First published in 1872, this remarkable collection of stories includes such classics as Green Tea and Carmilla.
Each of the five stories are purported to be the cases of Dr. Hesselius; a ‘metaphysical’ doctor who is willing to consider ghosts both as both real and as hallucinations. The reader’s doubt and anxiety is meant to clearly mimic that of each story’s protagonist and so create the atmosphere of mystery that is the supernatural experience.
My dear reader, it pains me to end the year with a negative review but I’m afraid that is the way it will have to be.
I was unable to finish In a Glass Darkly and actually had to stop reading it out of sheer aggravation. The prose is so very purple and lurid that there were several times I had to reread a passage simply to try and make sense out of it. And more often than not, not being able to. While I am aware that Victorian writing styles vary greatly from the writing styles of today, I have read my share of books from that era and enjoyed quite a few.
Unfortunately, In a Glass Darkly is not one of them.
I believe I can understand what Le Fanu was trying to accomplish; however the efforts fall short. There is simply too much for the reader to try and digest. I cannot recommend this one, my dear readers, unless you are looking for something to put you to sleep.
Deep in the Russian wilderness, winter lasts most of the year. Hardy souls struggle to carve a life out in a place where the snowdrifts are often taller than the houses.
Young Vasilisa doesn’t mind. She was born to this wild place and happily spends many a winter night huddled around the fire with her siblings, listening to her nurse’s fairy tales. Of them all, the loves the story of Frost – the blue eyed winter demon who appears in the night to claim unwary souls. Wise is the person who fears him, her nurse says. And wise is the person who honors the spirits of house and yard and forest that protect their home from evil.
With Vasilisa’s mother dead, her father; in the realization that his young daughter needs a woman’s influence, marries again. Fiercely devout, the new stepmother forbids the family from keeping the old way and honoring the household spirits. The family acquiesces, but Vasilisa somehow senses that more hinges on the rituals than any one knows.
The Bear and the Nightingale is one of those books that reads like a fairy tale within a fairy tale. As a little girl, Vasilisa grew up on the stories and when she becomes a young woman she finds herself living one. She is the plucky, brave girl with the overbearing and sometimes cruel stepmother. She escapes to the woods or out to the barns where her only friends are animal or spirit. Her father and other siblings are well meaning but they are unfortunately clueless.
Though at times Vasilisa can come across as headstrong, one has to remember that she is a teenager and is reacting as such. Her world is changing, both internally and externally, and she is having to adjust.
Set during a time in history where Russia was undergoing changes both religiously and socially, Arden skillfully weaves a story incorporating these issues in how the characters react. Everyone’s reactions – their anger, their sadness, their fear – all have a realism about them that draws the reader in. The characters are well written and it is easy for one to form an attachment to one or more.
I personally enjoyed reading The Bear and the Nightingale and am looking forward to reading the next book in the series.
Warlock Holmes is back again! Sort of.
Warlock Holmes last adventure left him just a little…dead. Not one to let a little decay stop him, Holmes is determined to solve the cases that come to his door. Together, he and Watson will face the Pinkertons (the real ones), flesh-eating horses, a parliament of imps, boredom, Surrey, a disappointing butler demon, a succubus, a wicked lord, an overly-Canadian lord, a tricycle-fight to the death and even Moriarty himself.
Oh, and a hell hound, one assumes.
Back when I reviewed the first Warlock Holmes novel, I recall saying how much I enjoyed it. How Denning’s take on two so well known and well loved characters was incredibly done. And how I would be eagerly looking forward for the second (and subsequent) books in the series.
With the second book, I am pleased to say that Denning continues in the vein of the original. Taking two characters and their stories and turning them on their ear. Yet Denning also strays from Doyle’s stories, not in a way that detracts but in a way that adds and makes the characters truly original.
I am reminded of one of my other favorite authors – Terry Pratchett – taking what we know (or what we think we know) and making us see it from a different angle.
Once again Denning has taken the well known world of Sherlock Holmes for a joy ride. Like the first novel, I laughed my way through the pages and even shed a few tears. And again like the first novel, I recommend this one to all my readers – especially my fellow Holmes and Watson fans.