Top positive review
A Lore-ful abundance
23 January 2018
Lost Lore - review
Lost Lore kept me entertained and frantically noting many lines that charmed, or shocked or amused me. The windows into so many different worlds, through the lenses of so many varied imaginations are too individual for a collective commentary so each gets their own mini-review.
With so many quality stories it is difficult to pick a favourite, but I would say that Bryce O’Connor’s “A Simple Thing” is my primus inter pares.
No Fairytale by Ben Galley,
“Not everybody can have their name roared at roof-beams over the clash of tankards.” But a girl can dream and a girl can play games to fire her imagination and toy with new discovered talents, but fifteen year old Hereni’s life and that of her family is about to take a sharp turn in a new direction. Through a rapid sequence of trials and experiences, Hereni must come to terms with her place in the challenges ahead and decide who she will stand with and for.
And They Were Never Heard from Again by Benedict Patrick
Felton is on a mission and has lured his little brother Tad along to cover his true intent. The adolescent Fenton actions are driven not so much by the head as by the heart, or perhaps a somewhat lower organ! But the journey through the forest is fraught with danger, for little boys were not meant to be out after dark – the night belongs to other things. A story can be a dangerous thing, taken up by others and twisted in a game of Chinese whispers until the hive-imagination of a frightened people imbue a story with its own power. At the end Patrick’s doughty brothers have to find a way to change the story in order to save themselves.
A Tree Called Sightless by Steven Kelliher
Kelliher throws you into the head of a boy called Maro facing a challenge that reminded me a bit of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. That is in so far as there are children competing for a prize in a maze-like environment. However, unlike Harry, Maro is really not a nice person. His intention, indeed his desire, is to kill all the competitors in pursuit of the ultimate prize – and he doesn’t plan on stopping the killing spree there.
Barrowlands by Mike Shel
A young warrior, Hesk, leads two desperate rogues in a foolish and indeed illegal attempt to raid the tombs and the treasures of the lost nation of the Djao. When a blood-stained stranger and his truncated companion wander into their camp, their plan changes and then changes again as the land begins to divulge its secrets. This well written piece is full of striking descriptions, such as a cavern of skeletons – “… clothing and flesh had rotted away long ago. Now they were intertwined in morbid intimacy.”
Into the Woods by Timandra Whitecastle
Jelena is a girl coming into womanhood, sent out – with a red shawl about her head – to run an errand to grandma. Whitecastle swiftly turns any perception of a Red Riding Hood style adventure, not so much on its head as inside out – and the tale is not the only thing that experiences some surprising inversions. The spine of the story is a tale told by Grandma to the young girl. The banter between child and adult is convincing though – when Grandma’s story reaches its bloody denouement I did wonder at a sudden shift in her language. I’m sure my grandmother never used such terms in conversation with me or my sister, but then the sheer brutality of the event – a twist that totally surprised me – swept me swiftly along and away from any quibbles of an old woman’s terminology.
Paternus: Deluge by Dyrk Ashton
For those familiar with Ashton’s sprawling epic, Paternus, Deluge is splattered with familiar motifs of demigods like the firstborn – part animal part human appearing in the lives of many different peoples. Ashton’s encylopedic mastery of the range of human myths enable him to weave a thread that joins Egyptian gods and Irish myth, Celtic fables and Biblical deluge. Ashton is the master at seeing and creating patterns, and in this re-imagining of the deluge he rationalises the world-wide prevalence of flood myths in diverse and disconnected peoples. Ashton spins an entertaining tale that blends archeology and myth in a telling that reads like one might an imagine a skald regaling a norse lord in his feasting hall, or a bard singing in a celtic tavern.
I, Kane – by Laura M. Hughes
The prospect of imminent death “concentrates the mind wonderfully” or so Hughes eponymous hero, the mysterious but radiantly powerful Kane discovers. In some subterranean cavern on one of the most inauspicious dates in human history, the chained Kane delivers his final testimony to an interrogator and a dutiful scribe – determined to be as precise as any court stenographer. The tale is presented as the scribed record of every word and utterance of the mighty Kane down to the last sigh.
As such this is a powerful and entertaining first-person story carried by the mellifluous voice of Kane, at once charming yet, pompous, courteous yet overbearing and delightfully ingenuously oblivious of the effect he is having on the two attendants in his last hours. A fascinating story that sweeps the reader along so well they would have stayed in that underground prison just to hear Kane roll out more lines like this as he describe one hapless human “It appears my earlier suspicions were correct: naught but jelly beneath a shallow crust of courtesy.”
The Huntress by Michael R Miller
Miller’s tale is of Elsie and her personal and professional struggles in a land of humans invaded by dragons - or at least dragons in human form. It is a motif - almost a sub-genre that I was aware of but have not read widely in. In The Huntress we do not see any dragons in full winged Smaug glory and I am not sure if that is how Miller’s dragons operate. Instead dragon becomes a cypher for a race of super-powered arrogant graceful humanoids. Not quite indestructible - but almost so, and determined to subjugate the puny humans they invaded.
The Prisoner by Phil Tucker
The challenge of leadership, of inspiring a disparate and desperate group of individuals transcends genres. Tucker’s antagonist, young lordling Enderl, embraces his first opportunity to lead his father’s company of brutal soldiers – the Black Wolves – in battle. Whether his enthusiasm lasts, or is even shared by the men, is for the reader to discover. Tucker writes well with several lines to catch the eye – and this one appealed particularly. “The portcullis was rising like the skirt of a withered hag grimly intent on displaying her goods.”
A Simple Thing by Bryce O’Connor
Written as the opening entry in a hopefully soon to be available full journal, the anonymous assassin’s tale not only gripped me with the sense of foreboding that only truly meticulous plans can instil, but also had me stopping to note lines of particular delight.
“It is only the assassin, however, who can slip a blade up the shield-bearer’s ass and convince him he swallowed it.”
“My walker was … a creature of habit. Such men are a rare and ripe fruit in my profession.”
“There is a moment in most men’s lives where they come to accept what it is they are, wherever it is the adventure of life has led them.”
For me that is an impressive hit rate of memorable lines for a novel, let alone a short story.
Palesword by T.L.Greylock
Greylock’s protagonist - Eyja - fisherman’s daughter and would be priestess, is a feisty individual who we glimpse at different stages in her search to achieve and to belong within her strained community. It is always refreshing to see female characters like Eyja and Gunnlief the shield maiden leading the story to its denouement with agency and independence.
Some of the men do not acquit themselves so well in the face of Eyja’s fierce determination – as captured in this couple of lines.
“Help me, Kolli, or watch. I care not. But do not think to tell me what is best for me.”
“Eyja saw Kolli in the crowd, saw the cowardice in his eyes.”
The Light in the Jungle by Jeffrey Hall
Five different characters quickly and naturally reveal their individualities of personality, of power, of race. Hall does not ram their otherness down the reader’s throats with lengthy descriptions. Instead we glean that from references to whiskers and tusks and tongues that deviate from normal human experience. I liked Laughs, the character who can talk to plants far more persuasively than he talks to women (insert your own Prince Charles joke here). Hall conveys effectively some distinctive features of an imaginative other world – systems of magic and denizens of evil that may tempt many a reader into exploring more of his writing.
Black Barge – by J.P.Ashman
Ashman’s antagonist Tips and her small family ride a steam powered barge down a canal. But even a journey along a leisurely waterway can encounter hostile intent and even a small barge can hide some big secrets. Ashman writes lively action sequences spinning a nice turn of phrase. “The well-kept engine did what the unkept cleaver had not and finished its victim.”
References to the main work creep in as ties between the boat crew and one of Black Cross’s key characters slowly emerge from within the barge’s capacious hold.
Making a Killing – by David Benem
The Dead Messenger is a strange name for a strange Inn and, at one point set me in mind of the dead letter boxes that were such a feature of John Le Carre spy thrillers. Fencress Fallcrow is stepping up in the world, or down depending on your moral perspective, and teams up with the redoubtable Karnag Mak Ragg to take on the next stage in her career – to pursue the dark rewards of dark work. But as the innkeeper observes “The dark work always bloodies more hands than those doing it.”
The First Thread - by Alec Hutson
Jhenna is a consort of the Emperor and Prince Ma is his son raised in a tradition that believes whatever doesn’t kill you makes you strong – so Prince Ma must be pretty strong.
Superstition and court politics intermingle in a story flavoured with the orient. Disasterous portents call for extreme measures and Jhenna – silent witness to both natural tragedies and the imperial response is haunted by what she sees. Prince Ma, unlike his father, is determined to change not just how things are done, but to change things that have been done. Hutson writes well, fluid prose carrying the reader along – but, in First Thread, as in all good stories, things are never quite as they appear. Those who pull at a loose thread risk unravelling an entire jumper.