Tag Archives: Fantasy

A Review of In a Glass Darkly

Vintage Science Fiction month takes place every January, and has a few guidelines:

 – read, watch, listen to, or experience something science fiction / fantasy that was created in 1979 or earlier

 – talk about it online sometime in January

 – have fun

If any of my readers are interested in participating\ use the hashtag #VintageSciFiMonth or tag @VintageSciFi_ or @redhead5318 on Twitter if you’d like your posts to be included in the official retweets and roundups.  

Thank you to Berthold Gambrel for recommending this book to me


In a Glass Darkly by J. Sheridan Le Fanu book cover. Image on cover shows a ghostly figure reaching out to someone who is sleeping peacefully in a bed. The sketch is done in black and white and looks like it’s from the 1870s based on hairstyles, clothing, bedding, etc. Title
: In a Glass Darkly

Author: Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

Publisher: Richard Bentley & Son (original publisher) and Duke Classics (the publisher of the reprinted volume I read).

Publication Date: 1872

Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, LGBTQ, Historical

Length: 169 pages

Source: I borrowed it from the library.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

In a Glass Darkly collects together five short stories from gothic horror and mystery writer Sheridan Le Fanu. The book, published in 1872 a year before Le Fanu’s death, is named from a passage in Corinthians which speaks of humankind perceiving the world “through a glass darkly.” The stories are told from the posthumous writings of an occult detective named Dr Martin Hesselius. In Green Tea a clergyman is being driven mad by an evil demon that takes the ephemeral form of a monkey, but is unseen by others as it burdens the victim’s mind with psychological torment. In The Familiar, revised from Le Fanu’s The Watcher of 1851, a sea captain is stalked by a dwarf, “The Watcher.” Is this strange character from captain’s past? In Mr Justice Harbottle a merciless court judge is attacked by vengeful spirits, dreaming he is sentenced to death by a horrific version of himself. The story was revised from 1853’s An Account of Some Strange Disturbances in Aungier Street. In The Room in the Dragon Volant, a notable mystery which includes a premature burial theme, an innocent young Englishman in France tries to rescue a mysterious countess from her unbearable situation. Lastly, Carmilla tells the tale of a lesbian vampire. It was a huge influence on Bram Stoker’s writing of Dracula and the basis for the films Vampyr in 1932 and The Vampire Lovers in 1970.

Review:

Content warning: demonic possession, stalking, murder, beheading (of a monster), minor drug use, and a few brief references to blood.  I will briefly discuss the demonic possession and stalking in my review.

If you like genre mash-ups that defy the reader’s expectations, keep reading.

The blurb gave a great overview of each of the five stories in this collection, so I’m going to use my review space to share my impressions of them a bit more casually than I would generally do. Somehow that feels right for this book.

I was a preacher’s kid growing up, so “Green Tea” grabbed my attention immediately. Clergymen and their families are exposed to portions of other people’s lives that the general public often knows little to nothing about. No, my family was never haunted by a monkey-shaped demon like the poor Reverend Jennings was, but I was intrigued by the difference between what people want others to think their lives are like versus what’s actually going on behind closed doors. This tale captured the sometimes jarring experience of moving back and forth between the two quite well. I thought it also well at explaining why secrets can be so corrosive for a person’s mental wellbeing, especially when they’ve convinced themselves that they will be rejected, or worse, if anyone finds out the truth about them.

One of the things I mulled about while reading ”The Familiar” was how blurry the lines were between science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other speculative fiction genres in the 1800s. This collection fit into all of those categories simultaneously in ways that are unusual when compared to how a similar story about a dwarf stalking a sea captain would probably be written and marketed today. I like stories that blur these lines, but this particular one was hard to get into because of how much time was spent discussing everything other than the sea captain’s adventures. If only there had been more details about the dwarf and why he was following the captain around.

“Mr. Justice Harbottle” made me think of the people in this world who have purposefully harmed others and never faced the consequences of those actions. Sometimes it can feel like justice will never be served in those cases. That made this an even more satisfying read. It was interesting to me to compare this  storyline to what happened in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” If you haven’t read that particular Dickens’ tale yet, definitely do check it out before reading this book. There’s not much else I can say about this one without giving away spoilers as the plot was pretty quickly paced and straightforward for this era.

Vintage Science Fiction Blog Challenge badge. It shows a rocket ship against a red background. There is a bubble city in the background. Pinning down the genre of ‘The Room in the Dragon Volant” was tricky. It dabbled in the mystery, adventure, horror,  thriller, and science fiction genres without ever fully committing to any of them. This is one of the reasons why I like reading speculative fiction from the 1800s so much. Just about anything could and often did pop up in a “science fiction” story back then. Authors didn’t seem to be as concerned with following the rules of their genre back then as many of them are today. With that being said, I struggled to get into this particular tale because of how much more time it spent jumping around from one idea to the next instead of focusing on character development. I never reached the point where I’d feel comfortable describing the personalities of the main characters in anything but the simplest details like what their professions were.

My favorite instalment in this book was ”Carmilla,” which, according to Wikipedia, was Bram Stoker’s inspiration for writing “Dracula.” The main character, Laura, was a young woman whose loving father had given her a safe but extremely sheltered life in a rural setting up until this point. She was naive about the outside world and incredibly excited to meet anyone new who crossed her path. When she reacted romantically to another woman, she didn’t have a word to describe her feelings. I thought it was fascinating to see how she handled these moments and what she thought was happening during them. Her father’s reactions to the rumours that were spreading around about various young women in the community who were suddenly dropping dead one after the next also piqued my interest. He blamed the fear surrounding those bizarre deaths on superstition and was far less interested in seeing if there were any specks of truth to the wild stories being passed around than I would have been. It made me wonder if he was in some ways even more sheltered than Laura was given how much faster she was to accept that something odd was happening.

In a Glass Darkly was a thought-provoking read. I’m glad I gave it a try for Vintage Science Fiction Month.

A Review of The Story of Sigurd the Dragonslayer

The Story of Sigurđ the Dragonslayer (Tales From the Volsunga Saga Book 2) Kindle Edition by Liam G. Martin Book cover. Image on cover shows Norse runes arranged in a circular yellow pattern in the centre of the cover. Title: The Story of Sigurd the Dragonslayer (Tales from the Volsunga Saga Book 2)

Author: Liam G Martin

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: January 24, 2022

Genres: Fantasy, Adventure, Historical

Length: 35 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

The Story of Sigurđ the Dragonslayer is part of The Tales from the Volsunga Saga series which retells some of the stories from the Volsunga Saga. The Volsunga saga is a legendary old Norse text that was written in Iceland around 1250 AD.

In The Story of Sigurđ the Dragonslayer, you’ll read about the early life of Sigurđ, one of the greatest heroes of Norse mythology.

Review:

Content Warning: death of parents and a murder. All of the deaths were described briefly and without graphic details included in them.

Becoming a hero includes plenty of hard work. Nothing is guaranteed for anyone.

Mythology has always expected a lot of its audience. Not only did the author take his time explaining who certain characters were, the narrator shared lessons about perseverance, duty, honour, and vengeance that the audience was expected to digest for themselves. Sigurd had far too much on his plate to spell things out simply for us, but that’s exactly what I always hope to find in the stories I read. If people of different ages can interpret the same scenes in somewhat different ways, that means that it will take a long time for anyone to fully understand the ideas that thrive there.

Like many traditional myths, this one never had a good stopping point. I finished the last page wishing the author had written more even though Sigurd was technically an adult at that point and the narrator no longer had the excuse of describing this character’s early life in order to keep things going. This is the sort of reaction I always love to discover in myself. Leaving the audience yearning for the next scene is an excellent way to keep readers coming back for another instalment, after all.

The conflict and violence was handled beautifully. While this isn’t a sanitized and twenty-first century myth, it also didn’t include any gratuitous violence. The deaths that occurred were necessary in order for the plot to move forward, and those scenes were written tactfully and simply. Sigurd’s adventures were what really mattered, so I was pleased to see how steadily that portion of his life remained the focus of the plot. Creating this balance in retellings of tales from eras of human history when the expectations for family entertainment were quite different isn’t easy, and I commend the author for pulling it off so well.

It’s helpful, but not strictly necessary, to have a basic familiarity with Norse mythology before reading this book. The important stuff will be explained eventually, but recognizing the major gods and other figures in these tales will help to speed up the process for anyone who prefers to figure out who everyone was immediately.

This is also part of a series, but it functioned perfectly nicely as a standalone work.

The Story of Sigurd the Dragonslayer was a wild ride that I wish I’d taken sooner.

Changing His Destiny: A Review of Well of Fate


Well of Fate - A When Ravens Fall Short Story by Savannah Jezowski book cover. Image on cover shows a drawing of a squirrel crawling through a dark corridor with a tiny bit of light streaming through the tree branches above. Title
: Well of Fate – A When Ravens Fall Short Story

Author: Savannah Jezowski

Publisher: Dragonpen Press (Self-Published)

Publication Date: July 31, 2018

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Adventure, Historical

Length: 39 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 4 Stars

Blurb:

Discontent with his life as a tale-spinner, Ratatosk the squirrel goes searching for the Well of Fate hoping he can change his destiny. But what he finds at Yggdrasil will test the very core of his resolve. When he faces the unexpected dangers beneath the great tree, Tosk will have to choose between saving himself or risking all to do the right thing. Changing his destiny proves harder than he ever imagined.For fans of “When Ravens Fall” and Norse mythology, reunite with old friends and meet new ones in this compelling short story about destiny and hard choices.

Review:

Courage comes in many forms…including small, fuzzy ones!

Ratatosk was a brave and assertive squirrel who refused to take no for an answer. I haven’t read many books that have squirrels as protagonists and so had no preconceptions of what he would be like. It was delightful to get to know him, especially once I realized why he was so eager to find the Well of Fate and what he hoped to accomplish there.  I’ll leave it up to other readers to discover for themselves what he was looking for and if he found it, but his adventurous spirit was perfect for this setting. He might be a little miffed at this comparison since they’re not the same species, but fellow fans of C.S. Lewis’ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader might also be quickly reminded of a character in that book that acts a lot like Ratatosk and would happily go on adventures with him if they lived in the same universe.

It would have been nice to see more attention paid to the conclusion. While I know this was meant to be a teaser for a full-length series, the writing in that scene felt a bit abrupt to me, especially for those of us who were being introduced to the characters and setting for the first time in this short story.  I wanted to give this a full five-star rating and would have done so if this tale had been given a chance to wrap everything up more satisfactorily. Everything else about it was well done!

The world building was handled nicely. Obviously, there wasn’t a lot of space here to explain how everything worked or what was going on with certain backstories, but I received enough information to understand why Ratatosk’s quest was so important to him and what dangers he may face along the way. An air of mystery about the rest of it is a good thing in my opinion. It kept this reader feeling intrigued and asked questions that I can only assume will be fully answered later on.

You do not need to have an in-depth understanding of Norse mythology in order to appreciate this short story, but knowing a few basic facts like the names of their most important gods would be helpful.

Well of Fate – A When Ravens Fall Short Story was a wild ride. 

A Review of Samantha, 25, on October 31

Samantha, 25, on October 31 by Adam Bertocci book cover. Image on cover show a young red haired woman wearing a witches hat and cloak. She looks surprised as the wind attempts to blow her pointy hat off of her head. Title: Samantha, 25, on October 31

Author: Adam Bertocci

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 12, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Contemporary

Length: 50 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Samantha hates her job, her debt and her general circumstances, and if that weren’t enough, her first post-pandemic Halloween isn’t shaping up to be any fun. Unenthused about the prospect of another day (and week and month and year) stuck working in a boring health food store, Samantha hopes that dressing as a witch will help recapture the magic in her life… or at least conjure up a little Halloween fun.

But when a mysterious black cat crosses her path, Samantha’s holiday hijinks take a turn for the weird, culminating in a spooky confrontation with the scariest horror of all: her own future.

Award-winning writer and filmmaker Adam Bertocci has been praised by Entertainment Weekly, USA Today, The New Republic, GQ, The Wall Street Journal, The Guardian, Back Stage, Broadway World, E!, Maxim, IGN, Wired, Film Threat and more. This wistful-yet-witchy short story explores the mysteries of improvised cat care, growing up, and what’s really important in life.

Review:

Content Warning:  Witches and witchcraft. This is also set during the Covid-19 pandemic and contains a few references to things like social distancing, proper hand washing, and wearing a face mask in public. No one caught Covid during the storyline, though.

Halloween magic is for everyone.

This novella captured the frustration of working in retail or other dead-end jobs perfectly. Even though she was grateful to have work when so many others were laid off during the Covid-19 pandemic, Samantha was bored and restless at Esterbrook’s Natural Market. Her history degree hadn’t panned out the way she hoped they would, and she couldn’t see how her circumstances would change for the foreseeable future. I had a lot of sympathy for her and was curious to see if her dreams would finally come true. This wasn’t something I was expecting to find in a spooky Halloween read, but it fit the themes perfectly.

Samantha was a likeable and intelligent protagonist. She was the sort of person I’d love to be friends with in real life.  I enjoyed seeing how one of her biggest flaws, her tendency to ramble on when other people were hoping she’d give them a clear yes or no as a response, changed the course of her destiny. It’s always nice to see characters who are given genuine challenges to overcome and whose weaknesses make a meaningful difference to the plot.

One of the biggest reasons why I chose a five-star review had to do with how the fantasy elements of the plot were handled. Yes, I know that sentence is a vague one, but I need to be careful how I word this in order to avoid spoilers, but Mr. Bertocci did a marvellous job of playing around with the audience’s expectations of how witches should behave and how a fantasy story should unfold. He clearly knew this genre well and wasn’t afraid to turn certain tropes upside down in order to keep me guessing. Bravo for that!

Samantha, 25, on October 31 was perfect.

Running to Safety: A Review of One Dark Hallow’s Eve

One Dark Hallows Eve by Eldritch BlacI book cover. Image on cover shows a drawing of two sinister glowing jack-o-lanterns sitting at the bottom of a hill on the night of a full moon. A house and a leafless tree sit at the top of the hill. Title: One Dark Hallow’s Eve

Author: Eldritch Black

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 22, 2015

Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary, Historical

Length: 43 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Beware it’s Halloween and the Pumpkin Men are coming.

It’s All Hallow’s Eve and Owen Weeks is not having a good day. Something’s stirring in the lake by his house, the dead leaves beneath this shoes crunch like bones, and even the brambles seem to twitch when he’s not looking.

Nothing’s right.

But things get a lot worse as Owen discovers a terrifying stranger hiding in an abandoned farmhouse. A dark spell is cast. Old magic, magic that raises a terrifying horde of nightmarish creatures.

As the monsters descend upon the village, Owen realizes there’s only one place left to go…across the lake. But can he survive the horror of the legends said to live below its muddy waters?

The clock’s ticking toward midnight, and soon it will be the hour of the Pumpkin Men and ancient terrors from a distant land.

One Dark Hallow’s Eve is a lost tale from Eldritch Black’s The Book of Kindly Deaths. Read it now and slip into a timeless world of dark fantasy and Halloween horror.

Review:

Content Warning: Skeletons and pumpkins who can walk.

Get ready for a gentle scare.

Twelve is an awkward age, especially on Halloween. You’re not a little kid anymore, but you’re not yet old enough for the parties that teenagers or adults sometimes attend that weekend either. I enjoyed the way this short story captured the weirdness of this in-between stage in life and how kids deal with the realization that what worked for them on previous Halloweens maybe isn’t quite what they should be doing this year. It’s not something I’ve seen covered very often in the horror genre, so it was refreshing to find here.

There were times in the plot when certain elements didn’t fit together, and yet the characters accepted all of the twists and turns without a second thought. I wish more time had been spent explaining what the characters were thinking and why no one questioned why their town was suddenly overwhelmed with monsters. Even a simple explanation would have nudged me to bump my rating up half a star or so, and a deeper one would had positively affected my rating even more.

The world building was well done. Obviously, the author didn’t have a lot of space here to go into great detail, but he made good use of every page he did have to work with to ensure that all of his readers knew the basics of what was going on and how this world was different from our own. I was both satisfied with his explanations and curious to know more. That’s a good sign in my opinion, and I will keep an eye out for what the author comes up with next!

This is part of a series, but it can be read as a standalone work.

One Dark Hallow’s Eve was a quick and spooky read.

Wednesday Weekly Blogging Challenge: Fantasy Animal You Wish Was Real?

Hosted by Long and Short Reviews. Click here to read everyone else’s replies to this week’s question and here to see the full list of topics for the year. My answers to this week’s question partially depends on your definition of the terms animal and fantasy. Do modern fantasy myths count? Where is the line… Read More

Cottagecore Horror: A Review of On Sundays She Picked Flowers

Title: On Sundays She Picked Flowers Author: Yah Yah Scholfield Publisher: Oni House Press Corp Publication Date: February 20, 2022 Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Historical Length: 142 pages Source: I borrowed it from my local library. Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: “It took Judith thirty-four years to realize that if she wanted to be free of… Read More

Awkward Phases: A Review of The Usual Werewolves

Title: The Usual Werewolves Author: Adam Bertocci Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: October 1, 2012 Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance, Paranormal, Satire, Contemporary Length: 39 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: Finally, a paranormal romance for people who hate paranormal romance. Bookish outcast Serena is in love with… Read More

Caution is a Virtue: A Review of Veiled Threats

Title: Veiled Threats Author: Erin Jackson Publisher: Ringtail Press (Self-Published) Publication Date: February 9, 2022 Genres: Fantasy, Mystery, Contemporary Length: 74 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author Rating: 4 Stars Blurb:   This is a short prequel story that takes place before Diabolical Sword, book 1 in The Charm Collector urban… Read More

Dreaming of Happily Ever After: A Review of Somewhere in Time

Title: Somewhere in Time Author: Fizza Younis Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: October 31, 2020 Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary, Historical Length: 34 pages Source: I received a free copy from the author. Rating: 3 Stars Blurb: It’s a fairy tale retelling of the classic Sleeping Beauty, set between the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries, the story… Read More