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Above Ker-Is and Other Stories Kindle Edition
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Top customer reviews
This can be found in the overall stories - a subtle tale with an ambiguous ending is placed next to one titled 'Werewolf', in which a description of a character as having pointed teeth rather gives away the rest of the tale. It can also be found in the writing, where frequent flashes of poetic brilliance lie alongside clumsy sentence structure, awkward repetition or cliche. And whilst some of the scenic descriptions make it feel as she has walked the cliffs and forests she describes, at other times it seems clear that she has not.
There are also an unfortunate number of punctuation errors, which sometimes mar the flow of the stories, whilst the spelling of characters' names alter on occasion. I do not know whether these errors were in the original manuscripts, but even if so, a kind editor might have fixed what are clearly mistakes.
But overall, the stories are well worth taking the time to read, and the best of them will linger with you long after you have finished doing so.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The first three stories, which are retellings of a Breton folktale about a city sunk beneath the waves through the actions of a princess who may or may not be viewed as an evil force, employ an old-fashioned, circuitous, first-person style in which a narrator hears a story from another person and then retells it. It can be a priest hearing a confession or a folklorist recording the tale of an aged informant. This, combined with a conventional depiction of some characters, makes the early stories not particularly memorable, in spite of some fine descriptive writing and mood creation.
The central four stories can be considered a transitional phase. In "The Tree of Perkunas" we start with a narrator who has reconstructed the tale from a friend's letters, but then this narrator disappears and a straightforward third-person tale develops. In "Werwolf" the fictional framework disappears altogether, although the opening paragraph gives an omniscient narrator's introduction. In "The Ship from Away" the author reverts to the fiction of a third party ("Young Devlin told me this story") who functions to reveal the fate of Devlin at the end. "Lus-Mor" also utilizes the format of a person telling the tale to another; in this case the tale is first person and the recipient also has a small role to play at the end.
The last three stories are quite different. The narrative is direct, with less time spent setting up the premise and creating layers between the reader and the story. There is a sense that the author has matured and is in command all the way through, knowing exactly how to move the story along and create a sense of horror. Here are the opening lines of "The Judgment of St. Yves" ("I had this story from old Yanouank Ar Guenn, that aged fisherman whose years must number nearly a hundred now") or of "The Tree of Perkunas" ("It was from the last letter of my friend, Serghei Zudin, that I pieced together this story ... ") Compare the opening lines of "At the End of the Corridor" ("Whenever Philip Martin felt like being funny he would say that he was a professional grave-robber") or of "The Other One" ("I should have locked the door. You can't drag a solid body through a locked door.") The endings of these last three tales are equally strong. They are the sort of story that grabs the reader and then remains in the mind.
It's too bad Evangeline Walton didn't return to the Ker-Is folktales after she had developed the approach presented in "The Island of the Mighty" (what a difference a few short years can make!) In that novel, the peculiarly bizarre magic and the powerful characters of the Mabinogion myths are reworked with such realism that the reader is held spellbound. That in this reviewer's opinion is the way myth should be retold! This being said, however, there is a lot of power in the collection "Above Ker-Is" and the book is recommended to anyone interested in myth and folktale, in the paranormal, and in horror fiction.
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