Review by Knicky Laurel
Author name: The Random Writers
Book Title: Stalking Leviathan: A Bestiary of Tales
The Synopsis: “It’s out there. I can feel it in my water. I can hear it…”
Twelve tales go in search of creatures of myth, legend, and the spaces between the real and the imagined. From the overwhelming confusion of the Irish Civil War to the eerie expanse of modern day Bodmin Moor; from Elizabethan England to the skies above Persia, the Random Writers quest for an answer to the question – What is the nature of the beast?
Length: 198 pages
Release date: September 27, 2016
Available formats: Paperback and eBook from Amazon
For the beast from which your careful order once sprang has returned to devour it whole. The name of that beast is Myth and Stalking Leviathan: A Bestiary of Tales, its hunting ground. I finished reading this third anthological instalment from The Random Writers a few days ago. It is a menagerie of the more obscure creatures of legend and lore. Everything from unicorns to chimeras to harpies is here, hidden between the pages, within stories of power, fantasy and intrigue. To quote a favoured line of mine: “Stepping into the enormous morning” of such an ambitious effort to weave words into new wonders, I found myself truly excited to see what gifts the writers would offer us this time and theme around.
It goes without saying that there is something here for everyone to enjoy. I also think it fair to say that it was a challenge to not compare this anthology with the one that preceded it. The truth of the matter is this collection of stories felt … slightly rushed to me, and resonated less with me than the one it followed. It didn’t seem as strong or to have the same tight finish as Something Rich and Strange. However, that is not to say there weren’t some pieces within it by which I was awakened and entranced, and it is on these I’ll focus.
I really enjoyed My Sister’s Shadow. Despite most everything being alluded to rather than openly stated – perhaps even because of this – I found it powerful and haunting. Written as journal entries in a strong, modern blogger’s voice, this story captures the spirit of Japanese culture to perfection and felt akin to reading manga or watching an anime in my mind. It is a tale of nature’s supremacy and dominion over human progress, its demand for human respect, and a vivid and fantastic opening to this anthology.
There was some great imagery in Kestrel and the Cryptonites, “a soft ethereal green that shimmered like the underside of leaves on a breezy day”, for example, and some fun lore in the existence of female wizards and the distinction between them and witches. The Pitcher Plant was spooky and well-written and any disappointment felt in the somewhat anticlimactic ending only serves to denote the degree to which I was invested in the story, and to which my expectations of some kind of face-off and resolution between the main character and the creature went unfulfilled.
Black Dog was also well-done; stellar story-telling and use of metaphor to depict the battle against depression as a monstrous, predatory shadow in the night, and how sometimes it takes an unforeseen force of good from beyond this earthly realm to beat back that darkness and pull one’s self into the sunlight. I thought The Bone Children and the Darkness was another beautifully-written piece as well, in which both madness and the interplay of love and fear felt convincing and true-to-life, uncomfortably so.
The Hounds of God was really strong too, from its opening imagery to its likeable, fun-to-read main character to its terrific use of language throughout. Honorable mention goes to both The Child of the Ghillie Dhu and Keep My Name Amongst the Dead, the former for its faerie tale feeling, the latter for its exotic flavor, and both for reminding me why I’ve loved stories all of my life. Here is the haunt of mythic beasts, beasts that stalk us, beasts we stalk in turn. Here is where they roam and hide and wait, between the pages, within the stories, to devour the careful order of civilization itself and in so doing, remind us who we are.
“The rice fields are old mirrors and the air is heavy with pollen.” – My Sister’s Shadow, Lorraine Wilson.
Overall Orb Rating
3.5 Orbs (rounded up to 4) – Shipshaped (I enjoyed the journey)
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