The Storyteller and other tales by KV Johansen

The Storyteller and other tales by KV Johansen is a collection for adults and older teens that will take you on a journey through exotic worlds and times.

The Storyteller
Demon bears take human shape and devils walk in the north of a world where every hill hosts a god and every river and spring a goddess. The storyteller Moth draws Ulfleif, a warrior-princess who would rather carry a lyre than a sword, into an unfinished tale, and old lays of vengeance and betrayal wake into bloody new life around her.

The Storyteller covers the events of only one evening, events that have their beginnings in the mists of time and this tale begins with the arrival of The Storyteller and a giant man to the wooden hall at Ulvsness, as the tale begins so the history of the land unfolds.

The main characters are Moth and Mikki, long-time companions who are not what they first appear to be. Even though the Storyteller is a short tale the author manages to tell the reader much about Moth and Mikki and we learn who they are, where they have come from and why they are there. Moth was the most interesting character and her relationship with Mikki and the Queen's wizard Yorthas formed the centrepiece of the story. Everything is not as it seems and as the night progresses all becomes clear.

Ulfhild was one of the seven wizards of the tales. She became the devil Vartu Kingsbane, who was perhaps not the most powerful of the seven devils, but who would be the most hated, for Hravnmond the Wise was a beloved king, and all the tales agree it was she who betrayed and slew him.

The Storyteller is told in the third person narrative and we mainly see the events unfold through Ulfleif, the Queen's sword. Everything occurs either within or just outside of the wooden hall, a setting that is pleasantly described and a perfect location for a storyteller to weave her craft. The tale is exciting and manages to say a lot in a short amount of time, my favourite moment being the storyteller's tale of the seven wizards and the seven devils. If I could have made any changes I would have simplified the fight that forms the climax of the tale as I became slightly confused at times.

In the foreward of the book, K.V. Johansen mentions that this story features her two favourite characters, Moth and Mikki, and that it also sets the stage for a future project. I love short stories, sometimes an author can say more in 30 pages than another can in 300 hundred. I felt like I was within the wooden hall listening to the storyteller and was eager to learn more about the people and their ways of life.

A slave in Bronze-Age Korthan sees his lovers suffer and die for the crime of worshipping outlawed gods and in the midst of horror at their sin, finds his own faith shaken and takes his own first steps on the road to rebellion.

The tale of He-Redeems covers less than a handful of days in the lives of three slaves. The story opens with all three huddling together in the crowded servants quarters and we discover that Barley, barely more than a child herself, is expecting.

The three of them lay together on the mat, a single blanket of undyed wool over them. Both the young men had an arm around the girl, and she clung to the one she faced, muffling her sobs against his chest. The other leaned over her, whispering anxiously.

The main characters are the titular He-Redeems, First-Son and Barley, all strong characters that are described well. In the end, the relationship that they all hold so dear condemns them and forces He-Redeems to question his faith.

The story is told in the third-person but from the perspective of He-Redeems. This style works well and the setting is a well-portrayed Bronze. This is an excellent story, showing the barbarity of the times and the hypocrisy that can often surround religion. I can't say that I had a favourite moment, as it is a bleak tale, but the moment that stayed with me is when He-Redeems sees the body of his friend swinging and turning gently in the breeze as it hangs from the gallery. He-Redeems is a moving and tragic story that gave me a glimpse of Ancient Mesopotamia and how they lived, this was my favourite of the four tales.

The Inexorable Tide
In a tale built on the familiar legends of our world, Merlin's daughter relates the story of the fall of Arthur's Britain as you have never heard it, a tale of adultery and treachery old and well-known, yet fresh and startling in Nimiane's telling.

The major players in the tale are Arthur, Guenevere, Mordred, Amhar and Nimiane. Arthur is shown to be a headstrong King, Guenevere a shallow and insecure Queen. The most interesting and sympathetic character was Mordred, the man left with the thankless task of protecting a kingdom that Arthur has left undefended. It is Guenevere however that changes most, becoming a more mature and wiser queen.

The King was restless. He was not a lord for peace, though peace was ever his driving dream. When Heol in Brittany begged aid against the heretic Visigoths on his borders, Arthur's answer was shaped as much desire to be doing as by kingship's right.

The story is told in the first person narrative, that of Merlin's daughter Nimiane and this allows us to know her thoughts on the people of Arthur's court. The setting of the book is in the main Nimiane's house where Nimiane, Mordred and Amhar meet to discuss the problems that besiege Britain. A fascinating angle on the Arthurian legend, K.V. Johansen allows us to get to know the character of Mordred better and we find him deserving of great sympathy. He is often the villain of Arthurian tales, not so in this case. This is a no-nonsense approach to the legend, informative and will leave new readers wanting to learn more.

Anno Domini Nine Hundred and Ninety-One
The unnamed common men of England who faced a later generation of sea-raiders are given voice once more in the historical tale of the Battle of Maldon, when English fought Vikings at the Blackwater and lost.

To complete the book there is an eleven-page tribute to the common English men who fought against Norse raiders in 991. Based upon an Old English poem, the story is inspired by the though of the common men involved, who, though they had their own reasons for fighting, perished for their lord's pride.

The Storyteller and other tales is perfect fireside reading, full of bravery, tragedy, belief and treachery. Recommended.

7/10 The Storyteller and other tales is perfect fireside reading.

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