Beyond Her Ramparts

She throws the walls up around herself higher than her eyes can see. They erase the open sky, and she disappears into forever. She is infinite, a story, walls without end. Walls deep and dense like forests, stony and unyielding like caves. They hold her transfixed, keep her safe from outside worlds, far below and deep within. These walls do not crack, do not allow for anyone’s entry, or escape. Impregnable. Incurious. Unfeeling. Nothing can reach her in this tower, where no windows or doors exist. How free she is, entrapped here, hidden away from everything that would do her harm.

She waits. Not for the beast raging beyond her ramparts seeking its way back in, but for the boy, the beautiful boy still yet to come. He will be gifted by the faeries, as she was when she was a child. The gift of charm. The gift of brilliance. The gift of love. These gifts will he have and other gifts besides but on those she is too broken to dwell. Her face contorts from once-blushing maiden to a mad woman in the throes of anguish as she remembers why. As her eyes fall towards her engorged belly, swollen with the child of the beast.

She had thought her walls impregnable but a hard kick from the child inside her proves that she was wrong. She is strong, but so is this child, and so is his will. From the first time he came to her – a false face with false sentiments and sweeping gestures that promised happily ever after – she had wanted this. Until she recognized his hatred for her, realized that he saw her as nothing more than a thing with which to please himself, tearing at her again and again and again, until neither of them knew the person who was left.

Her heart beats hard and slow as her eyes travel up the wall before her. It is a poisoned apple her heart, each beat nourishing and embittered. All she had ever wanted was to be devoured by someone who could love her, not break through her barriers and leave her disfigured with his flesh and blood inside her body. But the child brings change, and the boy won’t need to cut a path through thorns to awaken her. Because he is the way, because he is the door, when she walks out through him, she’ll come home.

Stalking Leviathan: A Bestiary of Tales

Review by Knicky Laurelle


Author name: The Random Writers

Book Title: Stalking Leviathan: A Bestiary of Tales 


 The Synopsis: “It’s out there. I can feel it in my water. I can hear it…”

Twelve tales go in search of creatures of myth, legend, and the spaces between the real and the imagined. From the overwhelming confusion of the Irish Civil War to the eerie expanse of modern day Bodmin Moor; from Elizabethan England to the skies above Persia, the Random Writers quest for an answer to the question – What is the nature of the beast?

Length: 198 pages

Release date: 27 September, 2016

Available formats: Paperback and eBook from Amazon

Purchase link:


“Farewell Civilisation”

For the beast from which your careful order once sprang has returned to devour it whole. The name of that beast is Myth and Stalking Leviathan: A Bestiary of Tales, its hunting ground. I finished reading this third anthological instalment from The Random Writers a few days ago. It is a menagerie of the more obscure creatures of legend and lore. Everything from unicorns to chimeras to harpies is here, hidden between the pages, within stories of power, fantasy and intrigue. To quote a favoured line of mine: “Stepping into the enormous morning” of such an ambitious effort to weave words into new wonders, I found myself truly excited to see what gifts the writers would offer us this time and theme around.

It goes without saying that there is something here for everyone to enjoy. I also think it fair to say that it was a challenge to not compare this anthology with the one that preceded it. The truth of the matter is this collection of stories felt … slightly rushed to me, and resonated less with me than the one it followed. It didn’t seem as strong or to have the same tight finish as Something Rich and Strange. However, that is not to say there weren’t some pieces within it by which I was awakened and entranced, and it is on these I’ll focus.

I really enjoyed My Sister’s Shadow.  Despite most everything being alluded to rather than openly stated – perhaps even because of this – I found it powerful and haunting. Written as journal entries in a strong, modern blogger’s voice, this story captures the spirit of Japanese culture to perfection and felt akin to reading manga or watching an anime in my mind. It is a tale of nature’s supremacy and dominion over human progress, its demand for human respect, and a vivid and fantastic opening to this anthology.

There was some great imagery in Kestrel and the Cryptonites, “a soft ethereal green that shimmered like the underside of leaves on a breezy day”, for example, and some fun lore in the existence of female wizards and the distinction between them and witches. The Pitcher Plant was spooky and well-written and any disappointment felt in the somewhat anticlimactic ending only serves to denote the degree to which I was invested in the story, and to which my expectations of some kind of face-off and resolution between the main character and the creature went unfulfilled.

Black Dog was also well-done; stellar story-telling and use of metaphor to depict the battle against depression as a monstrous, predatory shadow in the night, and how sometimes it takes an unforeseen force of good from beyond this earthly realm to beat back that darkness and pull one’s self into the sunlight. I thought The Bone Children and the Darkness was another beautifully-written piece as well, in which both madness and the interplay of love and fear felt convincing and true-to-life, uncomfortably so.

The Hounds of God was really strong too, from its opening imagery to its likeable, fun-to-read main character to its terrific use of language throughout. Honorable mention goes to both The Child of the Ghillie Dhu and Keep My Name Amongst the Dead, the former for its faerie tale feeling, the latter for its exotic flavor, and both for reminding me why I’ve loved stories all of my life. Here is the haunt of mythic beasts, beasts that stalk us, beasts we stalk in turn. Here is where they roam and hide and wait, between the pages, within the stories, to devour the careful order of civilization itself and in so doing, remind us who we are.

Favourite Line(s):

“The rice fields are old mirrors and the air is heavy with pollen.” – My Sister’s Shadow, Lorraine Wilson.

Overall Orb Rating

3.5 Roses (rounded up to 4) – Bloom and Grow (I enjoyed the splendour)     


Links to top reviews for Stalking Leviathan: A Bestiary of Tales



Something Rich and Strange: The Past is Prologue

Review by Knicky Laurelle


Author name: The Random Writers

Book Title: Something Rich and Strange: The Past is Prologue


The Synopsis: ‘It started with the Zhar-ptitsa, the Firebird, as these things must. No, let us say it started again with the Firebird.’

A group of researchers open a door in the present day that has been closed for centuries – and should have stayed that way. In 1840s Ireland, starving children face desperate measures to avoid the crisis consuming the land. A visitor to 19th century Japan learns what it takes to fan love to life. A girl struggles to rise above the walls that surround her in Georgian England. In 7th century Britain, a scribe translates the true value of a legend. Fourteen surprising, moving and compelling tales, weaving the next steps in the telling of famous events and stories from Greek myth to English folktale, via fairy tales and real historical events. The second anthology from The Random Writers – this is Something Rich and Strange.

Length: 308 pages

Release date: 29 November, 2015

Available formats: Paperback from Amazon or Createspace Direct, eBook from Nook, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple and Smashwords

Purchase links:

“And so it ends.”

Or in the case of Something Rich and Strange: The Past is Prologue, begins again. I recently finished my first fantasy anthology read of 2016 and it couldn’t have made a more perfect beginning to a new year of stories to discover and explore. A marvel spun by The Random Writers from the fluid and infinite nature of Story itself, these are tales of wonder, a collection of rare and exotic fruit in a mythic orchard, each one bursting with secrets and truths untold. “What have you to offer me, poised on the edge of my life?” you might ask of it, to quote a favoured line of mine from this work. The answer is magic and sacrifice, power and loneliness, flight and despair. The answer is in its name.

Because this anthology is a many-splendored thing it would go without saying that it is resonant on myriad levels. You will find something, or someone, here to love. That is not to say it’s perfect. I found some stories middling compared to others, with endings that confused and fell short of resonance with me, while others sailed clean over my head and were simply not my thing. But I won’t say which ones, for all of this is a matter of mere opinion, which you might not find to be true and which is really my point.

A new year brings with it a new focus, and so I’ll focus on what I love. I loved Walls. It stroked my love of beast and tragic fantasy, and was a strong contender for my favourite wonder tale over all. I thought The Return of Lottie White clever and immensely enjoyable, and Speaking The Girls beautifully-written and yet another contender for overall favourite. The Descent of Man handled its premise and ideas so well as to leave me wanting more, and Godfather Death Part II won points for its narrative POV and having one of the strongest endings amongst all the stories.

I found The Great Hunger to be a wonderful coalescence between the Irish Potato Famine of 1845 and Hansel and Gretel, with traces of Peter Pan stirred in to darken the scent. Gold was quite funny, despite its rather abrupt and bleak ending, and Towards a Pure Land shone with characterization so emotively engaging and brilliant that my heart turned a cold, angry bitter at the ending, and I wanted to throttle the writer for thwarted hope I knew I had no right to feel. Which leaves the latest literary love of my life – Vasilisa, my favourite story, and my god, what perfection is here.

I anticipated reading this story most of all. Vasilisa tales are more often times than not inhabited by someone I love very much – Baba Yaga, the witch of the Iron Forest. There was no Baba in this Vasilisa story, but I was not disappointed. How could I be, with words so exquisite, a chase so surreal and loss so tragic it broke my heart as if it were my own? I’ve never read anything more perfect. And so it is with this anthology. It is as much home to thrills and enchantment as it is to uncertainty and fears, all of which you will gladly suffer, for all are shaping something, not just rich and strange … but rich and strange, and beautiful.

Favourite Line(s):

“What have you to offer me, poised on the edge of my life?” – Speaking the Girls, Karen Ginnane

“Soon, the battlefield was a mass of men, rippling, swelling and contracting like a flock of starlings in the early evening.” – Parchment, Matthew Willis

“That very hardest time of day is the hour after sunset when the whole world is tipped towards what it has lost and the sky is not yet done with bleeding.” – Vasilisa, Lorraine Wilson

Overall Orb Rating

4 Roses – Bloom and Grow (I enjoyed the splendour)     


Links to top reviews for Something Rich and Strange: The Past is Prologue

A Song in Red and Grey


‘Oh, the red leaf looks to the hard gray stone

to each other, they know what they mean

somewhere, their future is still yet to come

in ways that are yet as of now unforeseen’

– Suzanne Vega, Song in Red and Gray


“I’m cold,” she says, looking into his eyes. Her expression is careless, the walls she had kept it behind long crumbled. The remains of his faded shirt are tucked around her more delicate areas. Her legs and back are bare to the frost that coats the walls overnight. Every night for the last ninety-eight days, they’d been held captive in the grey stone room. Every night for the last ninety-eight days, since they had been seized.

The only warmth she has felt during that time is the warmth she feels now. His fingers splay across her upper back, the cupping of her slender form in his arms, firm and protective. The promise to keep her safe flares unbidden in the gaze he returns as he pulls her closer. His head lowers towards hers own. Taupe-coloured hair falls around a youthful face, the strands mingling with her auburn mane, tangled from months of neglect.

His odour envelops her as she burrows in close. It has been days since they were last allowed to wash. That was when she had lost her own clothes, the guards who kept watch over them finding their absence … amusing. Until he had macerated the flesh of one guard’s nose with a blow, for touching what their absence revealed. They have been given no more clothing to replace the ones stolen and torn, recompense for the injured guard.

And no more baths either. His scent is pungent, and pleasant to her. She has come to associate that smell with his warmth, both now a source of great comfort.

“I’m sorry …” he says, his lips cracked from hunger. She nods thinking he means the cold. “… I didn’t think that when we left, we would’ve ended here.”

She plays with the thumb resting on her shoulder, her arm wrapped around her breasts concealing them from view. The gesture is unthinking.

“What we did was wrong,” she says, her words simple. They contradict the emotion raging in her heart. She shivers. The chill of the air intensifies with each moment as does the chill of their circumstance.

Plot Twist!


It is the absolute truth of things that life hurls these at us when we aren’t looking, when we’re on top of the world, when everything is in its place.  It is the absolute truth of things that life abhors perfection. It abhors even the illusion of the stuff.

I won’t speak of the absolute war life has waged on my world over the last several months, or the mess it left behind. It does no good to speak of such private matters so publicly, nor does it do any good to dwell on the passing of storms.

Only what good can be said was left in their wake. There is such good here, and so much to do with it, I am left overwhelmed by the possibilities. I cannot remain still. Knowing the mistakes I’ve made, knowing the future I face, I must move forward.

The next time we speak let it be of happier things, and even happier things after that. One day I’ll tell you of the storm, but that is not today. Today I just want to get through my first blog post by 7′ o clock, have another cup of tea and do a bit of reading before bedtime.

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