Myths & novels

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Sometimes authors take inspiration from myths and legends from various countries to write their own story or to insert the myth in a different context.

I think these inspiration are extremely fascinating: leaving aside the overall story quality this starting point allows to learn something about other or preexisting cultures.

In the following my opinions about three novels based on myths – different one to the other -. The outcome can be below expectations (for example in The scorpio races) but the premises are always wonderful:

  • The fox woman by Kij Johnson – takes inspiration from the japanese myth of the Kitsune, the fox women; the same story, in form of novella, is inside the collection “At the mouth of the river of bees” I already talked about.
  • The scorpio races by Maggie Stiefvater – based on the myth of the Capaill Uisce, aquatic monsters similar to horses; among the three novels is the one I liked less.
  • The brides of Rollrock Island (or Sea Hearts) by Margo Lanagan – about the selkie myth, the seal women took from the sea to live a human life.

Images taken from Wikipedia

The fox woman by Kij Johnson

Kaya no Yoshifuji, having no important role in the capital, travels with his wife Shikujo and his son Tadamaro to his old residence near the mountains.
Their return will change the life of a family of foxes living in the long abandoned house; Kitsune, young fox, will fall in love with the man and will try everything to bind him in her magic.

The novel follows the points of view of the three main characters: Kaya no Yoshifuji, dissatisfied with his life and wanting something new and wild, Shikujo and her desire of perfection and her unhappiness and Kitsune, overpowered by the love that foxes may not feel.

The writing is evocative and poetic, the novel is not a simple romance but goes in deeps reflections. The setting is extremely detailed from the beautiful and rich dresses to the rite for purification.

It’s a Japan where Gods listen and where magic allows to change shape and to deceive senses.
A beautiful novel not suited for who is uncomfortable in reading explicit sex scenes.

The scorpio races by Maggie Stifvater

An island in the North and the capaill uisce, the water horses, giants, killer and protagonists of the Scorpio Races.
Sean, race veteran, and Puck, who needs to participate, are the two main characters, with Dove and Corr, their horses.

The setting is rich and the minor characters are outlined; nevertheless the novel suffers some weak points; the POV following the narration are two, but some times very similar, moreover some parts are not engaging while others are not plausible (like Puck’s first reason to enter the race).

The brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan (Sea Hearts)

Rollrock is an island of fishermen and their families, it’s a magic place since sometimes, between women there may be one, the least beautiful, who has the power to transmute the sea life in a human one.
The brides of Rollrock may be red-haired and strong-willed or dark-haired, placid and mournful, nostalgic of the deep-sea.

The novel refers to the myth of selkie, women who can return being seals by recovering their seal skin left during the human transformation; it follows three generation on the island and various point of view that allow the reader to have a complete overview of the story, since nothing is evil without reason and everyone is in the same way faulty and without guilt.

_______

* The fox woman by Kij Johnson ★★★★☆
* The scorpio races by Maggie Stiefvater ★★★☆☆½
* The brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan ★★★★☆

*I read this book in English

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