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Baba Yaga: The Wild Witch of the East in Russian Fairy Tales

Publisher’s Description

Baba Yaga is an ambiguous and fascinating figure. She appears in traditional Russian folktales as a monstrous and hungry cannibal, or as a canny inquisitor of the adolescent hero or heroine of the tale. In new translations and with an introduction by Sibelan Forrester, Baba Yaga: The Wild Witch of the East in Russian Fairy Tales is a selection of tales that draws from the famous collection of Aleksandr Afanas’ev, but also includes some tales from the lesser-known nineteenth-century collection of Ivan Khudiakov. This new collection includes beloved classics such as “Vasilisa the Beautiful” and “The Frog Princess,” as well as a version of the tale that is the basis for the ballet “The Firebird. “


Review

I recently read the folklore text Baba Yaga: The Wild Witch of the East in Russian Fairytales translated by Sibelan Forrester.

This was a fantastic selection of translated tales about the three different guises of Baga Yaga. The Russian witch who dwells deep in the forest in a house built on chicken legs and travels through the air in a mortar and pestle has many forms. Sometimes Baba Yaga is presented as a helper like the Tsar Maiden tales, while other times she steals naughty children or accepts them from their parents and eats them. Still other tales, she provides advice which can be both blessing and curse. She is a prominent figure in the tales of Vasilisa and is featured in the tale of the Firebird.

Final Thoughts

Baba Yaga: The Wild Witch of the East in Russian Fairytales was a well-translated version of the tales and beautifully illustrated with as many different visual representations of Baba Yaga as there are literary ones within this collection.

Conclusion

An must-have collection for anyone interested in Russian folklore and those surrounding Baba Yaga and her different guises in Russian fairytales. Highly recommended!

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The Rarkyn’s Familar

Publisher’s Description

An orphan bent on revenge. A monster searching for freedom. A forbidden pact that binds their fates together.

Lyss has heard her father’s screams; smelled the iron-tang of his blood. She witnessed his execution. And plotted her revenge.

Then a violent encounter traps Lyss in a blood-pact with a rarkyn from the Otherworld and imbues her with the monster’s forbidden magic. A magic that will erode her sanity. To break the pact, she and the rarkyn must journey to the heart of the Empire. All that stands in their way are the mountains and the Empire’s soldiers—and each other.

But horrors await them on the road- horrors even rarkyns fear.

The most terrifying monster isn’t the one Lyss travels with…

It’s the one that’s awoken inside her.

Monsters of a feather flock together.


*** I received an ARC and I’m leaving a voluntary review ***

Review

The Rarkyn’s Familiar is the debut Fantasy novel by New Zealand author Nikky Lee.

The Rarkyn’s Familiar follows the protagonist Lyss, an orphan apprentice in a camp of lowly trained mancers. When hunting with two brothers from the camp, they come across a landslide in the mountain roads. A partially destroyed cart contains one of the kingdom’s most feared creatures trapped within a cage. A rarkyn. In a series of well-intended gestures, the three release the powerful sigils on the chains and free the rarkyn but not before it bonds itself as a familiar to Lyss.

Now bonded as familiars, Lyss and the rarkyn have a short amount of time to find someone in the capital capable of breaking their bond before the overwhelming magic of the rarkyn drives Lyss insane. Hunted by the Order mancers, soldiers and the rarkyn’s last captor, Lyss’s magic grows more powerful the more time she spends bonded to the rarkyn but so does her own dark potential. Time is running out for Lyss and the rarkyn if they want to survive the binding.

Final Thoughts

The Rarkyn’s Familiar is an engaging debut novel exploring a unique concept of familiar bonding; where a human becomes bonded to a fantastical creature. This adds a refreshing aspect to the storyline and complex world building that feels genuine for these characters and histories. The is a truly worthwhile read from a new voice in epic fantasy.

Conclusion

A great read for anyone seeking a unique from a debut author and a well-crafted epic fantasy. Highly recommended!

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Horseman

Publisher’s Description

Everyone in Sleepy Hollow knows about the Horseman, but no one really believes in him. Not even Ben Van Brunt’s grandfather, Brom Bones, who was there when it was said the Horseman chased the upstart Crane out of town. Brom says that’s just legend, the village gossips talking.

More than thirty years after those storied events, the village is a quiet place. Fourteen-year-old Ben loves to play “Sleepy Hollow boys,” reenacting the events Brom once lived through. But then Ben and a friend stumble across the headless body of a child in the woods near the village, and the discovery makes Ben question everything the adults in Sleepy Hollow have ever said. Could the Horseman be real after all? Or does something even more sinister stalk the woods?


Review

I recently read Horseman by US folklore and horror author Christina Henry.

Horseman is set several generations after Ichabod Crane, Brom Bones and the infamous headless horseman of Sleepy Hollow. The protagonist is Ben, the grandchild of Brom Bones. While playing deep in the woods near Sleepy Hollow, Ben overhears the discovery of a deceased child, head and hands missing. Soon, Ben becomes aware of a malevolent presence in the woods around Sleepy Hollow.

Although determined to uncover the truth behind the murders of children in Sleepy Hollow but all the while, the dark being from the woods is hunting Ben. Tangled deep within the mystery of murdered children, headless horseman and a malevolent force, Ben discovers a terrible family mystery.

Final Thoughts

Horseman is a dark delight of folk horror and literary reimagining. Christina Henry has created a new legend for the tales surrounding Sleepy Hollow and its folklore.

Conclusion

Horseman is a great read for those who enjoy folk horror. An intriguing blend of the Sleepy Hollow story, a family mystery and dark folklore. Highly recommended!

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South of the Sun

Publisher’s Description

*** I received a review or ARC in exchange for an honest review ***

This is an enchanting illustrated book of fairy tales – but not the kind you read to children at bedtime. They are strictly for the grown-ups. Often dark, the stories visit places where things don’t end happily ever after, where a single decision can haunt you forever. But there are also tales to make you laugh out loud, stories of sweet revenge and scenes of sheer delight in the world of magic and the fey.

All the stories, lyrics and poems have something in common, a contemporary edge. Even those set in earlier times have a modern sensibility that reflects the 21st century and celebrates Australian landscapes, characters and voices.


Review

One of my recent reads was South of the Sun, an anthology by the Australian Fairy Tale Society.

South of the Sun contains many great fairytales and retellings. These are some of my favourites. “GPS” by Cate Kennedy is a retelling akin to ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ but with a chilling modern take. “The Timbers of a Chicken” by Rebecca-Anne C. Do Rozario reminiscent of tales of Baba Yaga. “The Snow-Gum Maiden” by Anezka Sero was an Australian interpretation of the classic Northern European ‘Snow Maiden’ fairytale. “On Pepper Creek” by Kathleen Jennings was an Irish immigrant tale. “The Karukayan Get Revenge” by Ronnie Wavehill was an indigenous tale of Australian merfolk. “All Kinds of Fur” by Danielle Wood is a dark retelling of Australian colonial times. “Riverbend” by Rachel Nightingale is a uniquely Australian fairytale of drought, modern science and magic. “The Tale of the Seven Magpies” by Angie Rega is a retelling of the Crow fairytale trope, cursed brothers and the sister sewing shirts for her brothers.

Final Thoughts

South of the Sun is a unique collection of fairytale retellings infused with the multicultural nature of Australia. The anthology contains retellings from Germanic, African and Eastern Europe cultures as well as uniquely Australian takes on classic fairytales.

Conclusion

A wonderful collection of Australian fairytale retellings with beautiful illustrations. Highly recommended for readers of folklore, fairytales and retellings. A must read!

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Empire of the Vampire

Publisher’s Description

“It has been twenty-seven long years since the last sunrise. For nearly three decades, vampires have waged war against humanity; building their eternal empire even as they tear down our own. Now, only a few tiny sparks of light endure in a sea of darkness.

Gabriel de León, half man, half monster and last remaining silversaint – a sworn brother of the holy Silver Order dedicated to defending the realm from the creatures of the night – is all that stands between the world and its end.

Now imprisoned by the very monsters he vowed to destroy, the last silversaint is forced to tell his story. A story of legendary battles and forbidden love, of faith lost and friendships won, of the Wars of the Blood and the Forever King and the quest for humanity’s last remaining hope:

The Holy Grail.


Review

One of my recent reads was the grimdark novel Empire of the Vampire by Australian author Jay Kristoff.

Empire of the Vampire follows the last SilverSaint, Gabriel de Leon while imprisoned, he recounts how he found and lost the holy grail to a vampire historian. The world that Gabriel lives in has turned darker and more sinister since a shadow blotted out the sun and the vampires roamed freely. Gabriel’s personal story begins with his childhood and unknowingly not being the biological son of his brutal alcoholic father. Soon after one of his sisters is turned into a reanimated corpse by the vampires. He destroys his sister’s blood-thirsty reanimate by burning her with his touch. When he gets a hunger for blood, he then learns the truth about his heritage. He is a ‘pale blood’, children born from a union between a vampire and mortal woman.

The SilverSaints of San Michon soon come for Gabriel and take him into training where pale bloods form a dwindling army of vampire hunters. Gabriel excels among the SilverSaints but only through acts of heroism. Disliked by his trainers for rashness, Gabriel still can’t explain his unusual and rare powers against the ‘high blood’ vampires. In the midst of his training, Gabriel meets the love of his life Astrid Rennier, a nun in the SilverSorority. Despite the threat of being banished from San Michon for life, Gabriel and Astrid begin a secret affair.

In Gabriel’s retelling of his life, darker elements of his story often overwhelm him. It is in this lingering darkness of the final days before he found the holy grail, a prophesied way to destroy the oldest of the vampires.

Final Thoughts

Empire of the Vampire is an expertly structured novel, the writing and characters alive with emotion and complexities. The accompanying illustrations evoke the world beautifully and add an extra layer to the storytelling.

Conclusion

Highly recommended for readers who like grimdark fantasy, horror and vampires. A fresh take on the vampire trope. A must-read!

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The Girl in the Corn

Publisher’s Description

“Beware of what lurks in the corn.
Fairies don’t exist. At least that’s what Thomas Cavanaugh’s parents say. But the events of that one night, when he follows a fairy into the cornfield on his parents’ farm, prove them wrong. What seems like a destructive explosion was, Thomas knows, an encounter with Dauðr, a force that threatens to destroy the fairy’s world and his sanity.
Years later, after a troubled childhood and a series of dead-end jobs, he is still haunted by what he saw that night. One day he crosses paths with a beautiful young woman and a troubled young man, soon realizing that he first met them as a kid while under psychiatric care after his encounters in the cornfield. Has fate brought them together? Are they meant to join forces to save the fairy’s world and their own?
Or is one of them not who they claim to be?”


*** I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review ***

Review

The Girl in the Corn is a horror and dark fiction novel by US author Jason Offutt.

The protagonist is Thomas, a young boy when first introduced to the to reader who meets what he assumes is a fairy between the garden and the corn field. Thomas soon discovers there’s something frightening about the fairy girl who taunts and teases him. As Thomas grows older, his acquaintance with the fairy becomes more dangerous until he learns that Dauðr,, all-encompassing Death and destroyer of all life has Thomas’s world within its sights. At age eleven, Thomas tries to destroy Dauðr, with the fairy’s help but nearly dies in the effort. The mortal world is saved, but Thomas has no memory of that night which still wakes him screaming from his sleep. In the bleak confines of a mental institution, Thomas finds connections with his first love and a dangerous boy he half-recalls.

Years pass and Thomas reunites with Jillian from their shared days in group therapy. But something about Jillian is familiar to Thomas and it’s not until later he discovers she’s the fairy from his childhood. One of the Alfar, the elves. In desperation to flee Dauðr,, Jillian takes Thomas to Alfarheim, the world of the elves that’s been made desolate by Dauðr,. Resolute to save his world from similar destruction, Thomas and Jillian must combat Dauðr, for the final, desperate time.

Final Thoughts

The Girl in the Corn is a horror and dark fantasy novel that uniquely combines the typical American corn fields and Missouri farming communities with the Scandinavian folklore of the alfar, the elves and the destructive force of Dauðr,. Although more explanation of the dimensional existence of Alfarheim is needed and more detail on the folklore of the alfar, The Girl in the Corn was a interesting read.

Conclusion

The Girl in the Corn is a horror and folklore-inspired dark fiction. Recommended for readers who enjoy gothic-style American horror, and horror infused with some Scandinavian folklore. An unusual combination and a recommended read.

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The Eternal Machine

Publisher’s Description

A woman with the strength to rebel. A shapeshifter who wears the souls of the dead. Together, they face a lethal enemy… Em helped create it. Now she must craft its defeat. In a city owned by industrialists, Em sells her magic to make ends meet. The extraction procedure is brutal and potentially deadly.

Desperate for change,she joins an underground resistance movement to weaponise her magic and stop the abuse of workers. Meanwhile, a mysterious voice wakes Ruk from a decades long slumber and compels him to become human. He wants to break free but is torn between his shapeshifter instincts and the needs of the soul that sustains him.

On streets haunted by outcasts and predatory automatons, a new danger emerges – an ever-growing corruption of magic and science. Em and Ruk must put aside their differences and pursue it – each for their own reasons. Their discovery will forever change their lives… Or end them.


*** I received this ARC in exchange for an honest review ***

Review

I read The Eternal Machine by Australian author Carol Ryles, a debut novel combining steampunk, gaslamp fantasy and alternate history.

The Eternal Machine follows the protagonist Emma as she ekes out an existence in the lower classes of society, selling her magic alongside many others for the money to support themselves. Their magic is used to as energy for the powerhouses that support the industrialisation movement in this steampunk version of Victorian society. But as Emma begins to realise the extent of her true magical strength when left undrained by the powerhouses, she rivals the mages who run the powerhouses and society. Together with her partner Lucien, she begins to investigate the Groundists, a movement of radicalised lower classes determined to topple the powerhouses and the mages who rule them.

But Emma’s magic awakens an ancient shape-shifter, Ruk, who begins searching for her. The shape-shifters are few but powerful beings and Ruk kills Lucien, assuming his form and identity. But as Emma and Ruk enter the Groundist movement, Emma begins to learn more about her past as demons awaken and like the shape-shifters, are drawn to her power. In a company of other powerful Groundists, Ruk and his fellow shape-shifters, Emma and others battle the mages and the demons until the truth of Emma’s birth right is known and her entire world changes forever.

Final Thoughts

The Eternal Machine is a fascinating alternate history exploring the industrialisation era and social class suppression. I particularly enjoyed the combination of steampunk and gaslamp fantasy, the use of magic and technology in an alternative history setting was very well done. Perhaps the only downside to the book was it felt unnecessarily long, and some character development was rushed when introducing motivations which the extra length of the book could have focused on better. Overall, the world-building was supreme and the concept unique and refreshing.

Conclusion

A new steampunk read from a debut author in the genre. Highly sophisticated world-building with combination of alternate history, steampunk and gaslamp fantasy makes this suitable for audiences of all three genres. A well-recommended read!

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American Indian Trickster Tales

Publisher’s Description

Of all the characters in myths and legends told around the world, it’s the wily trickster who provides the real spark in the action, causing trouble wherever he goes. This figure shows up time and again in Native American folklore, where he takes many forms, from the irascible Coyote of the Southwest, to Iktomi, the amorphous spider man of the Lakota tribe. This dazzling collection of American Indian trickster tales, compiled by an eminent anthropologist and a master storyteller, serves as the perfect companion to their previous masterwork, American Indian Myths and Legends.American Indian Trickster Tales includes more than one hundred stories from sixty tribes–many recorded from living storytellers—which are illustrated with lively and evocative drawings. These entertaining tales can be read aloud and enjoyed by readers of any age, and will entrance folklorists, anthropologists, lovers of Native American literature, and fans of both Joseph Campbell and the Brothers Grimm.


Review

One of my recent reads was American Indian Trickster Tales by Richard Erdoes.

In a collection of tales that span a continent, one of my favourites is the northern tales of the trickster Raven, the creation of daylight and stealing the moon from the Haida and Tlingit cultures. Another of my favourites were the tales of Iktomi, the spider-man from the plains Sioux and Lakota cultures. Lastly, were the tales of Coyote stealing fire and the sun from the Klamath and Miwok cultures.

Final Thoughts

American Indian Trickster Tales is a skilfully told collection of legends and folklore from North America. The range of stories covered stretches from Tricksters including Coyote, Iktomi, Raven and Hare among others. A masterful storytelling that evokes the moral tales, the amusement accompanied by illustrations.

Conclusion

A wonderful collection of First Nations legends from around North America. Highly recommended for readers of folklore and legends and anyone seeking Trickster tales!

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Melmoth


Publisher’s Description

Oh friend, take my hand – I’ve been so lonely!

One winter night in Prague, Helen Franklin encounters her friend Karel, half-mad with fear.

He has come into possession of a mysterious old manuscript, filled with testimonies that speak to Helen from 17th-century England, wartime Czechoslovakia, the sweat-soaked streets of Manila and 1920’s Turkey. All of them tell of being followed by a tall, silent woman in black, bearing a terrible message.

Helen reads its contents with intrigue, but everything in her life is about to change.


Review

I recently read the supernatural dark fiction Melmoth by UK author Sarah Perry.

Melmoth introduces Helen, the protagonist, a translator working in Prague. Helen has a dark past, inflicting harsh self-punishment upon herself. It is the uncharacteristic behaviour of her friend Karel that begins Helen’s dark journey with the haunting spectre, Melmoth the Witness.

Helen’s closest companions in Prague are Thea and Karel, but Karel becomes obsessed with a document given to him about Melmoth. Karel spirals into madness, determined that Melmoth is following him and Helen takes the documents Karel has accumulated. The sudden disappearance of Karel coincides with Helen’s increased preoccupation with Melmoth. As Helen reads more of the history of Melmoth, a woman in black, unadmitted to heaven walks the earth alone with bloody feet finding those who would join her wandering. As Helen questions her sanity, Melmoth invades her life and Melmoth reaches a dark resolution.

Final Thoughts

Melmoth is a fascinating exploration of identity, redemption and guilt. While discovers more about the history of Melmoth, threads of self-doubt are woven throughout to the extent where Helen’s sanity is as questionable as Karel and others who have come into contact with Melmoth. The real and unreal become intricately tied, strengthening the dark psychological horror of Melmoth.

Conclusion

Melmoth is for readers who enjoy atmospheric dark fiction, supernatural and psychological horror. Strong folklore and traditions are well integrated into this dark, suspenseful tale. A highly recommended read!

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Cold as Hell

Publisher’s Description:

The town of OpenFields is cold as hell…

Magic exists in OpenFields, and everyone but Adie plays their part. So what happens when murder and strangers visit the secret town?

Adie’s normal isn’t “normal.” Cameras watch her sleep, the eyes of the townsfolk narrow at her sight, and when she discovers her bosses’ office in disarray, and a stranger who makes her heart thunder, her world changes forever.

Author Neen Cohen’s Cold as Hell is an Urban Dark Fantasy like no other.

What secrets do OpenFields hold?

Adie’s journey will rock the town to its foundation.


Review:

I recently read Cold as Hell by Australian author Neen Cohen.

Cold as Hell focuses on the town of OpenFields, an isolated rural town where magic blossoms only within the town limits and none stray beyond the boundaries. But there is a dark undercurrent to OpenFields that is immediately apparent when a series of murders brings detective into the town. For protagonist, Adie the deaths in the town and the disappearance of her lover Lisa, and the stirring of her own supposedly dampened magic, has her on edge. The arrival of Tala, an alluring detective with connections to Adie’s own terrifying nightmares draws the two closer to the truth of OpenFields.

Soon, Adie and Tala confront the leader of OpenFields and expose the cult for what it is. But their plans go awry when they’re drawn deep underground to the source of the magic for OpenFields and the many deaths that have provided it. In the darkness beneath the town, Adie is forced to confront the truth about herself and the knowledge that Old Gods are imprisoned not just in OpenFields. She and Tala must chose a path to follow into the future.

Final Thoughts:

Cold as Hell was a murder mystery, urban fantasy and complex folklore woven together into its sinister cult-like town of OpenFields. Unfortunately, these threads often seemed to tangle leaving some questions unanswered and underdeveloped characters led to confusing decisions. Despite this, Cold as Hell was a unique novella exploring complex social issues of cult behaviour, pressures for those identifying as LGBTQI and all the while, exploring unusual folklore. A promising debut in urban fantasy.

Conclusion:

Recommended read for those who enjoy Australian urban fantasy, LGBTQI characters and an unusual folklore inspiration.