Monthly Archives: August 2014

Review: Arthurian Literature by Women

Last winter I was in the mood for Arthuriana, so I asked for this book for my birthday. As usual, the Pile ‘o Books kept piling up and guess what I’ve only just finished reading today?

I love the cover.

Arthurian Literature by Women is, as the title suggests, an anthology of Arthurian poems, stories and plays by women, especially stories that innovate on Arthurian tradition. In this volume you will find a disabled Lady of Shalott, Sir Dagonet (King Arthur’s Fool) as one of the knights who obtains the Holy Grail, and peasants who accomplish tasks even the bravest of King Arthur’s knights are loathe to do.

The editors point out that even in courses that focus on women in Arthurian tradition, most or all of the works studied are by men. Rather than publish excerpts from novels like The Mists of Avalon, however, the editors chose to publish lesser known works by women. The vast majority of the texts are from the 1800s, although there are a couple stories from the 12th century and texts from the 1900s up to the early 90s as well.

The most interesting thing for me is the way that these women have taken the Arthurian tradition and done something different with it. In Avillion; Or the Happy Isles by Dinah Maria Craik, for instance, Avalon (or Avillion, in this case) is but one step on the path towards what New Agers might call spiritual evolution. The Feasts of Camelot by T.K. Hervey is a series of stories that wouldn’t seem out of place in a Medieval Arthurian legend. These stories feature unlikely heroes and redemption for characters that are often cast as villains (like King Mark and Morgan le Fay). Some even paint a not so flattering picture of King Arthur himself. There are more than a few scathing critiques of male writers like Tennyson in here. It would be impossible to go through every entry and review them separately, but my favourites were “Lanval” by Marie de France, and the excerpts from¬†The Feasts of Camelot, which seemed to be the closest to Medieval literature on the subject. Some entries have a happy ending, others (such as the one play in the collection) are very melodramatic. Some pieces touch on issues like poverty or loss of a child. Some are contemporary pieces, others are set in the distant past. There’s even a piece that’s a bit of a precursor to modern urban fantasy.

My one issue with this book is the lack of footnotes. The introduction is pretty good at summarizing each individual piece, but I would have liked to see some footnotes as the authors were often fond of referencing events and characters that might be lost on the modern reader. I also would have appreciated it if the entries were in chronological order or separated by theme. It’s not a huge deal, it’s just something I would have liked to see. Even with the lack of notes, however, this is a really interesting collection and I recommend it to anyone who is interested in Arthurian literature that is by women and not just about women. It also includes bibliographies of fiction and poetry and drama by women, so if you wanted one of the better known books that aren’t in this volume, you’ll probably be able to find it there.

This has been a short review but if you’re interested in Arthurian literature by women I’d check this one out. Since it is a bit pricey, I’d check and see if your local library has it.

Deck Review: Attuned: A Moon Cycle Deck

[The following review may be triggery for tokophobia, nudity, and some images are NSFW]

It’s been awhile since I did one of these, hasn’t it?

File this one under “I shouldn’t like this deck so much but I do.”

I’ve been interested in this deck for a long time. I really loved the bright colours and the way the images seem to flow like water. It reminded me very much of my Mythical Goddess Tarot (NSFW). But I didn’t pick it up because I thought it was out of print and therefore expensive.

However, I found it on etsy and it was actually reasonably priced. (I was actually expecting to pay twice that for a self-published oracle deck) and it was like I fell in love with it all over again. So now here it is in my hands and I’m ready to tell you about it.

Let’s get the obvious points out of the way first. This deck is very New Agey and Menstrual Moon Mysteries-centric. Well, actually not so much about periods, but as you can no doubt tell from the deck’s name, there’s a lot about moon cycles. In fact, the deck is designed for daily contemplation over a 28 day lunar cycle (as there are only 28 cards). The cards are large and a pain in the ass to shuffle, but that makes them ideal to prop up and use as focal points for meditation or to decorate a shrine or altar. The only issue I really had with the cards themselves was that the card stock is very flimsy, not paper thin, but definitely not up to rough handling. The cards came with a nice bag and a leaflet with meanings for each card.

The selling point for me was the art, however. I love the art. This deck has some very vivid colours and a very curvy, flowing art style. The figures on each card seem to gently sway to music only they can hear. It’s also very brightly coloured which also brings to mind the Mythical Goddess, which has the same kind of flowing art style and bright colours.

The “Gemini” card from Attuned: A Moon Cycle Deck

This deck is best used for meditation but I have had some success doing one card readings with it. (Although I did find parts of the paragraph for each card irrelevant to the readings.)¬† I wouldn’t say it’s really a reading deck though, it’s best used for meditation and contemplation. The creator recommends drawing a card starting on the first day or your menstrual cycle (if you menstruate) and drawing a card each day until you’ve gone through the whole deck. Alternatively, you could just draw a card on the new moon and do it that way.

One thing to keep in mind is that this is a very, shall we say, “feminine” deck. There’s only one figure I can see that seems a bit more “masculine” and few card images look androgynous. There are plenty of breasts on display but others are covered by the figures’ arms. One image, the “Birth” card, actually startled me when I came to it, as it shows a woman giving birth to the moon in a patch of red. I would say if you’re tokophobic that you might want to skip this deck, because it certainly gave me pause when I saw it. This is definitely one of those decks where I’d say you pretty much have to be in the intended demographic (in this case, cis women who menstruate) in order to get a lot out of it, but your mileage may vary.

I like this deck. I’m not sure what it is about this deck that I like exactly. It’s yet another deck that I shouldn’t like for a variety of reasons but I like all the same. If you would like this deck for your collection, you can buy it off etsy.

Review: A Study in Ashes by Emma Jane Holloway

[Note: The following will contain MAJOR SPOILERS for the entire trilogy.]

I have a really bad quirk. Once I pick up the first book in a series (unless I decide I don’t like it within the first few pages) I can’t not finish what I started. Even if the series isn’t one of my favourites, I need to know how the story ends.

When I first picked up A Study in Silks, I wasn’t really expecting anything particularly innovative, and I enjoyed it for what it was. romance tropes and all. I eagerly began A Study in Darkness, and was ready to give up on the trilogy entirely. However, telling myself that it was just the Second Book Curse, I picked up the third book….and I let it sit there for ages.

The final book in the trilogy opens with Evelina being sent to attend the Ladies College of London, only the academic institution is less a center of learning and more like a prison for her. Forced to wear bracelets that suppress her magic, she’s utterly at the mercy of the Gold King. Meanwhile, war is looming as tension builds between the Steam Barons and the rebels, the Baskervilles, start gaining more support for their cause. Magic, murder, and mayhem is the order of the day.

The final book in the trilogy has a ton of different plots going on at once. Besides Evelina attending college and trying to escape the Gold King, Imogen’s soul has been trapped in a clock and she needs to find a way out, Tobias and Alice are occupied with their son, Jeremy, Lord Bancroft comes face to face with his past sins and the rebels, led by the mysterious Schoolmaster, are running all over the place trying to muster their forces for a final confrontation with the Steam Barons, who are, as usual, plotting and fighting amongst themselves. There’s a definite sense of things moving around, shifting, alliances being made and broken, that sort of thing. We also get a glimpse of other members of the Steam Council besides Gold and Blue, with the Violet Queen especially getting a little more page time. There’s a real sense that things are on the move and tensions in London are about to reach boiling point. This is something that I felt was missing from the last book, which just seemed like Evelina running around not doing what she was supposed to be doing until her deadline forced her to do it.

Let’s start with the stuff I liked about this book. The book has some surprisingly good action scenes and moments which I thought were just begging to be played out on the big screen. I also liked that there was overall less time spent pining for a love interest and more time getting stuff done. without spoiling anything, the book also neatly ties up most of its plotlines. There was a thread or two that I thought was left hanging a little, but it’s always nice to end with many questions answered. I also like how Evelina challenges the sexism of one of her professors while at college.

As for what I didn’t like, well, it’s still slow in places, but nowhere near what it was in the second book. Imogen’s scenes were, funnily enough, some of the slowest scenes for me. You would think considering her situation that it would be a bit more exciting but I didn’t find that at all. There was also a bit near the very end where I found Evelina’s reaction t9 a group of Wraiths kind of ridiculous considering all that she’s been through, but not enough to cause me to put the book down. There’s a certain Holmesian nemesis that I thought didn’t really play as big a role in the plot as he should have, overall disappointing. I also thought that there was a bit of an inconsistency re: Evelina’s “dark power”, particularly how lethal it actually was, I guess maybe I expected more from it than what I actually got, but that’s been true for the entire trilogy, honestly.

All things considered, it’s nothing particularly earth-shattering but it’s definitely an improvement on the second book. If this review seems rather sparse it’s because I really don’t have that much more to say about it. For me, it’s definitely a case of So Okay, It’s Average.

Visions of Vanaheim 2nd Edition Out Now!

This is just a quick note to let you know that the second edition of Visions of Vanaheim by Nornoriel Lokason (who previously wrote as Svartesol) is out now.

Paperback: CreateSpace, Amazon.com

Ebook: direct from the author’s etsy shop.

The first edition of Visions of Vanaheim is probably the most comprehensive book on Vanatru. The second edition includes information on the tribes, culture, and history of Vanaheim (something that was mostly absent from the first edition). If you have any interest in Vanatru, I would encourage you to get this book. It’s info on Vanatru from the perspective of one of the forefathers of the movement.