CM . . .
. Volume XV Number 6. . . .November 7, 2008
The Storyteller and Other Tales.
K. V. Johansen.
Sackville, NB: Sybertooth, 2008.
106 pp., pbk., $9.99.
Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.
Review by Ronald Hore.
The storyteller and her giant of a man came to the great wooden hall at Ulvsness when the last red light had faded from the roofs. She didn't look to be a skald, butterfly bright to show how lords had rewarded her: no gold at wrist and throat, no scrap of eastern silk. Her undyed tunic was overlarge and rolled up at the sleeves, her dark trousers patched at the knees. Even her long braid was the colour of bleached autumn grass. She was a drab moth of a woman, and, standing in the porch where guests would leave their weapons, that was the name she gave the doorwarden.
"Moth. A storyteller, from far away."
Young Ulfleif reached the porch in time to hear this, and stopped dead in her headlong rush. Something about the stranger prickled her spine. Maybe it was that she had a look of the last Queen, the grandmother Ulf barely remembered, who had either defied fate or served some grim foreknowledge to name her Ulfleif, wolf's heir.
A small trade paperback at only 106 pages, this book contains four short stories that cover the range from fantasy, to Arthurian, to historical fiction. Well-written, they ring true of the ages or backgrounds they represent. Each tale has a small black and white illustration on the opening page of the respective chapter.
The first story, of 28 pages is "The Storyteller." Staged in a Scandinavian or old Norse type of setting, it is a fantasy tale of Ulfleif, a young warrior princess who would rather play a lyre than carry a sword. Moth, the mysterious storyteller, performs before Ulfleif's sister, Ragnvor the Queen, and spins a yarn of demons, wizards, and long-buried Old Gods. Some things have not remained buried. Of course, the storyteller is more than she seems.
The second tale, "He-Redeems," is longer, at 35 pages. Instead of the far northlands, this story has a bronze-age civilization vaguely modelled on ancient Mesopotamia. The main characters are He-Redeems, First-Son, and Barley, all slaves in the service of the god Skarritha and his high priestess, the Divine Daughter. They are faced with a dilemma. Barley is pregnant by one of the two men and fearful that the baby will be a girl. Baby girls are put to death if there are too many in the household of the Divine Daughter. Human sacrifice is a practice in this culture, as is death to unbelievers or heretics. He-Redeems suffers a serious question of his faith and his service to Skarritha.
"The Inexorable Tide" is an Arthurian story of 19 pages. It is the tale of adultery and treachery leading to the fall of King Arthur as told by Merlyn's daughter, Nimiane. This is a fresh version of the old story of Mordred and Arthur with some inside secrets revealed as to who was really to blame for the collapse of that fabled kingdom.
The final tale in the book, "Anno Domini Nine Hundred and Ninety-One," is a departure from the others in that it is based on a confirmed historical event. In the year 991, a Saxon lord fought a futile battle against Norse raiders. The battle, "Malden," was described in an Old English poem. The author blends the telling of the battle with the ancient poem. The poem, itself, was translated from the original Anglo-Saxon Chronicle by the author. This is the shortest story at 11 pages in length.
In addition to these four stories, this volume contains a two page foreword by the author, a one-page author's bio, and a four page listing of other books by this publisher. Readers of fantasy or historical fiction will find something to enjoy within these tales of heroes and tragedies.
Ronald Hore, involved with writer's groups and writer's workshops for several years, retired from the business world in Winnipeg, MB.
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