaniel can begin to focus on discovering the answer to that worrying question, a new patient is handed into his care. A very beautiful, young wife, Mrs Victoria Harleston is accused of hysteria by her husband. Any treatment and any price is acceptable for her recovery. But Mrs. Harleston accuses her husband of being every type of liar and scoundrel and despite her claims to of fraud and falsehood, she is accused of delusions and confined to Crakethorne Manor. But Nathaniel cannot let her case go so easily. Increasingly obsessed by her claims, Nathaniel walks a fine line between delusion and truth himself and for them both, the ever-present crows wait in the asylum garden, the grave plots slowly increasing in number.

Final Thoughts:

The Crow Garden is a challenging and often confronting tale of the darkness within humanity and the power of the past to haunt the present. The willingness of self-deception to avoid facing reality and the brutal reality for women who did not conform to the ideal social paradigm. A chilling and haunting tale.

My Conclusion?

A recommended read for those who enjoy historical noir, gothic folklore and Victorian gothic horror. Not for the faint-hearted! Modern gothic horror at its best.

Posted on Leave a comment

Tower of Thorns

Tower of Thorns is the second volume in the Blackthorn & Grim series by Juliet Marillier. Continuing directly from Dreamer’s Pool, Blackthorn and Grim face new challenges and old memories as Blackthorn struggles to endure the rules imposed upon her by the Fey lord Conmael. While visiting the Dalriadan court with Prince Oran, Blackthorn and Grim agree to assist Lady Geileis, a young noblewoman travelled to court with a tale of her holding beset by an eldritch monster, its constant wailing cursing her lands with an unbearable sorrow. Blackthorn agrees to travel to Bann, now accompanied by Flannen, scholar and friend from her past, long thought dead. Flannen offers Blackthorn the chance to return with him to Laois, confront Mathuin as they had always devised.Once in the near-deserted holding of Bann, Blackthorn deliberately deceives Grim, planning to leave with Flannen but not Grim. Blackthorn focuses on how evict the Fey monster from its oddly chosen residence of a river tower, more prison than home. Lady Geileis discovers a family tale, whereby the monster remains imprisoned until it can be freed on Midsummer Eve, where the perilous waters around the isolated tower calm and the thorn hedges encircling it open. While Blackthorn prepares the rites to release the creature from its bonds, Grim is best by sorrow brought forth from the wailing imprisoned monster. Even as Grim struggles to repair a nearby monastery, his darkest memories resurface as the incessant eldritch cries pull him into the past and he flees into the forest. Dazed and lost, Grim is befriended by elusive small forest fey who grant him aid in return for his kindness.
Tower of Thorns explores the light and darkness of all the characters where the bitter-sweet tale of eldritch enchantment is juxtaposed with the Blackthorn and Grim experiencing a resurfacing of past desires and sorrow. The events inevitably pull Blackthorn and Grim closer as their past and future roads begin to merge.

Posted on

The Beast’s Garden

The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth is a meticulously researched historical fiction set in Germany during the rise and to the final days of the Third Reich. The protagonist for the novel is Ava, a German singer of gypsy heritage and daughter of a prominent Berlin academic and psychiatrist. Ava’s life-long and closest friends are siblings Rupert and Jutta from a Jewish family. Beginning in the underground scene of the gypsy jazz movement, Ava, her circle of friends and her family are increasingly constricted by the growing political and social conservatism of the Third Reich. Through the developing intrigues and resistance movements against the Third Reich, Ava finds herself in a desperate situation and an unlikely ally in Leo, one of Hitler’s intelligence officers. In desperation to save herself and her father, Ava marries Leo for the political protection he can grant her. Yet Ava mistrusts her husband and his secrecy. Unwittingly, Ava’s one involvement in the underground resistance movements planning to assassinate Hitler, Ava accidentally brings about Leo’s own incrimination in plans by Hitler’s Secret Intelligence Office to assassinate him.Leo flees Berlin but is soon captured and Ava finds herself without Leo’s presence and protection, struggling to survive in Berlin during air raids and growing deprivation. Determined to try to find Leo, Ava and Jutta escape Berlin. Ava intends to save Leo from execution and Jutta hopes to find Rupert, long-since taken prisoner to Birkenau concentration camp. As the Third Reich falls, prisoners of extermination camps are left to die or escape and among these desperate escapees is Rupert who is soon reunited with his sister Jutta. Ava rescues and is reunited with Leo, bearing the physical and psychological scars for betraying the Third Reich.
The Beast’s Garden is a tale of resilience, love and determination in the face of war. The title is taken from the Brothers Grimm folk tale, the iconic Beauty and the Beast, which the characters of Ava and Leo are clearly connected to the original Grimm tale ‘The Singing, Springing Lark’.

Posted on

Dreamer’s Pool

In the most recent trilogy by Juliet Marillier, Blackthorn & Grim begins with Dreamer’s Pool, the first volume following two emotionally scarred protagonists, healer and wise-woman, Blackthorn and the mysterious Grim, escapees from a prison and injustices of Mathuin of Laois. The unlikely rescuing of Blackthorn, and incidentally Grim, is orchestrated by Conmael, a member of the Fey. Conmael places strict conditions on Blackthorn’s freedom: for seven years, she must not return to Laois to confront Mathuin but must reside in Dalriada and accept all requests made of her. Blackthorn travels to Winterfalls in Dalriada with Grim, who has made himself Blackthorn’s protector. The pair settle at Dreamer’s Wood on the estate of crown-prince Oran of Dalriada. Soon, Blackthorn and Grim are drawn into solving a mystery involving Dreamer’s Pool, a well-known local area for the Fey and uncanny transformations. While solving the mystery closely involving Prince Oran and his new bride, Lady Flidas, Blackthorn and Grim begin to heal from the traumas of prison and torture, deeply bound together by trust and friendship. ​​Dreamer’s Pool is a retelling of the classic tales of the Fey and physical transformations but a dark under-current pervades the story in which the Fey are neither just nor unjust and the human world is as perilous.