Hortholary: Tales from Montagascony

Michael Reynier. Tartarus, $65 (352p) ISBN 978-1-905784-77-6
Set in the 18th century in the Ruritanian country of Montagascony, the delightfully old-fashioned fantasies gathered in this volume span the lifetime of Summanus Horthólary, a professor of anatomy whose investigations frequently veer from the scientific into the supernatural. In "The Angel of Pessane," the puzzling discovery of a frozen body in the middle of a field of untouched snow prompts an investigation into an invention that verges on the science fictional. "Dii Nixi" takes a page from H.P. Lovecraft's "The Colour out of Space" in its account of meteorite whose plunge to Earth brings with it a horrifying pestilence. In "The Nephilim," a young Horthólary discovers that the biblical account of giants in the earth has its real-life correlative in the local fossil record. "Nemestrinus" is a magnificent occult thriller with a deftly executed twist ending in which the professor, now an elderly man, is witness to a marvelously inverted episode of demonic possession. Though the stories abound with weird and wonderful incidents, much of their entertainment comes from the rich local color and elaborate backstories that Reynier (Five Degrees of Latitude) has imagined for his land and people. The superstitious locals, feuding families, and scheming authorities whose recurring roles unite these stories take their brushes with the uncanny in stride, alongside the rituals and routines of their ordinary day-to-day experiences. These tales are superb examples of worldbuilding fantasy at its finest. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/2016
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