Review + Giveaway (INTL): Gather the Fortunes – The Most Neil Gaiman Thing I Read Since I Last Read Neil Gaiman

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Title:
Gather the Fortunes (A Crescent City Novel Book 2)
Author: Bryan Camp
Publisher: John Joseph Adams/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Release Date: May 21st, 2019
Genre(s): Urban Fantasy
Subjects and Themes: Gods, Mythology
Page Count: 384 (hardback)

Rating: 8.0/10

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Renaissance Raines has found her place among the psychopomps—the guides who lead the souls of the recently departed through the Seven Gates of the Underworld—and done her best to avoid the notice of gods and mortals alike. But when a young boy named Ramses St. Cyr manages to escape his foretold death, Renai finds herself at the center of a deity-thick plot unfolding in New Orleans. Someone helped Ramses slip free of his destined end—someone willing to risk everything to steal a little slice of power for themselves.

Is it one of the storm gods that’s descended on the city? The death god who’s locked the Gates of the Underworld? Or the manipulative sorcerer who also cheated Death? When she finds the schemer, there’s gonna be all kinds of hell to pay, because there are scarier things than death in the Crescent City. Renaissance Raines is one of them.

 

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(Note: I got to Gather the Fortunes after reading about 1/4 of the first book–I ran out of time!–and while having some prior knowledge of some of the characters might be beneficial, it can absolutely be read as a standalone.)

That title isn’t hyperbole. Not in the slightest. Because holy shit, I am in love with Bryan Camp’s imagination.

Gather the Fortunes is set in an alternate world of gods and demigods and spirits and other supernatural beings, and the result is a beautiful, rich conglomerate of various mythologies–Greek, Norse, Native American, Haitian, you name it, he has it–each carefully constructed and all woven seamlessly into the narrative.

It’s not just the premise and the complexity of the story that reminds me of Gaiman’s work; it’s the utter confidence with which he crafts it. As if this isn’t some fictional world he pulled from his imagination but a reality that actually exists in some alternate dimension. Bryan Camp understands his world inside-out and he has the talent to manipulate it in ways that are not only exciting but also thought-provoking. I love the way he interprets death and afterlife and posits the idea that there are always, always two sides to every coin.

And what astounds me is how polished and detailed everything is. Nothing is done half-assed–from the process of soul-taking (which involves unbraiding and distilling a part of the soul and then turning it into a piece of fruit, eating it, and escorting the remaining spirit through the Underworld. Camp lends grim reapering a sense of craftsmanship, turns it into an art form. It’s fantastic) to the various gates of the Underworld (in the last gate, your life in the form of a coin gets weighed on a scale and that decides whether you’re sent off to a good afterlife or tossed into oblivion).

The prose is just as rich and hard-hitting. There are passages that have this internal rhythm, so that when you read them out loud, they play out like spoken poetry. It’s stylish as hell. Of course not all of it is written that poetically–that’d be exhausting–but Camp knows exactly when to turn it on and off, and that in itself is praiseworthy. And the opening paragraphs that you find in some of the chapters are tiny art pieces in and of themselves–brief narrations about topics like death and luck and premonitions as they apply to different mythologies.

And the last two paragraphs? Chills down my spine. Gave me hard, hard vibes of the Dream vs. Choronzon scene from Sandman. I had to read them aloud multiple times, once to a friend.

Here’s a snippet:

Everywhere Death walks, Life follows. Everything Death takes, Life gives to another. She is Asase Yaa. Onuava. Demeter. Coatlicue. Phra Mae Thorani. He is Kokopelli. Makemake. Geb. Lono. They plant the seeds in the earth and children in the womb. They gave birth to the gods and to the first mortals and to the cosmos and to the sea. They gave their lives to water the earth, to bring plentiful game to hunt, to keep the sun in the sky. They are the sky. They are the sun. They are the buds of new growth in spring, and after a fire, and after a flood, and in the shadow of a failed nuclear reactor. They are everywhere we swore they couldn’t be, in the exothermic vents of the deep ocean, in the ones and zeroes of information, in the fossil records of Mars. Death can end a life, or lives, or this life, or very life.

But not Life.

Our heroine is Renai, a young black woman who, five years previous, had been dead and subsequently resurrected with very few memories of when she was alive. Now she works as a psychopomp, someone who guides the dead to the Underworld. I really quite liked her. She’s a great mix of fierceness and vulnerability, with sass running through it all.

I did have issues with the plot and characters. The story goes through a lot of moving from point A to point B, doing one thing, and then moving to point C, and then doing something else and moving on again. And while parts of it were interesting, others…weren’t. They often felt disconnected from each other and I wasn’t sure what the point of some of them were.

I was also disappointed that Ramses didn’t play a bigger role in the story (at least, not directly) because the synopsis had me anticipating a sibling relationship forming between Renai and Ramses. But sadly, no.

Overall, though, this was a very impressive read and Camp’s New Orleans is one you absolutely need to experience for yourself.

 

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GIVEAWAY

10 people can win finished copies of Gather the Fortune. Open internationally!

ENTER HERE

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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Bryan Camp is a graduate of the Clarion West Writer’s Workshop and the University of New Orleans’ Low-Residency MFA program. He started his first novel, The City of Lost Fortunes, in the backseat of his parents’ car as they evacuated for Hurricane Katrina. He has been, at various points in his life: a security guard at a stockcar race track, a printer in a flag factory, an office worker in an oil refinery, and a high school English teacher. He can be found on twitter @bryancamp and at bryancamp.com. He lives in New Orleans with his wife and their three cats, one of whom is named after a superhero.

      

TOUR SCHEDULE

WEEK ONE
MAY 20th MONDAY JeanBookNerd INTERVIEW
MAY 21st TUESDAY BookHounds INTERVIEW
MAY 22nd WEDNESDAY TTC Books and More TENS LIST
MAY 23rd THURSDAY Movies, Shows, & Books EXCERPT
MAY 24th FRIDAY Insane About Books REVIEW
MAY 24th FRIDAY Pages Below the Vaulted Sky REVIEW

WEEK TWO
MAY 27th MONDAY A Dream Within A Dream REVIEW
MAY 28th TUESDAY Nay’s Pink Bookshelf REVIEW
MAY 29th TUESDAY Sabrina’s Paranormal Palace REVIEW
MAY 29th WEDNESDAY Port Jericho REVIEW
MAY 29th WEDNESDAY Book Briefs REVIEW
MAY 30th THURSDAY Two Points of Interest REVIEW
MAY 30th THURSDAY Gwendalyn Books REVIEW
MAY 31st FRIDAY Crossroad Reviews REVIEW

Top 5 Wednesday – Mythical Creatures of Canada and Korea (and examples in media)

“Top 5 Wednesday” is a weekly meme currently hosted on Goodreads by Sam of Thoughts on Tomes in which you list your top 5 for the week’s chosen topic.

This week’s topic is “favourite monsters/mythological creatures” and I found myself struggling. Not because I couldn’t find any favourites, but because there are way too many of them out there. Stick a pin in any random spot in any random country and chances are they’ll have some mythological creature that’s unique to the region.

So I decided to get a little more specific and feature some monsters that are native to Korea and Canada (because–*waves*–Korean-Canadian here). And by “Canada” I mean its various First Nations tribes.

 

Wendigo

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Rooted in Algonquian mythology, Wendigos (or Windigos) are said to roam the forests of Canada and parts of northern U.S. either as a spirit or a physical monster (accounts seem to vary). Physically, it’s been described a rotting, emancipated werewolf-esque creature with preternatural speed and senses. Reeking of death and decay, the Wendigo is built to stalk and hunt humans. Its hunger is insatiable and no matter how much it feeds it remains in a state of perpetual starvation.

As a spirit, it can possess people and render them to a state of mindless hunger. Greedy people and people who have practiced cannibalism seem to be its most susceptible victims.

Books:

The Curse of the Wendigo (Monstrumologist 2) by Rick Yancey

This book remains my favourite Wendigo story to date. With trademark lyricism, Yancey captures the visceral horror of Wendigos and the isolation of the Canadian wilderness so well.

 

Inmyeonjo

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Inmyeonjo (인면조) is, simply put, a long-necked bird with the face of a human. And I absolutely hated the thing when I was a kid. The paleness of it combined with the period headdress made for some jarring nightmare fuel. But despite the sheer weirdness of its appearance, it’s a relatively benign creature, one whose existence is meant to bridge the sky with the land. After all, the South Korean Olympic committee included it in the PyeongChang opening ceremony as a symbol of peace and harmony.

 

Kumiho

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All you K-drama fans will be familiar with the kumiho/gumiho from the 2010 series My Girlfriend is a Nine-Tailed Fox. Kumiho, which translates literally to “nine-tailed fox,” is an ancient fox spirit that can shapeshift into human form–most often a beautiful, seductive young woman. Much of East Asian folklore (and culture as a whole) is tightly intertwined, with big sibling China being the main influencer, so kumiho has its counterparts in kitsune (Japan) and huli jing (China).

The most notable difference is that kumihos carry a marble (size of a candy) containing the entirety of the foxes’ strength and knowledge. And a human can gain all that knowledge by swallowing the marble whole.

The other distinction is that while kitsune and hli jing are portrayed as mostly chaotic-neutral spirits–with tricks being the extent of their malevolence–kumihos are said to have a taste for human flesh. Male human flesh, in particular. With hearts and livers being their preferred delicacy. In some tales, the kumiho is able to shed its monstrous form and become fully human if it can resist the lure of flesh for 1000 days. This last bit I find fascinating because it really underscores the influence of Buddhism–the idea that our goal in life is to reach a higher state of being.

Books:

➽ The Fox Sister (webcomic)

A gorgeous comic set in 1968 Seoul. There are only 4 chapters out right now and it’s currently on hiatus, but it’s so worth taking a look.

➽ Foxfire, Foxfire (short story) by Yoon Ha Lee

I need to set an altar to Yoon Ha because he’s writing all the Korean speculative fic I need in my life. There’s currently a surge of mainstream Asian SFF (especially in YA), but Korean speculative stories remain curiously absent. At this point I’m tempted to just write one myself.

 

Qalupalik

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Originating from Inuit lore, Qalupalik is described as a humanoid sea creature that steals away disobedient children who stray a little to the water’s edge.

The interesting thing is that she doesn’t eat the children she captures but hides them away in her secret lair. Which seems…oddly anticlimactic and begs the question of what the heck happens to the kids afterward (do they drown and get arranged in the qaluplaik’s underwater cave like dolls?) but hey, it’s a story meant to keep children from misbehaving, not the The Silmarillion.

Books:

A Promise is a Promise by Robert Munsch:

Munsch is a national treasure and I’m pretty sure this book is where I first heard of the Qalupalik.

 

Dokkaebi

h.jpgThese guys are present in pretty much every Korean folktale. Dokkaebi are powerful horned goblins who carry around spiked clubs and other such magical objects. Unlike the ambivalence of Inmyeonjo and the violence of kumiho, dokkaebi are mostly just…goofy (in their action, at least. Their traditional appearance is red and hulking and rather quite scary). They seem to enjoy messing with humans as much as they like helping them, and they’re known to challenge hapless travelers to wrestling matches.

I’ve yet to encounter them in western literature, but a google image search for “dokkaebi” gave me a wall of Rainbox Six Siege results, which is how I learned that they have a new playable Korean character whose nickname is “Dokkaebi.” So that’s pretty neat!

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Have you ever encountered these in any media? And what are some of your favourite mythical creatures from your country?