Review: Shadow Girl

Shadow GirlShadow Girl by Kate Ristau (Not a Pipe Publishing, February 2018)

I received an advance review ebook from the publisher.

This book begins in a strange place. No, literally, with main character Áine (pronounced ON-ya) crossing from the world she knows into the mysterious and dangerous Shadowlands. I didn’t know where I was or what was happening, but Ristau’s writing is so assured that I could relax and enjoy the ride.

In a neat reversal on the usual fairy story, Áine comes from the Aetherlands, a place of magic and immortality where Oberon and Titania are real, and her crossing brings her into 21st century Ireland, the land of her long-ago birth. She’s searching for answers about her parents and the traumatic events that led to her own disappearance from the human world. That part of the story is serious, sad, and scary. The mood is lightened by Hennessy, the human girl who attaches herself to Áine as sidekick, tour guide, friend, maybe more than friend. There’s a lot of humor to be had in the person-from-another-world plot, but it’s not overdone. The growing affection between the two girls is touching and real; they have chemistry, above and beyond their willingness to sacrifice for each other. This budding relationship is complicated by Áine’s loyalty and fondness for her childhood friend Ciaran, who makes his own dramatic entrance into the story.

Ristau writes dialogue without explicit dialect, yet I could hear the Irish in it. That’s a magic touch. She brings folklore to life in the experiences of a character who feels like a real person. Áine has magic, too, but it’s not reliable and she has to work at it, which adds to the suspense. I was not ready for the (cliffhanger) end to this book and look forward to the next exciting episode.

Available in Kindle, paperback, and hardcover here.

Review: Treacle and Other Twisted Tales

Treacle coverTreacle and Other Twisted Tales by Yvonne Marjot (Crooked Cat Books, 2017)

The stories in this excellent collection consist of familiar tales retold in new settings, or new tales inspired by familiar folk tale patterns. They are told in language that feels timeless and exactly right. As promised in the title, each comes with a twist: of humor, of horror, of unexpected magic.

“Aurora in Tatters” presents an Arctic Cinderella who makes her own choice. “Treacle” presents an apparently cozy and humorous situation, but watch out for that twist! “Imago,” set in an entomology lab, uses the language of moth life cycles to illustrate the end of life. “Maryika’s Journey” and “Maryika’s Christmas” follow a contemporary woman into Russian folktales. (I first encountered “Maryika’s Journey” in Paws and Claws, an animal-themed charity collection from Cake & Quill, in which work of mine also appears.) “Five Stay Home for Christmas” centers on a group of women with dogs and their plans for Christmas with no family commitments.

These are only a few of the gems in this volume. I recommend taking time to savor each one, though it’s hard not to gobble them like popcorn, as I did.