It is the winter of 1918 and Finland is in civil war. As part of a unit in the Women’s Guard, Siiri is posted to a remote village outpost, where the snow is thick and mysterious lights have been spotted in the nearby forest. As the enemy draws closer, one of Siiri’s comrades is lost in a blizzard and the decision is made to brave the elements – and the strange rumours – in order to find her.
Laura Mauro weaves history and folklore into a tense narrative that never lets go until the very end. It’s a story perfectly suited for novella length, well-paced and fantastically atmospheric, chilling, and compelling as each turn of the page brings more unease. It’s difficult to say if it’s the fact or the fiction that is the most disturbing aspect of the story, with Mauro providing horror by exposing the way people treat each other in times of conflict as well as the supernatural. The landscape is used brilliantly, and even the elements are an enemy to Siiri as she attempts her quest.
On the Shoulders of Otava is an unsettling story that will stay under the reader’s skin for a long time, with the author’s prose almost as lyrical as the poetry that opens each chapter. Mauro has created a world that – although it is our own – also feels fantastical, twisting reality to suit the story, yet somehow making it feel entirely natural. Simply put, it’s stunning.
Physical editions of the book can be purchased from PS Publishing.