Stories edited by MJ Kobernus, Poetry edited by Katie Metcalfe
Review by Leena Naidoo
Editor's Note: I wasn't quite sure what to expect when Once Upon A Blog was offered a review copy of this book, but I have to say I found this anthology of short stories and poetry to be right up my alley and very much worth my time. I'll leave it to Leena to give you the lowdown, but suffice it to say, I personally recommend this book for people interested in Nordic folklore and fairy tales and will be on the lookout for upcoming books in the series. (Stay tuned for opportunities to contribute to upcoming volumes!)
Volume One of the Northlore Series is a modern collection of Scandinavian Folktales, told in new and often surprising ways. With humour, drama and and more than a little tension, you will be drawn into a world of Trolls and Huldr, Elves and Mara. We live in a world full of hidden creatures, if you have the eye to see them. And if you don't, the wonderful illustrations contained in the book should help! The book itself has mystical significance as 33 is a magic number. Is it a coincidence that there are 33 inspired contributions? Well, yes, actually, it probably is. Welcome to the Northlore series. Poetry and prose inspired by Scandinavian Folklore. In turns funny, horrifying, sexy and sad, what you seek is within. Warning! Do NOT feed the animals.
Mention Scandinavian folklore and I think of snow, Vikings, trolls, magic, and Norse gods. They have a distinct sense of humor, a certain amount of gore, and offer a glimpse into the human condition. Northlore, an unusual anthology of short stories and poems, delivers on all these points—except for the gods. Don't expect dragons, trips to Valhalla, or rescues of those under enchantment or stolen by elves. Instead, you might find the reason Grandma warned you about that, or why Mother might have acted so. Or the possible fate of an ill-informed tourist…
Here are just a few highlights of this collection:
Hold the Door, by Sarah Lyn Eaton, makes for an excellent beginning. With a strong voice, we are introduced to images of the terrors and cold of the Northern darkness, and the magic just beyond the threshold. Here we learn of the practicalities of Norse winters, where safety, food and warmth come first. It's a wonderful story of a new shield maiden's bravery when facing a magical adversary.
There are selkies too. A slightly twisted modern version in Between Two Worlds, by Claire Casey, was, without a doubt, one of my favorites. Set in modern day Kirkwall, Orkney; it reminded me of my visit there. Though I didn't see any selkies myself, it's easy to believe that, had I met one, I too could have stolen its coat and accepted the consequences...
Gustave Trolle — a strange, satisfying tale of a cursed man — was one I did not expect to enjoy, but ended up finding extremely intriguing. At first, it seems a bit of history about a Bishop. It grows into a modern urban fantasy and ends in what may one day be a fable. I would never have considered a troll in this way before, and will now have to redefine my concept of them.
Haute Cuisine, by Gregg Chamberlain, is a delightful tale of a three-headed troll. It's a bit of silliness best read over a glass of pre-dinner wine, or told with a twinkle in your eye.
A northern collection would be incomplete without the dark and horrifying. Northlore's most terrifying story features draugrs — vengeful, almost indestructible undead — perhaps the forerunners of modern zombies. Although other nightmarish creatures are plentiful, they are well balanced by the light-hearted. Enter modern Huldufolk (hidden folk of Iceland), with their bewitchment and elfish ways, all seeming dependent on us humans for love and understanding. Other stories read like X-Files, with ancient creatures meeting modern spelunkers, fabled beings mating with city journos; and things that go bump in city-central apartments.
In addition to short tales, this anthology contains poetry, some of it haunting, like Fossegrim. Others, like Mara, My Love, draw more from fairy tales or the Otherworld — trolls, witches, nightmares, magic, ancestry — they are all there.
Even with the sometimes unusual editing (due to some of the authors being non-native English speakers), I found Northlore well-written with a diverse range of voices and talented storytellers. I will happily add this anthology to my ever-growing collection of fairy tales from around the world. There are a few gems I'd like to revisit from time to time, and I like the way the traditional is married with the modern.
Recommended to: Fans of The X-Files, those curious about modern Nordic (especially Icelandic) fairy tales, and those looking for alternatives to Grimm and Perrault.
Disclosure: A complimentary copy of the book was sent to the reviewer in exchange for an honest review.
Leena Naidoo lives in South Africa and has loved fairy tales ever since her mum used to tell her old Scottish stories. Her own stories draw on Gaelic and Scandinavian tales and can be found under her pen name, Anushka Haakonson, at www.smashwords.
com/profile/view/ AnushkaHaakonson . Her all time favorite fairytale is East of the Sun, West of the Moon, which she fell in love with when she read Dianna Wynne Jones' Fire and Hemlock. Her is blog is called Inbetweener https:// leennanaidoo.wordpress.com.