Rarely in the stories did mortals fare well when concerning themselves with the affairs of gods and monsters.
The Yarnsworld series, written by Benedick Patrick, consists of three books so far. These are ‘They Mostly Come Out At Night’, ‘Where the Waters Turn Black’ and ‘Those Brave, Foolish Souls from the City of Swords’.
Yarnsworld is difficult to describe in terms of conventional genres. Some of the books are very dark while others are not. Merely putting a tag like ‘fantasy’ or ‘horror’ does not do enough justice to these stories. If I am forced to at gunpoint, I will describe these books as fairy tales for adults. In addition, the book share two common elements. The first is a shared universe with mere hints and not something that is forced down our throat. The second is an interesting structure where the main story-line mixes with smaller tales which add to the world being built.
That said, they are also wildly different in terms of outlook, themes and story-lines. ‘They Mostly Come Out at Night’ is a grim retelling of the ugly duckling with the overarching theme of self-sacrifice. ‘Where the Waters Turn Black’ explores friendship and going beyond traditional boundaries. It could easily be the next Pixar movie (if they had not done Moana). ‘Those Brave, Foolish Souls from the City of Swords’ is Seven Samurai-like, gritty and is about heroism, redemption and revenge.
Benedick Patrick is a brilliant story-teller. I found that all the three stories, including the smaller fables, stuck in my mind long after I finished reading the books. Every book has a main story-line with small stories at the end of each chapter. These stories help in building the mythos and ultimately, link back to the main plot at some point. I enjoyed these fables as much as I did the main stories.
The characters are vivid and all of them, across the three books, have a satisfying arc that they go through. Of all the main characters, I liked Arturo the best. He makes realistic choices, does not give up on his core ideals and does not give in to temptation. Kaimana and Lonan were good too in their own ways. Logan, a character despised by almost everyone for something he did not do, is still a good person at the end of the day. Kaimana who ventures out beyond traditional boundaries, both literally and figuratively, is one of the strongest feminine characters I have read.
The worlds are rich and complex. ‘They Mostly Come Out at Night’ has an East European setting. ‘Where the Waters Run Deep’ has a Polynesian one and ‘Those Brave, Foolish Souls from the City of Swords’ has a South American one. Benedick Patrick has taken these familiar settings and turned them into something magical. I loved the pantheon of gods in ‘Waters’ and the monsters in ‘Swords’.
The three books have very different outlooks and themes, as mentioned earlier. ‘Night’ and ‘Swords’ have an obvious set up for sequels while ‘Waters’ does not. The pacing is good in all the books though I found myself more invested in ‘Swords’ than the other two. This is probably due to its theme and nothing else.
The only criticism I have is that these books are complex and might put off readers looking for something easy to grok. I found getting into ‘Night’ a bit difficult in the beginning. But once I finished a few chapters, I got into the groove and I was able to enjoy them thoroughly.
So, overall, I loved the books and am looking forward to the next ones.