Tag Archives: #Ghosts

Aaron, Rachel: The Spirit War (Eli Monpress) (2012)

Miranda and Gin by Minna Sundberg

The Spirit War” is book no. 4 in the story about Eli Monpress, the cleverest thief in the world. Eli lives in a world where magic is based upon the cooperation with spirits that live inside all things. Although full of action and deception, all four books are light-hearted. Aaron writes well and brings her characters spirit and verve.

About the book: All Eli Monpress wanted was the biggest bounty in the world. He never meant to have obligations, or friends, but master swordsman Josef Leichten and Nico, the daughter of the dead mountain, have saved Eli’s life too many times to be called anything else. And when a friend upsets your plans and ruins all your hard work, what’s a thief to do?

After years of running from his birthright, Josef is forced to return home and take up his title as prince. War is coming for humans and spirits between the Immortal Empress and the Council of Thrones, and Josef’s little island is right in the middle. But conquest isn’t the Empress’s only goal, she has a personal vendetta against a certain thief.

What started as a simple side trip to help a friend is rapidly turning into the most dangerous job of Eli’s career, but he can’t back out now, not when Josef needs him. But when you’re under attack from all sides, even the world’s greatest thief can find himself cornered, and it’s going to take all the fast talking Eli can muster to survive the next few days.

Gaiman, Neil: The Graveyard Book (2008)

Graveyard Book McKean 2.jpg
Bod in the graveyard. Art By Dave McKean

Neil Gaiman is another of my favorite authors. Each story I have read has captivated me. The Graveyard Book flows and left me with a sense of having enjoyed something wonderful. His texts lend themselves to being read out loud, and they would be fun and interesting for both reader and readee. However, reading to yourself is just as enjoyable. This is a Children’s story, but it is definitely not for the very young. Perhaps at least 8 years old due to some of the violence.

Nobody, or Bod as he is called, is a loveable boy. He’s completely believable and the characters around him are fascinating. I love his “mom” and “dad”. What a place to grow up and what friends to have. Like any kid, Bod accepts the world around him just as it is. His unusual childhood prepares him for whatever comes his way. I wish I could be more like him. Accepting people for what they are rather than what I think they are would be an incredible gift.


The Graveyard Book is available in four versions:

  1. The children’s version, illustrated by Chris Riddell;
  2. The adult version, illustrated by Dave McKean and
  3. The slipcased edition, illustrated by Dave McKean.
  4. Read by Neil Gaiman

The Graveyard Book won the Newbery Medal, Hugo Award for Best Novel, Locus Award for Best Young Adult Novel and the Carnegie Medal for 2009. It was also nominated for the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel and World Fantasy Award for Best Novel for 2009.

Damsgaard, Shirley: The Witch is Dead (2007)

The Witch Is Dead (Ophelia and Abby Mysteries)“The Witch is Dead” is part of the Ophelia and Abby mysteries. This is the only one of them that I’ve read. Even though it is the 6th book in the series, I had no problem figuring out what was going on. It’s always nice when authors manage to write stand-alone books.

I found Damsgaard’s writing pretty good. She kept the action coming and her characters, especially Aunt Dot, likeable. The baddies were not a given from the start. As I’m one of those terrible people who reads the last few pages right after the first chapter, I knew who they were. I find reading books more enjoyable if I’ve read the ending quite early on.

As a mystery The Witch worked. At times it was a bit off in its rhythm. For the most part it followed a Christierian formula. Violence wise it was the same. It’s refreshing when writers avoid splattering guts and blood all over my pages.

“Psychic librarian Ophelia Jensen has an exciting life––solving supernatural mysteries with her Grandmother Abby and her adopted teenage daughter, Tink, who also happens to be a medium. But, all Ophelia really wants is to create some normalcy and routine. When Ophelia’s elderly Great–Aunt Dot comes to Summerset, Iowa, for a visit and is out from the watchful eye of her older sister, Dot is determined to find a little fun and excitement, too.

Barraclough, Lindsey: Long Lankin (2011)

Long Lankin - Lindsey Barraclough

Lamkin, Bold Lamkin, Bold Lantern, Bolakin, False Linfinn and Long Lankin are some of the titles belonging to the story of the mason who builds a castle, is cheated of his fee and who then exacts a bloody revenge (A.L. Lloyd). I have included below what is thought to be the original ballad along with one of the musical interpretations of the story.

Long Lankin is Lindsey Barraclough’s first novel. Whatever hiccups it might suffer from are compensated by Barraclough’s excellent prose. For a new author her flow was a delight.

Horror stories are not my forte simply because I am too easily frightened by authors stringing words together in that manner, but Long Lankin is within my endurance limit. Barraclough’s ability to convey the creepiness and uneasiness of the horror story did affect me in the manner the author probably intended.

During their stay at great-auntie Ida’s, Cora and Mimi encounter a mystery of terrible dimensions. As all children ought, Cora and Mimi venture into places they should not. Auntie Ida has not explained why they need to stay away from certain places, thinking to spare them from a terrible truth. Even though I promised myself that I would never do such a thing to my own children, I too have been guilty of doing underestimating them. Auntie Ida is going to discover what I did. Telling the truth is generally the wisest.

With their new friends, Peter and Roger, the four children set out to explore the church and the graveyard, and our horror story begins. Cora is the hero of this story. She is the one who is responsible for looking after her little sister. This is the age-old duty of older siblings. But keeping Mimi safe becomes increasingly difficult.

Cora and Mimi become embroiled in the history of the village, the history of the church and the history of their Auntie’s old house Guerdon Hall. Some places are the perfect settings for a horror tale. Old manors struggling to keep themselves together would qualify in my mind. Another such location can be old churches and graveyards, perhaps even forests and marshes. Long Lankin has three of these: Guerdon Hall, of course. The church close to the house and the nearby marsh.

Choices may have far-reaching consequences, sometimes centuries into the future. Everything has a cost. Payment must be made one way or another. Friendship, family, loss, grief can be some of the price extracted. Cora and Mimi coming to stay with Auntie Ida happens to be one of these long-term costs. I love the way Barraclough brings the old ballad into her story in tiny drips along the way. The Lay of Lambert Lanikin is frightening enough on its own. Add the terror of the future that Barraclough shares, and we can all huddle under our covers waiting for the wolf under our bed to jump onto it.

What a creepy good time I had!

Exactly what age group this falls into is difficult to say. According to the author, she did not have a particular age group in mind when she wrote Long Lankin.


Reviews:


Long Lamkin, 2008; By Wong Mei Sheong;
Long Lamkin, 2008;
By Wong Mei Sheong;
Thought to be the original version
Belinkin was as gude a mason
As e’er pickt a stane;
He built up Prime Castle,
But payment gat nane.
The lord said to his lady,
5 When he was going abroad,
“O beware of Belinkin,
For he lyes in the wood.”
The gates they were bolted,
Baith outside and in;
10 At the sma’ peep of a window
Belinkin crap in.
“Gude morrow, gude morrow,”
Said Lambert Linkin.
“Gude morrow to yoursell, sir,”
15 Said the fause nurse to him.
“O whare is your gude lord?”
Said Lambert Linkin.
“He’s awa to New England,
To meet with his king.”
20 “O where is his auld son?
Said Lambert Linkin.
“He’s awa to buy pearlings,
Gin our lady ly in.”
“Then she’ll never wear them,”
25 Said Lambert Linkin.
“And that is nae pity,”
Said the fause nurse to him.
“O where is your lady?”
Said Lambert Linkin.
30 “She’s in her bouir sleepin’,”
Said the fause nurse to him.
“How can we get at her?”
Said Lambert Linkin.
“Stab the babe to the heart
35 Wi’ a silver bo’kin.”
“That wud be a pity,”
Said Lambert Linkin.
“Nae pity, nae pity,”
Said the fause nurse to him.
40 Belinkin he rocked,
And the fause nurse she sang,
Till a’ the tores o’ the cradle
Wi’ the red blude down ran.
“O still my babe, nurice,
45 O still him wi’ the knife.”
“He’ll no be still, lady,
Tho’ I lay down my life.”
“O still my babe, nurice,
O still him wi’ the kame.”
50 “He’ll no be still, lady,
Till his daddy come hame.”
“O still my babe, nurice,
O still him wi’ the bell.”
“He’ll no be still, lady,
55 Till ye come down yoursell.”
“It’s how can I come doun,
This cauld frosty nicht,
Without e’er a coal
Or a clear candle licht?”
60 “There’s twa smocks in your coffer,
As white as a swan;
Put ane o’ them about you,
It will shew you licht doun.”
She took ane o’ them about her,
65 And came tripping doun;
But as soon as she viewed,
Belinkin was in.
“Gude morrow, gude morrow,”
Said Lambert Linkin.
70 “Gude morrow to yoursell, sir,”
Said the lady to him.
“O save my life, Belinkin,
Till my husband come back,
And I’ll gie ye as much red gold
75 As ye’ll haud in your hat.”
“I’ll not save your life, lady,
Till your husband come back,
Tho’ you wud gie me as much red gold
As I could haud in a sack.
80 “Will I kill her?” quo’ Belinkin,
“Will I kill her, or let her be?”
“You may kill her,” said the fause nurse,
“She was ne’er gude to me;
And ye’ll be laird o’ the Castle,
85 And I’ll be ladye.”
Then he cut aff her head
Fra her lily breast bane,
And he hung ‘t up in the kitchen,
It made a’ the ha’ shine.
90 The lord sat in England A-drinking the wine:
“I wish a’ may be weel
Wi’ my lady at hame;
For the rings o’ my fingers
95 They’re now burst in twain!”
He saddled his horse,
And he came riding doun;
But as soon as he viewed,
Belinkin was in.
100 He hadna weel stepped
Twa steps up the stair,
Till he saw his pretty young son
Lying dead on the floor.
He hadna weel stepped
105 Other twa up the stair,
Till he saw his pretty lady
Lying dead in despair.
He hanged Belinkin
Out over the gate;
110 And he burnt the fause nurice,
Being under the grate.

Tores. The projections or knobs at the corners of old-fashioned cradles, and the ornamented balls commonly found surmounting the backs of old chairs. Motherwell.


 

 Sites of interest:

 

Kay, Guy Gavriel: Under Heaven (2010)

Under Heaven

Under Heaven affected me profoundly. I believe it was the depth of Shen Tai’s mourning for his father and his offering to his father’s spirit that moved me most. Imagine setting yourself the task of burying all the bones from a battle twenty years past in order that those spirits might find peace. A more appropriate place for restless spirits than a battleground I cannot imagine.

Kay went on to say that he’s interested in how the course of a person’s life can change in a moment, and how “small moments and events can ripple outwards.” Whether it’s an individual or the life of a people, he pointed out, “significant consequences can begin very inconsequentially. That’s one thing that fascinates me. The other thing that fascinates me is how accident can undermine something that’s unfolding, something that might have played out differently otherwise.”

To Kay, “the human condition is redolent with this aspect of randomness, and I try to work that into all of my books.” (CBC Books)

The choices Shen Tai, his older brother and their younger sister, Shen Li-Mei, make end up having both intended and to a great extent unintended consequences. All three discover that assistance and opposition comes in many forms and sometimes from unexpected quarters.

In this story there aren’t any really bad people. There are mainly just people with the regular gamut of human emotions and with varying degrees of ability to do something about their desires. While the Tang Dynasty was a better place for women than the ones before it, women held less room in society than men. As with most places in the world today, women had to be a lot more creative in their maneuvering than men did. Their accepted roles were also very different from the one men were able to hold. To become a warrior like Wei Song, one who even guarded a man, was not something that was open to most women (much like today).

Reading about the role of women was both a painful process but also a delight. Delightful because of the intelligent and brave women I got to meet and painful due to the few changes that have happened in the world when it comes to the roles of women and how true their power is.

Under Heaven is a fairly dark story. Considering the times and the rebellion it portrays that is no wonder. I am trying to decide if I would call it dark fantasy, but I don’t know if that would be appropriate. I love its complexity and many threads that all come together one way or another in the end. What an awful race we humans are. It really is rather sad to see us revealed in all our terrible glory. Under Heaven was an intensely touching book that left me thankful for having found it. According to the author, his goal in writing is to keep the reader turning pages. It worked.


Reviews:


Women of the Tang Dynasty

Song Dynasty (the Kitai Empire in Under Heaven)

An Shi Rebellion (simplified Chinese: 安史之乱)

Hua Mulan (Chinese: 花木蘭): female warrior

Uyghur Khaganate


  • Winner of the 2011 Sunburst Award for Adult Litterature
  • Nominated for the 2011 World Fantasy Best Novel
  • Nominated for the 2011 Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature