Just Another Winter’s Tale (Anthology), Various

Rating: 4 Stars

Publisher: Self Published/Indie

Tags: Some LGBT (Some Not) Christmas/Winter/Snowy Fiction, Various Themes – Contemporary, Allegorical/Fantasy, YA, Classics Reimagining, Time Travel and Mummies 

Length: 94 Pages

Reviewer: Kazza K

Purchase At: amazon.com

Blurb:

Seven Christmassy tales from authors ‘Nathan Burgoine, Matthew Bright, Nicholas M. Campbell, Michael Thomas Ford, Roy Gill, Gene Hult and Paul Magrs.

Contains:
“Dolph,” by ‘Nathan Burgoine
“Dyke the Halls,” by Michael Thomas Ford
“The Most Beautiful Boy in the World,” by Gene Hult
“Klacky the Christmas Dragon,” by Paul Magrs
“Pawprints in the Snow: A Parallel Prelude,” by Roy Gill
“By Chance, in the Dark,” by Matthew Bright
“The Moving Wallpaper,” by Nicholas M. Campbell

Review:

1)Dolph – Nathan Burgoine

Dolph is an allegorical story about legendary sleigh-puller extraordinaire, Rudolph, who is, as we all remember, the butt of bullying because of difference. It’s also about Santa, the bringer of presents. Santa is the husband of Mrs Klaus, aka the Daughter of Father Time, who is the principal character in this story. It’s also about the associated magic of the night Santa can somehow, quite magically, deliver presents to the entire world. It’s the Daughter’s doing that enables the magic – without her time bending and shifting it couldn’t happen. Without her love of children and people it wouldn’t happen. But Rudolph, well, he’s the one that has a light within him that sees the different, the bullied – for Dolph knows about that too well – the downtrodden, the hurt, the people others may mock, ridicule, or treat badly. The light within him sees through the fog of a world in chaos, as it’s been on numerous times throughout history. As it is once again.

This is a Christmas tale of hope yet it made me shed tears because a) it was like a cheery carol that’s being sung in a haunting minor key and b) kindnesses are fewer and farther between these days. When someone, a reindeer in this case, goes out on a limb for the people standing on the outside of society, and that the Klaus’ support him, it’s a beautiful thing. Even if there are other people who don’t understand or appreciate it. There is so much more to this short story but the very imagery, the magical words conjured and placed together, the visceral nature of the story being told, the fantasy elements integrated into a paradigm real world means you have to read it to fully and personally appreciate it.

Klaus made bells and harnesses and a beautiful sleigh, and she wrapped timelessness in the ringing of the bells, so powerful that the air itself would hold still around their sound, and the reindeer could walk right up into the sky, their hoofs stepping on the edge of air made as solid as stone. And so it was she and Klaus would visit the world, all between an infant’s blink, and leave behind those wonderful treasures inside all those homes, for all the children.

It’s been a little while between a Nathan Burgoine story or book and me, more’s the pity for me because he really is an evocative writer of tales that touch your heart and soul.

2) Dyke the Halls – Michael Thomas Ford

Um. Okay. I can’t say this is technically badly written. The sentence structure is fine. It has a satirical vibe, but the satire didn’t work because the story came off as unenlightened lesbian (females in general) stereotypes and, well, insulting – Birkenstocks and overly touchy, complaining PC women driving Subarus, and more. What year am I in?

I really had hoped the title meant something pertinent going in, perhaps I’m simply plebeian and missed the author’s point. Perhaps not.

“Gingerbread person,” she repeated. “Not boy. Do they have sugar, butter, or eggs in them.”
“Yes, yes, and yes,” I said. “Why?”
“I don’t eat anything with animal products or processed sweeteners. No wheat, either.”
I glared at Anne over Hannah’s shoulder.

 

3)The Most Beautiful Boy in the World – Gene Hult 

Emily takes her new work friend to her parents’ house for Christmas lunch. Betty seems so bright and shiny and full of life. Her goal is love. Nothing more and nothing less. Betty feels love is underrated and sustaining, kind of like cashew chicken – poetic, I guess, when you’re eating at the local Chinese restaurant. Emily wants to be a photographer and wonders if love alone will make Betty truly happy – or independent – but Betty seems to be a believer.

Jon, Emily’s brother, is also home from San Francisco for Christmas and has his friend Aidan with him. Both girls see Aidan as gorgeous. Emily’s thoughts about Aidan are the title of the story. But Emily knows her brother is gay and Aidan is probably a serious guy for Jon if he’s home with him for Christmas. Emily and Jon’s family seemed to be a catalyst for a lot of feelings. Emily is right. Jon is happy. Emily is happy for him. Aidan just is, and Betty is not so much shiny as sharp and me-centric. Sometimes you never quite know what’s in people’s hearts, even if they say it’s love.

4) Klacky the Christmas Dragon – Paul Magrs

Well, if ever I wanted to give a fictional character a whinging award it might just go to Mandy. She feels her mother’s broken arm is a nuisance, that her mother is confused and wrong – Mandy’s mantra. Her husband and everyone else is annoying for enjoying Klacky the Dragon. Oh, and she is seemingly xenophobic. This story just didn’t take me anywhere I wanted to go because it was this side too short of joining the threads.

5) Paw Prints in the Snow – Roy Gill

This story takes place before and after two books in (what I believe is) a YA paranormal series. I have not read Daemon Parallel or Werewolf Parallel. I rarely read YA so I was behind the eight ball going into this story. All I can add is it’s a piecemeal Christmas lunch outside Cameron’s Gran’s house in the snow, and that there are older folk who disapprove of the noise they’re making. There are also memories coming back for, who I assume, is the primary character of this series- Cameron. It seems to be about whether they will become demon, a supernatural being, or remain human. Would they want to remain human or be other? It was nicely written but on it’s own, with no prior or overall context, there’s not much more I can say.

6) By Chance, in the Dark – Matthew Bright

This is a gay contemporary take on the oft reimagined A Christmas Carol, complete with a female and PoC drag queen representing the ghosts of Christmas future and present. Welcome to 2017.

In this version Ebenezer is gay, but has denied Jacob Marley as his lover. Scrooge’s son Tim is also gay but embraces his partner Robert – yes, Scrooge doth protest too much. Nice reading with a twist, not Oliver, where I felt like Patsy from AbFab and Mama Ru, from Drag Race, had decided to team up to give this Scrooge his timely reminder. This was a sassy and fun take of a classic.

7) The Moving Wallpaper – Nicholas M. Campbell

Unique little tale that spans a few days leading into, and then, Christmas day itself. But those days merely secure it within this anthology’s holiday theme. It’s really about a young boy who is close to his Nana Lil – who reads tarot cards and is quite the adventurous and medium minx. Nana Lil is an unusual bird and her grandson and Lil  have a connection, and an unusual lead in to Christmas  involving Egyptians, a blue mummy, time travel… and wallpaper.

If you like some youthful adventure, with a young at heart and fun gran, then The Moving Wallpaper – well named – gives it to you. This story needed to be longer because once it gets going a lot happens quickly in a short span of page time. It really needs room to stretch its, um, arms – you need to read it.

 I thought about telling them the whole story. Would it make things easier, knowing the truth? The Lord in the hotel, the thousand year old mummy currently trapped behind a big bit of chipboard in my bedroom? To hear about the gasmen, the shabti, Nana’s crystal and my trip into the past? 

That’s a mouthful… and only part of the story. The Moving Wallpaper was a spritely and engaging read.

Overall:

Just Another Winter’s Tale is an inexpensive Christmassy/wintery themed, and none too long, anthology. I really quite enjoyed most of these short stories. Nathan Burgoine’s Dolph was special and Matthew Bright’s By Chance, in the Dark was something sassy. If you aren’t much for Christmas itself, some of the stories skirt around the day anyway so you could still read this and enjoy as much or as little as you want. There is something for everyone here. I sat in 40 C heat today in Australia and I read these snowy tales and was glad for some stories to help cool me down…. and ducted air. This is a nice little collection. It’s something a little different for the end of the year and to herald in the new one. If you like the sound of my review then I definitely recommend you check this anthology out. 4 Stars!  

 



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2 Comments on "Just Another Winter’s Tale (Anthology), Various"

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Cindi
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I’ve read Nathan Burgoine and Michael Thomas Ford but not the others. This looks like a nice anthology with a little bit of everything. This would be perfect for me to read during an upcoming road trip. I’ve not read one holiday story this year.

Great review, Kazza. I love the quotes and visuals you used.