REVIEW: July 9, 2018

“I captured them in oils or watercolous, appropriate to their nature.”

Father Noe’s Bestiary, by Jody Lynn Nye.

The amazing people at my local secondhand bookstore brought in a stack of about a dozen anthologies for me, which made me smile for far too long. Among them was the book containing today’s story: Creature Fantastic, edited by Denise Little. Within the pages are more than fifteen short stories from 2001, all containing some sort of fantastical creature, as the name suggests. It was impossible to hold in in my hands and not buy it. If you would like your own copy, there’s at least one on Amazon here, though I’d recommend you check your own local bookstore, first.

In Father Noe’s Bestiary, Father Noe is a priest who claims he is a very old wizard. Having moved into to a less than favourable part of town, he is loved by all in the neighbourhood for his peaceful demeanour and, of course, his paintings of rare and mythical creatures of all kinds. But there may be more than he’s willing to let on to the protagonist, a young girl named Kinsie that often visits him.

I want to be upfront and say that this story is a bit dated with some of its terms and language–but I don’t think it detracts from the telling at all. It simply sets the times. Actually, it’s rather descriptive without going over the top. The neighbourhood and Father Noe’s shop and home are wonderfully visual, yet reading it, I didn’t get bogged down in any unnecessary details.

The story itself was quite charming. A little predictable–okay, pretty predictable–but nonetheless, it was quaint. It reminded me of the kind of stories I used to enjoy as a kid when I was around Kinsie’s age. If I had read this when it had first come out, I would have been absolutely swept away by it. Reading it now, I don’t think my imagination gets so easily involved these days. Though I think that says something about my own life as an adult reader, rather than Nye’s writing.

I’m still a little torn on the ending, as well. It was cute, hopeful, idealistic. Pretty much everything was resolved, but still, something about it just feels off. I want to make it clear that I did enjoy it, it just felt a little too good, a little too pure. Again, however, maybe I’m just a bit more jaded than I realized in my adulthood.

Overall, I’m going to give this one a 4 out of 5. Even though I am a bitter old man in the brain, I’m an optimistic child at heart, and I really did get a little carried away reading this, as much as my pride doesn’t want me to admit it. I’d recommend this one if you like friendly old wizards that actually are nice, and I especially recommend it to anyone who’s fond of dragons and happy endings.

Jody Lynn Nye has many books, which you can find listed here on her website. She also has a twitter right here.

If there’s one thing you could preserve forever–or at least, for longer than your own lifetime–what would it be?

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REVIEW: July 2, 2018

“Something’s in there, crawling around inside.”

Rat King, by Lia Swope Mitchell.

I might be bending the definition of fantasy a little with this horror story, but I’d like to think it’s inexplicable enough to qualify. It comes from Pseudopod, and is the first story in episode 501, with two more stories following it. I may examine the other two in the future, but you can find them all here in the meantime.

In this piece of flash fiction, the narrator speaks to the audience as a character. What he speaks about is the specialized service that he provides: he takes dark secrets and keeps them safe inside of him. He goes into great detail about the process, and, in order to convince the audience to go along with his work, offers evidence.

First things first, I want to take my hat off to Rish Outfield’s narration. His voice, and his cadence, really sell the narrator as a character. Of course, the author’s narrative voice provides the foundation for him to spring from. Without Mitchell’s excellent sense of word choice and flow, I don’t think Outfield’s skill would have stood out as much.

The keystone behind this story’s quality is, I believe, the descriptions the narrator gives. The details are so vivid and grotesque that certain images remain in my mind’s eye, even from when I first listened to this tale over a year ago. And that is something I find impressive. There aren’t many tales that have such strong visual quality to them, but this is definitely one of them.

The plot itself is also done in an interesting way. We only know what the narrator is telling us–and he knows far too much, yet gives just enough information that you know exactly what’s going on and why the audience is there.

Once again, I have to admit my bias as a fan of horror and creepy tales such as this one. But even if you don’t like being scared, I think a lot of people can enjoy this one because it’s not scary. It’s just good, and a bit gross in an effective way. And although it’s short, the length works for it, not the other way around, and so I give it a firm 5 out of 5.

If you enjoyed this tale and want more by Lia Swope Mitchell, you can find her on her website here, and she has a list of where you can find her other works here. She also has a twitter, which you can find and follow here if you’re interested.

Obviously I won’t be asking you what dark secret you’d like to be free of. But would you ever take on someone else’s dark secrets?