As part of my month long theme of short and shortish stories, todays' feature is Tales from Arva, a collection of poetry, parables, legends and myths set in the same fantasy world. This common location was the only thing these stories shared. Each one was completely unique.
The author offered me a free copy of this book in return for a review after seeing that I both like fantasy books and like writing reviews about them.
After I wrote my review, I discovered that some of the stories contained in this collection are also available as individual short stories. I ended up posting a bonus review of The Tale of Liril with that story because it was my favorite of the bunch.
Tales from Arva: Volume 1 by Kevis Hendrickson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Parables, legends and myths, both bittersweet and tragic...
I liked Tales of Arva, though I must say I enjoyed some of the tales more than others. Since each one is unique, I'll address each tale separately.
An Ole Ryme:
I loved this little rhyme. It's written in Old English, like Shakespeare. It brings to mind everything I like finding in fantasy stories all in a well-metered and musical rhyme. The only thing that threw me for a loop was the language. I don't read much Shakespeare, so I had to think about some of the words for a minute.
The Fall of Ithar:
This is the first of the short stories, which reads more like an ancient legend you might find in a J.R.R. Tolkien book. That being said, this little story is packed with heroic deeds shadowed by tragedy. It follows an ancient king, then his son, and finally his daughter-in-law. The creature born from the legend is mentioned in one of the other stories as almost extinct, which gave me the clue that this was a legend (other than the language choice, which also gave it a feel of history). I thought this one was ok, but a little hard to read.
The Grey Elk:
This fanciful legend about how the mythical grey elk came to being is delightful. Naran Jasar, a man from the south, is traveling in the northern countries where he falls for and marries a beautiful maiden. But ridicule and prejudice follow his family wherever they settle because of his strange looks and affinity with animals. Later, when their daughter is old enough to wed, they try to find her a place among people, but find no such place exists, leading to the bittersweet conclusion of the story.
The Tale of Liril:
This is my favorite of the Tales of Arva. Told in the grand tradition of the parable, this story follows Liril, a flighty young girl who wants to find her father a birthday present but ends up on a quest for a mysterious old witch. Instead of completing the quest, she decides to keep the object the witch desires and causes no end of trouble with her careless wishes. The story teaches a lesson in honesty, responsibility, and accountability.
This is my second favorite of the short stories in this book. Yet another tragedy with a bittersweet ending, I would call this one a dark parable. A knight returns home from a long campaign only to find his entire family slain. In a rage, he assumes the culprits are the hated Gaian people, an immortal race similar to elves that he has been raised to hate and mistrust. It is to his detriment that he comes across a lone Gaian maiden and in vengeance slays her. Sentenced to death for his crime, he finds solace and support from an unlikely source.
There is also bonus material and a peek at another story, but I won't rate those as they aren't technically part of the Tales of Arva.
Overall, I liked this set of four short stories and one poem. My favorite short stories were The Tale of Liril and Pryde's Choice. My least favorite was The Fall of Ithar, because it read like an old Bible story, and the language was difficult to process in places. I loved the little poem, An Ole Ryme. And, I thought The Grey Elk had a surprising twist.
These stories would be a great addition for anyone who likes parables, myths and legends, and fantasy lovers are likely to appreciate many of the traditional characteristics of epic fantasy in this condensed format. These make great bedtime stories for adults who miss that from childhood (though I wouldn't recommend these for children).
I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest, non-reciprocal review.
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