The Black Lion of Forbes (The John Swale Chronicles)

The Black Lion of Forbes (The John Swale Chronicles #5)
By: David Pilling
Musa Publishing 2012
an historical fiction review


The Black Lion of Forbes destroyed John Swale’s ancestral home and thrust the survivors onto different life tracks.  This piece of David Pilling’s saga introduces Richard Swale’s point of view and reveals what became of John’s missing sister Margaret.

Centered on flashbacks of The Black Lion of Forbes’ attack, this book includes a lot of graphic detail, necessary to understanding the drastic consequences of that night.  This work is all about revealing the Swale siblings and connecting their present positions to their shared tragedy with John, like showing the same light source reflected in different colors of glass.  It’s a skilled short story that expands the horizons of The John Swale Chronicles into new environments, while intensifying the personal, emotional world of John’s family.

Horse, Flower, Bird

Horse, Flower, Bird

By: Kate Bernheimer


Coffee House Press 2010

A fairy tale anthology review

Horse, Flower, Bird contains eight original fairy tales for adults by Kate Bernheimer.  Through birds, dolls, flowers, and even Star Wars, Bernheimer discusses humanity in artful curves and colors.  These tales are like the hilt of a knife-hidden behind brightness and intent, but revealed when the deed is done.  They connect the danger of the future with motivations from the past and give the present a thrill.  Above all, they show the hidden edges and fickleness of the things we hold onto.  No matter what is lost-imaginary friends, caretakers, or poems, they leave a story for our minds to cling to, to keep up with who we are in life’s shifting sands.  Like older fairy tales, Bernheimer’s illustrate the importance of these tales we live, with all their beauty and perils.

Horse, Flower, Bird speaks of people as if there is no normal and of ordinary things as if all their meanings are true.  Two sisters playing a game can be as poignant as a woman in a cage.  A secret petting zoo can show human depths as deftly as a woman melding her mind to a room in the woods.  This book is short, the tales eager to be read and easy to come back to.  Like all true fairy tales, these can haunt, soothe, or invite cogitation.  When you feel up for a mysterious journey, this is a good book to turn to and a good work to return to.  I highly recommend it for lovers of older, darker fairy tales.