Tag Archives: Mythology

Sensing Something Wrong: A Review of The Wendigo

The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood book cover. Image on cover is a drawing of a horned, hairy creature standing on it’s back feet. It looks like a large goat. Title: The Wendigo

Author: Algernon Blackwood

Publisher: Eveleigh Nash

Publication Date: 1910 (and republished on April 21, 2022)

Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Historical

Length: 74 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 5 Stars

Blurb:

Algernon Blackwood’s “The Wendigo” tells the story of a camping trip in the Canadian wilderness that goes horribly wrong when the hunters become the hunted. Drawing on the mythical creature known as the Wendigo, this story is regarded by many critics to be one of the best horror tales of all time.

Review:

Content Warning: Racism. I will discuss it in depth in my review.

Forests aren’t friendly to everyone.

Some of my favourite scenes were the ones that explored the various reactions people can have to being in the middle of the woods. What is peaceful and wholesome to one person could be mildly unsettling or even downright terrifying to another based on their previous experiences with nature and how much they know about all of the sounds that occur when one is in the middle of nowhere and can see nothing byt trees stretching out in every direction.

Horror doesn’t have to be gory or gross. There wasn’t single drop of blood in this tale, and yet it made me shudder all the same. I appreciated the slow buildup as the characters walked deeper into the woods and further away from anyone who might help them. That methodical pacing gave me plenty of opportunities to imagine what might happen next and to chew on the clues I’d already discovered. The slower and quieter scenes were exactly what the storyline needed in order to flourish. Some things are much scarier when they’ve been given time to marinate in your thoughts, and this is one of them.

I wanted to make note of the racism mentioned in the content warning. This story was written in 1910, and the author had some truly odd ideas about First Nations people and their mystical connection to nature that many white people of his era believed. In no way am I trying to excuse the offensive nature of those passages or his bizarre beliefs about how one’s race should influence what one does in the woods, only to say that the world has changed for the better since it was written and I think the author was trying to be complimentary with those descriptions based on the historical time in which he lived. While I am generally able to shake my head and ignore ridiculous stuff like this in old books, I did want to let my readers know about them in advance so you can come to your own conclusions about whether this is something you want to read.

With that being said, I loved what Mr. Blackwood did with his characters, especially Punk, a First Nations cook and guide for the group, later on in the storyline. Their character arcs were memorable and made a great deal of sense given what they found in the woods and how everyone reacted to that experience. It made me wonder what would have happened if Dr. Cathcart, the protagonist, had been more interested in cultures outside of his own. This was one of those cases where a little communication would have gone a long way, but certain cultural assumptions made that difficult. I found myself wondering how the storyline might have changed if it were instead told from the perspective of Punk after he realized that the white people he was accompanying through the woods had accidentally discovered something horrific.

The Wendigo was a delightfully chilling tale.

Gently Combing the Sea: A Review of Hildie at the Ghost Shore


Hildie at the Ghost Shore by Paula Cappa book cover. Image on cover his a painting of a very foggy shore by a body of water. You can see almost nothing but the tiniest glimmer of blue water in the distance. Title
: Hildie at the Ghost Shore

Author: Paula Cappa

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: May 17, 2015

Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Mystery, Historical

Length: 22 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

We are in Old Belgium. Hildie the lace maker, Mistress of Runecraft, knows the secret spells of the runes from the wind-god Odin. When a mysterious old sailor visits her attic workroom, he requests a reading. Hildie agrees. During the casting of the runes, Hildie conjures the Ship of the Dead, Loki the trickster, and flame-eyed ravens. Who will survive this adventure in a land beyond the ghost shore? Hildie at the Ghost Shore is a quiet little mystery (Kindle Single) with a dash of Norse mythology evoking the magic of the Runes. This story was originally published at Fiction365.

Review:

Content Warning: Murder.

Danish mysteries abound on this quiet shore.

The poetic and etherial style of this short story made it impossible for me to stop reading. It was my first experience with Ms. Cappa’s work, and I was immediately impressed by how smooth and beautiful her writing style was. She excelled at drawing this reader into the storyline and making me never want to leave it. Reading this felt like the literary equivalent of stepping into a light, airy fog on a mostly-deserted beach on a chilly late winter or early spring day. That is to say, I felt as if I’d stepped into another world or some alternative version of our own world whose rules of physics were just different enough to make it impossible for me to guess what remarkable things I might discover a few moments in the future. It was a truly delightful experience that made me eager to discover what else the author has written.

I would have loved to see more plot and character development. There was very little of the former and almost none of the latter which struck me as unusual for something that went on for twenty-two pages.  It would have made sense for flash fiction, and the premise could have been shrunken down to accommodate a much shorter interpretation of it. Unfortunately, it felt out of place for a longer work that did seem to have more than enough room to include both of these elements.

By far my favourite portion of this tale was the final scene. This was when the plot grew as thick and substantial as it ever would, and it explained some things that keen readers might have kept tucked in the back of their minds as half-formed questions since they first began reading it. I should note that I’m not very familiar with Norse Mythology, so I also appreciated the quick explanations of certain key terms and figures from it. Perhaps readers who are already well-versed on that topic could expound upon it in greater detail, but I was perfectly satisfied with it as is. Yes, I know I’m being vague here! Why share spoilers when you can allow other readers the thrill of surprise instead?

Hildie at the Ghost Shore was a dreamy, wistful reading experience that I cheerfully recommend saving for the next time the weather outside is too foggy, snowy, or drizzly to venture forth outdoors.

Too Old for Santa: A Review of Christmas Presence

Book cover for Christmas Presence by Tony Bertauski. Image on cover is a closeup of a man who has a white beard and moustache and is  wearing a wool hat.Title: Christmas Presence

Author: Tony Bertauski

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 31, 2019

Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult, Holiday

Length: 25 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Worst Christmas ever.

Christmas was about traditions. Currently, Zay and her mom had about five traditions, things like gingerbread cookies and tree decorating. Not going to work.

Zay has to stay home. On Christmas. Alone.

Mom said her boss felt real bad about the whole thing so he was sending a nanny. It just keeps getting worse. She’s fourteen years old. She doesn’t need a nanny. But then the nanny shows up. She’s not really a she. Or a he.

More of an it.

The nanny shows her that it’s not really magic that makes Christmas special. It’s the adventure. And when it’s all over, she’ll never forget.

The best Christmas ever.

Review:

Teenagers don’t believe in magic, right?

Fourteen is a tough age. Zay was too old to truly get into many of the Christmas traditions she enjoyed as a little kid, but she was also a bit too young to understand why some adults get so excited to keep them going. Mr. Bertauski did a wonderful job of capturing this confusing stage of life and how it can affect not only the teenagers going through it but also everyone around them as well. I had compassion for Zay as she decided how to respond to her mother’s love of the Christmas holidays.

This short story was marketed as an introduction to a new series about retelling of classic holiday legends. Even though it was the first instalment of this series so far as I could tell, I still struggled to understand what was going on at times. There was never quite enough information about the nanny who showed up to entertain Zay or why he was so different from what she was expecting. While I did understand some parts of this universe, other portions were never quite clear to me.  I would have happily gone with a much higher rating if these things had either been explained in greater detail or if the blurb had been clear that this wasn’t necessarily something that was supposed to be a standalone read.

I was a huge fan of the author’s reinterpretation of Santa Claus as an individual as well as a mythical figure. This was where the science fiction elements of the storyline shone the brightest. They made me perk up and wonder how everything worked, especially once Santa began to reveal a little bit more about himself. There was so much creativity in these passages. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for what the author comes up with next based on how much effort he put into rethinking this classic character.

Christmas Presence was a lighthearted read that I’d recommend to anyone who is either currently a teenager or who has a teenaged loved one in their life.

Chasing Victory: A Review of The Sea Witch

Title: The Sea Witch

Author: Bethany Hoeflich

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: February 21, 2021

Genres: Fantasy, Historical

Length: 30 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

For years, Ula has been content to hide behind her reputation as the sea queen’s quirky, loner sister.

Isolation and mistrust are her shields, protecting the secrets of her past from resurfacing.

When the sea king offers her the position of court sorcerer, Ula sees an opportunity to reclaim what had been stolen from her.

How could she anticipate it would cost her everything?

The Sea Witch is a villainous short story inspired by The Little Mermaid.

Review:

Content Warning: Blood and death of a parent. I will not be discussing these topics in my review.

Villains come in all shapes and sizes.

I enjoyed seeing how the world building unfolded. There was just enough of it in this tale for me to develop a good sense of what this mermaid society was like and why Ula was so frustrated with her lot in life. The smallest changes in a mermaid’s life could lead to radically different outcomes years later, so it was important to put all of these pieces together during the short time I had with her. If the author ever decides to write a sequel, I’d sure like to take a deeper dive into this society and the unique mermaids who are part of it.

It would have been helpful to have more character development, especially when it concerned Ula. She was such an intelligent and resourceful individual that I found it difficult to understand some of her choices. I could think of so many other ways for her to resolve the conflicts in her life and achieve her goals. It puzzled me to see how often she skipped ahead to more drastic measures when she had so many other options to choose from. I would have liked to get to know her better so that these decisions and her thought processes behind them would make more sense.

Magic was both an art and a science in this universe. It’s effects could generally be predicted in advance, but any mermaid worth his or her fins knew that it was impossible to predict every possible outcome if one ventured down this path. It was amusing to see how Ula had learned to cope with the unpredictable elements of her occupation while also doing everything she could to get the desired results when she cast a spell. The author struck a nice balance between describing how all of this worked and allowing readers to fill in other pieces of puzzle for ourselves.

The Sea Witch was a fun summer read.

A Review of A Fictional Fable of Ptolemy Throck and Bobby Piptwitch

Book cover for A Fictional Fable Of Ptolemy Throck and Bobby Piptwitch by Berenice Corney-Thompkins. Image on cover is a drawing of a frog-like creature wearing pants and a suit jacket, sitting on a stump, and looking at a butterfly.Title: A Fictional Fable Of Ptolemy Throck and Bobby Piptwitch (Fictional Fables Book 1)

Author: Berenice Corney-Thompkins

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 17, 2020

Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult

Length: 20 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

A charming tale of two frenemies and their one-upmanship, A Fictional Fable Of Ptolemy Throck and Bobby Piptwitch will delight children of all ages, and please their guardians too! With absorbing artwork, charismatic and crafty characters, palaverous and periphrastic pleonastic narrative and dialogue, the Fictional Fables series will appeal to fans of Victorian-era compositions as well as contemporary retroists!

Review:

Subtle is the name of the game here. 

I appreciated the way the narrator gently shared the message of Ptolemy’s adventure. He learned an important lesson along the way, but it was shared in such a way that the reader gradually realized what was happening at the same time he did. The storyline revealed certain facts along the way, but there never so much of a whiff of moralizing about it. Rather, the characters naturally grew and changed as a result of their experiences. That is a breath of fresh air in this genre, and I can only hope it becomes a much more common way to show readers the possible positive effects of their actions if they make certain choices in life. 

While I completely understand that this tale was written in a Victorian style that is rarely used in modern picture books, the vocabulary in it made it difficult for me to determine who the audience was and who I should be recommending it to. There were multiple words that many contemporary adults don’t know the definitions of, much less the early grade school audience I believe this was written for based on the content of the plot itself. If the target audience was clearer, I would have chosen a higher rating. 

With that being said, the subtext of this story was marvellous. Ptolemy might have appeared to be a fairly straightforward character at first, but there were more layers to his personality and understanding of social nuance than I first assumed. My favourite scene happened at the end when the audience finally gets a peek behind his happy-go-lucky persona. This was one of the major reasons why I assumed this was actually meant for adults and confused by how it was marketed. 

If you enjoy mature picture books with multiple layers of meanings, A Fictional Fable Of Ptolemy Throck and Bobby Piptwitch is a good place to start. 

 

What Bears Do in the Woods: A Review of The Ursus Verses

Title: The Ursus Versus Author: Nathan Waddell Publisher: Self-Published Publication Date: October 29, 2020 Genres: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Young Adult Length: 66 pages Source: I purchased it. Rating: 5 Stars Blurb: Do you like bears and black holes and squid monsters and dragons and cowboy dragon slayers and riding your bike all around town looking… Read More