Steppenwolf – Review

Der Steppenwolf (Steppenwolf) by Hermann Hesse

Published in 1927; first published in English in 1929

Basil Creighton Translation

Pages: 218

Genre: Fiction

“This book contains the records left us by a man whom, according to the expression he often used himself, we called the Steppenwolf.”

Metaphysical and internal speculation abound in a tale of struggle between man and metaphorical wolf. Written by German author Hermann Hesse, Steppenwolf is a tour-de-force of poetic prose, hallucinatory description, and internal conflict that speaks to any who feels at odds with the world and society in which they live. Following a mysterious man who refers to himself as the Steppenwolf, the story twists and turns into the fantastic, forcing the reader to wonder what is real and what is in the man’s mind. Continue reading “Steppenwolf – Review”

The Crusades Through Arab Eyes – Review

The Crusades Through Arab Eyes by Amin Maalouf

Published in 1983

John Rothschild Translation

Pages: 266

Genre: Nonfiction, history

“Baghdad, August, 1099

Wearing no turban, his head shaved as a sign of mourning, the venerable qadi Abu Saad al-Harawi burst with a loud cry into the spacious diwan of the caliph al-Mustazhir Billah, a throng of companions, young and old, trailing in his wake.”

The Crusades Through Arab Eyes, by Amin Maalouf, tells the story of the crusades through an Arabic perspective in a narrative format. Running the gamut of the initial invasions by Western crusaders, through the riposte of Saladin’s reign, the book covers all of the intrigue, civil wars, and truces that happened in over two centuries of conflict. The book explores not only the events, but the histories of some of the most interesting people of the age, their motivations, and the way in which people can come together despite differences. Continue reading “The Crusades Through Arab Eyes – Review”

Night Watch – Review

Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko

Published in 1998

Andrew Bromfield Translation

Pages: 455

Genre: Supernatural

“The escalator crept along slowly, straining upward.”

So begins a tale of Others; supernatural beings that range from magicians and shape-shifters, to vampires and werewolves. Sergei Lukyanenko’s 1998 novel, Night Watch, tells the story of a member of the Night Watch; a secret society keeping the balance between Light and Darkness in the world of humans. What begins as a promising story with interesting world-building and moral dilemmas is eventually bogged down by a less-than-fulfilling ending in this first book of a series by the Russian author. Continue reading “Night Watch – Review”

Vaesen – Review

Vaesen by Johan Egerkrans

Illustrated by Johan Egerkrans

Published in 2013; English translation published in 2017

Susan Beard Translation

Pages: 127

Genre: Scandinavian Folklore

“All over the world and throughout the ages, people have been convinced that we are not alone on this earth.”

Humans have always been in touch with nature, but there is a strange wildness that eludes us, so it makes sense that our cultures would believe in some fae creatures that are somewhere between ourselves and nature. Vaesen, by Johan Egerkrans, focuses on the Scandinavian variety of spirits, fairies, and other mystical folk found in the legends of the world. Using his unique style and drawing from an impressive amount of sources for information, Egerkrans creates a fantastical tome for anyone seeking to familiarize themselves with the fae folk.

1. Intro Continue reading “Vaesen – Review”

The Shadow of the Wind – Review

La Sombra del Viento (The Shadow of the Wind) by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Published in 2001; English translation in 2004

Lucia Graves Translation

Pages: 487

Genre: Mystery, Spanish literature

“I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time.”

The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, is a novel about love, mystery, and (most important of all) books. Following Daniel Sempere from his childhood until he is a young adult, the book is about his life in Barcelona after the Spanish Civil War while he searches for the truth about an enigmatic author named Julián Carax. Revelations abound as his life intertwines with that of the tragic author and danger is around every corner when malevolent forces try to bury their secrets. Continue reading “The Shadow of the Wind – Review”

Norse Gods – Review

Norse Gods by Johan Egerkrans

Illustrations by Johan Egerkrans

Published as Nordiska gudar in 2016; English translation published in 2017

Susan Beard Translation

Pages: 160

Genre: Mythology, Norse mythology

“In the beginning – before the world existed, before men and before the gods themselves – there was only fire, ice, and nothingness.”

There are few characters as provocative, intimidating, and fascinating as the gods that reside within Norse mythology. Many books retelling the myths that survived the oral tradition have been written, but none so beautifully realized as Norse Gods by Swedish illustrator, Johan Egerkrans. In the first English edition of his book, translated by Susan Beard, Egerkrans leads the reader into the halls of Asgard, the depths of the sea surrounding Midgard, and through dwarven holds in a book that maintains its fidelity to the old tales while injecting a refreshing visual translation of the old gods and their tales.

1. Midgard.jpg

Continue reading “Norse Gods – Review”

Blood on Snow – Review

Blood on Snow by Jo Nesbø

Published in 2015

Neil Smith Translation

Pages: 208

Genre: Scandinavian crime fiction

“The snow was dancing like cotton wool in the light of the street lamps.”

Jo Nesbø sets his 2015 novel, Blood on Snow, in Oslo, Norway circa 1977. Following the events after a contract killer is given a surprising job by his employer, the story dives into the gritty world behind the scenes of the Norwegian city. There is a lot of blood, snow, and questions of credibility as the tale weaves itself in a terminal spiral. Continue reading “Blood on Snow – Review”

The Autumn of the Patriarch – Review

El otoño del patriarca (The Autumn of the Patriarch) by Gabriel García Márquez

Published in 1975

Gregory Rabassa Translation

Pages: 269

Genre: Latin American literature, Colombian literature

“Over the weekend the vultures got into the presidential palace by pecking through the screens on the balcony windows and the flapping of their wings stirred up the stagnant time inside, and at dawn on Monday the city awoke out of its lethargy of centuries with the warm, soft breeze of a great man dead and rotting grandeur.”

If you decide to read The Autumn of the Patriarch by Gabriel García Márquez, it is a good idea to become familiar with the above sentence because it will be referenced again throughout the book. Creating a weaving, non-linear narrative on power and its fallacies, García Márquez brings a flowing and poetic character study to life. This book is not an easy read, but finishing brings about its own reward for those who are able to make it through the depths of description and its maniacal lack of logic. Continue reading “The Autumn of the Patriarch – Review”

The Divine Comedy – Review

Divina Commedia (Divine Comedy) by Dante Alighieri

Written in 1320, first printed in 1472

Carlyle-Okey-Wicksteed Unabridged Translation

Pages: 625

Genre: Narrative poem, Italian literature

“In the middle of the journey of our life I came to myself in a dark wood where the straight way was lost.”

Arguably one of the most influential pieces of long-form poetry in the Western world, The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri is an intimidating and enriching tome. After an introduction that gives historical context about the author and the poem itself, the reader is thrust back into the world of 14th century Italy. This allegorical poem is split into three sections: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso; as Dante climbs through Hell up to Purgatory before his ascension to Heaven, he likewise travels from sin into reconciliation through purgation, and finally redemption in paradise. Continue reading “The Divine Comedy – Review”