The mythsterhood loves exploring all forms of mythology: literature, art, games, even song. What brought us together was the love of a good myth. So in addition to our own dragon content, we wanted to pass on some modern myths to our listeners. In our Dragon Tails blog series, you’ll find reviews of stories collected from a variety of media.
This week, Jaz introduces you to Gamba from Caitlin Crowley’s Outcasts of the Fair Forest available in New Myths.
Upon reading the first couple of paragraphs, two things quickly became clear. Number one: the prose style is not something I typically prefer to read. Number two: prose style, schmose style. I was glued to the page and eager to find out what was about to happen.
Caitlin Crowley drops the reader in a swamp, painting it so vividly you can smell the damp moss.
And that first line.
It was the monster’s feeding time, and the forest waited and watched in silence.Outcasts of the Fair Forest by Caitlin Crowley
The sense of foreboding that created was irresistible. I had to know who would end up as prey.
Gamba, the dragon and protagonist in this story, is painted in a rather unsavory light due to the ruthless manner with which he hunts and kills, and his plan to trick his next quarry. But at the same time, the way the other creatures mock him, openly or with some degree of subtlety, gives a hint that not all is what it seems. Gamba tells himself he doesn’t care about their taunts. He’s used to it.
And yet, he reminisces on the past, on childhood daydreams of a better life, or a more illustrious heritage.
And when Gamba’s second quarry falls for the ruse and, in his naivety, leads Gamba to suss out the truth of why the creature came to the forest and Gamba’s marshy den, the old wyrm discovers he’s capable of empathy after all. Perhaps even redemption. Who knows? You’ll have to read the story to find out.
Gamba is both protagonist and villain, and he begins the story as the type of villain we all love to hate and cheer against. But the layers his personality and background that are revealed as the story progresses were more than enough to draw me in and make me forgive a more flowery prose style than I’d usually go for or the distraction of the heavy accent in which Gamba’s dialogue lines are written.
Add to that a rich sense of a broader world than the reader gets to see in this story, and I was sold. It definitely feels like this setting was engineered to carry more than one story.
One thing about this fairy-tale world puzzles me, though. The opening sequence has a section of backstory explaining the origins of the Lyndworms as a cross between a dragon and a crocodile. Later, we learn that Gamba was raised by an alligator. But one usually inhabits salt water, while the other prefers fresh water.
It’s not impossible, and as a writer, Crowley forges the background of her story as she sees fit, of course. But it’s a distraction that made me do a double take and was enough to pull my attention away from where I wanted it to be, which is Gamba and his unlikely prey. I can’t help but ask myself: had I written this, where would I want to ask my reader to spend their suspense of disbelief?
I make this observation, fully aware that it’s nit-picky. It’s also a matter of taste and opinion. At any rate, it’s not worth skipping this story for. Go and read it, see for yourself if Gamba ends up redeeming himself or not.
While you’re at it, pay Caitlin Crowley a visit:
Jaz, also known as the Wolf Mother, is a writer, poet, narrator, and vessel of chaos. She is eternally grateful for her mother’s refusal to curtail her children in their choices–whether that was literature, spirituality, studies, or appearance–and grew up devouring her older brother’s collection of fantasy novels. In hindsight, telling stories of her own seems inevitable, but it took her a while to accept this and find the courage to begin.