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Dark Currents

Dark Currents is the first instalment in a new urban fantasy series Agent of Hel by American author Jacqueline Carey.
Set in the picturesque Midwestern tourist town of Pemkowet, protagonist Daisy Johanssen is a hell-spawn, daughter of a demon and mortal mother and the chosen representative and enforcer for the Norse goddess Hel, ruler of the Underworld and the Fae community of Pemkowet. Daisy acts as an intermediary between the mortal community in her role as official Fae liaison for Pemkowet Police Department and the Fae creatures that call Pemkowet home, vampires, fairies, pixies, nymphs, ghouls, werewolves, brownies and many other eldritch beings drawn to the magical powers centered around Yggdrasil and the Underworld ruled by Hel. On initial appearance, Pemkowet is an ordinary tourist town but the sudden death of a wealthy college student and involvement of the Fae community requires Daisy to act as liaison and solve the issues quickly without disrupting the balance between mortal and Fae communities.
But Daisy has her own issues, not controlling her demonic heritage could have consequences for her ability to succeed as Hel’s liaison, where Daisy’s temptation to unleash her anger and high emotions often leads to unintended violent effects on the world around her. Daisy has a race against time to discover who murdered the human college student and the purportaitors of crimes against the Fae before the delicate balance of Pemkowet dissolves into chaos.
Dark Currents was an enjoyable urban fantasy with a well-researched folkloric and mythology background which provided great foundations for the unusual setting of the novel. It was a novel of opposites that matched the town it is set in: a story that was light and dark, amusing but also with serious undertones. I look forward to reading the other novels in the Agent of Hel Trilogy!

Short Stories, stories

Dark Fantasy & Leprechaun Lore

I was recently fascinated by the folklore of fairy beings like leprechauns which have a long and conflicting history in Irish folklore. Far from the jovial trickster at the end of a rainbow who if caught can be forced into providing a pot of gold, the less-popularised stories of leprechauns in Irish folklore cast them as malevolent solitary fairies in a similar class as beings like the leanan sidhe, Dullahan and the Banshee. I was inspired to write a dark fantasy story exploring the darker nature of leprechauns and the consequences mentioned in various Irish folktales when making bargains with leprechauns that were more often a double-edged sword.

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Vigil

One of my recent reads was the paranormal urban fantasy, Vigil by Australian author Angela Slatter. The first book in the Verity Fassbinder Series follows the paranormal private detective Verity Fassbinder set in an alternate version of Brisbane city, Australia where Verity acts as a mediator between the mortals (Normals) and the paranormal community (Weyrd). Verify herself is a half-blood, orphan daughter of disgraced and executed Weyrd criminal. While her only inherited trait from her Weyrd ancestry is a remnant of the infamous strength her father once possessed, she acts as an investigator for the Normal police system and the Weyrd Council.

Set in an alternate version of the modern day city of Brisbane, both resembling and not similar at all to the real Australian city, Verity is tasked with investigating the darker side of the Weyrd world and closely linked to her own father’s demise. Those in the Weyrd community who refuse to discard the old traditions of hunting and consuming Normals have continued their predelications despite the Weyrd Council outlawing such traditions when Verity’s father came to the attention of Normal and Weyrd communities alike. Now Verity must confront those aspects of her own past and family connections when a wine is sold among the Weyrd community made from the tears of Normal children. To keep the peace between the Normals and prevent them from discovering the Weyrd community among them, Verity begins to investigate deep into the old, traditional families among the Weyrd and close to the Council itself. Into this already atmosphere fraught atmosphere, a powerful and uncontrollable force is hunting both Weyrd Councillors and normals alike. As if the issues Verity needs to investigate were not dangerous enough, the sirens inhabiting Brisbane, near-immortal winged bird-like women are being murdered around the city. The threat to the peace between Normals and Weyrd begins to escalate and the potential for disaster increases as Verity needs to solve three cases or risk the Weyrd of Brisbane being revealed to the outnumbering populus of Normals.

Vigil is a debut novel by Angela Slatter and the first in a trilogy of urban fantasy with a basis in myth and folklore. Likened to US Urban fantasy author Jim Butcher I also found similarities with US urban fantasy author Patricia Briggs. However, Angela Slatter’s Vigil was refreshingly different, the style and characters as unique as the world-building behind the novel. The strong research in myth and folklore is clear in Vigil and it is woven throughout the story to create a new work without the dreaded ‘info-dump’ moments which make the history and lore of the Weyrd feel a genuine component of the world-building process. In sum, Vigil transports you to an alternate Brisbane which feels like it could be real if you just look close enough. A highly recommended read!

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Australian Tawny Frogmouth Folklore

The tawny frogmouth is a species of nocturnal bird native to much of Australia. It is well known in Australian landscapes for the staring red-gold eyes, the camouflage resembling a branch or broken tree stump and it’s seemingly unworried response to human presence.

I was walking in the early morning at a pine forest near where I live and was fortunate enough to spot a tawny frogmouth camouflaged against a pine tree trunk.

Although the tawny frogmouth is often considered like an owl, it is more related to a nightjar but many Australian nocturnal birds share similar symbolic roles in indigenous fables and folklore.

Among the indigenous cultures of the Noongar from Western Australia, the nocturnal birds like the tawny frogmouth and owls were associated with the shamanic powers of the ‘clever men’ and the opposing dangerous forces of night:

Traditionally associated with the dark totem, the owl was believed to be a totemic familiar of the ‘boylya-man’ or sorcerer (”clever man”) and the darkness of night was perceived as a dangerous time when ghosts and supernatural spirits were ever-present.

Owl Beliefs in Nyungar Culture by Ken Macintyre and Barb Dobson.

The shamanic healers of many different indigenous Australia nations and cultures are sometimes known ‘clever men’ and in the Noongar cultures of Western Australia, the clever men were sometimes associated with the nocturnal birds to protect their tribe:

It is not uncommon to hear stories of how certain bulya or ‘clever’ men were believed to have the ability to transform themselves into a night bird such as the owl or mopoke and under this guise were able to watch over and ‘police’ campsites at night time to ensure that the inhabitants were safe from intruders, and also to act as a deterrent against young men becoming involved in sexual transgressions prior to initiation, or breaking the incest taboo. Culturally, the owl may be viewed as an agent of social control in that it is able to fly silently throughout the night, and aided by its powerful, penetrating night vision, is able to watch over people’s night time activities and then report back to the ‘clever man’ to whom it is considered a type of “familiar spirit’

Owl Beliefs in Nyungar Culture by Ken Macintyre and Barb Dobson.

Short Stories, stories

Curses, Storms & Talismans

A constant interest and inspiration in my writing and daily life is the environment. Recently, Australia has suffered some of the worst bushfires on top of a lengthening drought. While I was travelling in Europe from August-October 2019, I started thinking about a possible new idea for novel. First, I needed to write a short story exploring some of the themes and characters. The idea for this story took shape from the the reliance of many early nomadic cultures on the environment. I wondered how a magical way to harness that power could play a vital role in securing the survival of one group over another. I drew inspiration from some of the marvellous artefacts, histories, fairytales and fables I encountered while travelling through European museums. I found inspiration in folktales of magical objects imbued with a spirit like stories of the jinn from Middle Eastern folktales or silver treasure in Celtic folklore. In many of these cursed object folktales, the powerful object, more accurately the entity within, are beholden to the will of a mortal.

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Iceland’s Yule Trolls

In Icelandic tradition, the Yule lads are thirteen trolls who arrive one at a time on each of the 13 days before Christmas and depart in the order they arrived, on the days after Christmas Day. On Christmas Eve, the troll witch Gryla leaves the mountains to seek any children who had been ill-behaved or were without the protection of their parents, taking them back to the mountains where she cooks them into a stew for her lazy husband.


The thirteen Icelandic Yule Lads are described with the acts they are infamously known for tormenting human communities. More can be found at the Smithsonian Magazine here


Sheep-Cote Clod: He tries to suckle yews in farmer’s sheep sheds
Gully Gawk: He steals foam from buckets of cow milk
Stubby: He’s short and steals food from frying pans
Spoon Licker: He licks spoons
Pot Scraper: He steals unwashed pots and licks them clean
Bowl Licker: He steals bowls of food from under the bed (back in the old days, Icelanders used to sometimes store bowls of food there – convenient for midnight snacking?)
Door Slammer: He stomps around and slams doors, keeping everyone awake
Skyr Gobbler: He eats up all the Icelandic yogurt (skyr)
Sausage Swiper: He loves stolen sausages
Window Peeper: He likes to creep outside windows and sometimes steal the stuff he sees inside
Door Sniffer: He has a huge nose and an insatiable appetite for stolen baked goods
Meat Hook: He snatches up any meat left out, especially smoked lamb  Candle Beggar: He steals candles, which used to be sought-after items in Iceland


Since 1746, the Yule trolls became less scary and presented as more mischievous, trickster characters who were depicted as jolly Santa Claus-like figures who left gifts for the well-behaved children and potatoes for the ill-behaved ones. The Yule trolls as they had been described in early traditions and folktales described them as emaciated and clothed in rags. There is a current movement in Iceland to return the Yule Lads to their original descriptions and depictions as the vagabond and desperate orphans accompanying Gryla.

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Iceland’s Monstrous Yule Cat


In Iceland, the Yule Cat, Jólakötturin, is a traditional monstrous figure that purportedly prowls the countryside on Christmas Eve devouring those who did not receive new clothing items for Christmas.

There are many debates over the origins of the Yule Cat in Icelandic tradition which does not appear to be mentioned in written form before the 19th century, however, some Icelandic traditions state new clothes are a reward for children who complete chores on time by Christmas Eve. The truth about the origins of Jólakötturin is probably complex and for whatever reason, does not appear openly in historical texts.


In modern Reykjavik, an illuminated sculpture of Jólakötturin has recently been established in honor of the Yule Cat tradition in Iceland.

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The City of Brass

The City of Brass is the first installment in the debut fantasy series The Daevabad Trilogy by American author S. A. Chakraborty based on early Islamic folklore and legends. The City of Brass follows female protagonist Nahri, a con-woman and thief who grew up an orphan on the Cairo streets during Ottoman-French occupation. Nahri has never believed in magic, thinking her unusually accurate abilities to sense illness and talent for languages an extension of her ability to deceive and read a mark. When Nahri attempts a risky healing, she uses a language remembered only from her childhood and accidentally summons Dara, a legendary but mysterious and dangerous warrior djin. In summoning Dara, Nahri also attracts the attention of the deadly ghouls controlled by the destructive ifrit. Fighting for their lives, Dara takes Nahri and flees across the vast expanse of desert, certain the ifrit search for her. In flight across the endless desert landscape, Dara tells Nahri of the legendary city of Daevabad, the tall gilded brass walls of the legendary djinn fortress. Nahri follows Dara, the haunting memories of ghouls and ifrit spurring her to trust Dara even though it has been centuries since he had been within Daevabad and the inconsistencies of his story worry Nahri at the reception they might receive.
The City of Brass was a powerful fantasy debut with the unique Islamic folklore and legends providing an adventurous flair that can only become stronger with the continuing installments in the series.

Short Stories, stories

Folklore & Nature

Human survival has always been dependent on the natural environment and many mythologies show links between folklore and human fear of environmental instability. I was curious to explore folklore dealing with how past and present cultures attempt to explain and avoid disastrous environmental fluctuations. As human survival is so clearly linked to a stable environment, natural disasters like floods, drought and severe storms have been explained by many different folktales, explaining how appeasing supernatural forces could avoid climatic catastrophe. Long and short-term disasters were often viewed as societies or specific families who had failed to appease the supernatural beings who had power over the environment. Such examples occur throughout different cultures and folklore but the common themes involve a bargain between the mortals inhabiting lands under the power of supernatural beings, whether they are the Fair Folk of Irish folklore, the jinn of the Middle East or powerful spirits of Japanese folklore. According to folklore, a bargain with these supernatural beings can protect the land from poor harvests, drought, floods or harsh winters. I am exploring how these bargains could occur over generations with supernatural beings acting as guardians for a specific family and the effect for the environment when reneging on such a bargain.