Two sort of quick reviews of books I read in the last couple of weeks. One is a fairy tale that is pretty gruesome and could be considered horror by some. The second is a collection of short stories set in Ireland and based on irish folklore.
Into The Bloodred Woods by Martha Brockenbrough
Published: November 2, 2021
Summary from GoodReads:
Once upon a time there was a kingdom and a forest that liked to eat men and a girl who would change everything, but not alone . . .
There’s no such thing as once upon a time.
In a far away land, populated by were beasts and surrounded by a powerful forest, lies a kingdom about to be sent into chaos. On his deathbed, King Tyran divides his land, leaving half to each of his two children-so they’ll rule together. However, his son, Albrecht, is not satisfied with half a kingdom. And even though his sister, Ursula, is the first born, he decides that as a girl and were bear, she is unfit to rule. So he invades her land, slaughtering her people and most of the were beasts, and claims it for himself. As King Albrecht builds his iron rule and an army of beasts to defend his reign, Ursula is gathering the survivors and making plans to take back the kingdom. Not just her half-the whole thing. Because Albrecht should have never been allowed to sit on the throne, and Ursula is going to take his crown. And if he’s not careful, he might not get to keep his head either.
This was a much darker and gruesome read than I was expecting. Towards the end there is quite a bit more graphic violence and animal cruelty than I typically like in my reading. About half way through the book, the plot kind of got murky and disjointed and the ending also ended up being a little vague and rushed. But I don’t want to focus on the negatives, there were some things that I quite enjoyed about the story.
I quite liked all of the allusions to the Grimm Fairy Tales and most of them were woven into the story quite nicely. Most of the characters were based on one of the old stories but at times that wasn’t apparent right away. I did like most of the characters and I found the were characters interesting and how their stories were woven into the narrative. I think Hans was my favorite of all of them. He was extremely brave and courageous even with everything he endured growing up. There were times that I liked Ursula as well, but she was often kind of whiney and naive as to what was really going on. Albrecht I disliked almost from the start and came to loathe him by the end of the book. He was extremely cruel and quite the tyrant. Not sure he got what he deserved in the end.
If you are looking for a bright and cheerful fairy tale, this is definitely a book you want to skip. But if you think the original Grimm Tales are perfect in all of their gruesomeness than this is one you might want to pick up.
Irish Gothic by Ronald Kelly
Publication Date: February 20, 2021
Summary from GoodReads:
Ireland… Sweet Erin…The Emerald Isle. In the bright and bonnie light of day, it is a place of beauty, history, and good humor. Of rolling green hills and stone walls at every step of a mile. A kind blessing for health and happiness, and a pint in your hand at the village pub… as well as the sound of fife and fiddle, the lilting tune of laughter, and the cheerful dance of a jig.
But, as the sun takes leave and dusk descends, deep shadows and the dank of an evening mist claim the Land of Saints. Within the cloak of night, boogies and beasties roam the moors, keen for the echo of lonesome footsteps and the alluring scent of fear and dread. Banshee, selkie, leprechaun, and fairy alike. The restless spirit of the Sluagh and the bestial form of the werewolf, hungry and on the prowl.
I really liked this short collection of tales based on the folklore of Ireland. I wouldn’t call most of them horror though there were a couple that were a wee bit disturbing. Here are my quick feelings and about each story.
Flanagan’s Bride: I liked this one though it was a bit disturbing. A group of mates are shocked when one of their own decides to marry. For some reason they decide that they are going to gang rape his bride, but are astounded when she turns out to be not what they are expecting.
The Wee Village: This was one of my favorites and had a bit of a surprise ending. There is a small village that every once in awhile are visited by a race of giants that steal many of the inhabitants. I quite liked the dual perspectives of what was really going on in this one.
Diabhal’s Timepiece: This was one of my favorites. I really liked the idea of a grandfather clock from hell, that kept the track of the “eternity of pain and regret”. The clock shows up at a home and the story is about how they try to keep it from going back to hell. It was a little slow moving, but a really interesting tale.
O’Sheehan! : This story was set in more modern times, and had to do with a Sherlock Holmes type character that was in charge of solving mysteries that involved the Fae and other creatures. This one was a bit disjointed and didn’t really seem to go anywhere, but I did enjoy the creatures that they met.
Postcard from Kilkenny: This one was about a vampire who needed his kins blood to continue living. Graham hears from an uncle who he hasn’t seen or heard from since he was six, and had assumed was dead. He goes to Kilkenny to meet up with this supposed Uncle and learns that there have been some murders in the area. He doesn’t want to believe in vampires, but when confronted by his uncle he doesn’t know what to think.
A Fine Wake for Nana Ferree: This was definitely my favorite. Full of scary scenes and a body snatcher. It was one of the shorter stories, but really thrilling in its execution.
The Spawn of Arget Bethir: A werewolf story that was quite good. I liked how the lore of the Beast was intertwined with a ghost story at the end. This one was also perhaps the scariest of the bunch, and the saddest I think.