BOOK REVIEW: EUROPEAN MONSTERS / AUTHOR: VARIOUS / PUBLISHER: FOX SPIRIT / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
EBooks have been a boon to the small press, allowing many independent publishers to produce work that would otherwise be too expensive. This has also meant that paper and ink books created by such companies have become much less common. So it’s nice to see that Fox Spirit’s latest anthology is not only available in the old fashioned format, but that it’s also beautifully produced and illustrated.
European Monsters is a gorgeous collection of tales of unnatural creatures, dealing with the rigours of the modern day. Each tale picks a creature from myth and gives us a short but sweet snapshot of its existence. The collection kicks off with Herne by Jon Courtenay Grimwood, a quick yet evocative tale about the horned god in a world in which nature has gone wild. Grimwood creates his world in a few, seemingly effortless, strokes and, like all good short stories, leaves you wanting more. Anne Michaud’s tale, Vijka, is thematically similar, though it is more about a clash of cultures and has a few charming surprises that will leave you smiling. James Bennet’s story, Broken Brides, is about a creature who is fond of bridges and goats, one which struggles to cope with modern life and has difficulty coping with everything from the Internet to going to a bar. It’s a sweet yet melancholic story, and fits the mood of the anthology very well.
Other highlights include Nimby; a cleverly slanted look at a familiar creature that is part of modern life, the territorial little idiot who objects to any change in their local area. Author Hannah Kate puts a marvellous slant on the whole affair, mixing palpable venom with humour to produce something rather entertaining. We get a subtle tale of lost magic and gentle love in Alitette De Bodard’s Mélanie, a story that is filled with both the familiar and strange. A collection like this wouldn’t be complete without some sea monsters, and this is fulfilled with Chris Galvin’s Hafgufa Rising, a tale that is perhaps a little too clever for its own good, but fun nonetheless.
The book is crammed with illustrations throughout and includes two comic strips. The first one, Serpent Dawn, is penned by Adrian Tchaikovsky and illustrated by Eugene Smith, is a straight-up monster hunt of the sort you’d expect to see as a show on the SyFy channel. The second sequential offering finishes the book nicely - it’s called Mother Knows Worst and is highly reminiscent of an early Vertigo horror comic; Fabian Benzo’s art style is very early Hellblazer and though Jasper Bark’s dialogue is a little clumsy, it does the job well enough.Over all, this a lovely little collection of spooky stories and well worth your time.
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