Kev Harrison is a new writer to me but after his offering ‘The Balance’ he is a writer I will continue to read and seek out, such is the depth of story and stunning prose on offer!
‘The Balance’ is a strange beast it’s like the offspring of the folklore brilliance one expects from the Brothers Grimm and the absurdity and visceral writing of James Herbert – and I bloody loved it! You have a story which in the first instance is grounded within a likable and fully rounded protagonist and we see the world through their eyes. What I loved about Harrison’s work is that every character within this wonderfully crafted novella is of use, he’s trimmed the fat and there is no space for hangers on, each character adds to the story and to the ensuing chaos that is coming.
Folklore is having a resurgence at the moment in fiction, but then one has to ask the question has it ever really gone away or are we looking for more escapism from the world and find our home and our belonging in myth and folklore as it reminds us of our childhood, of a time when things weren’t as bad as they are now; are we looking for security and happiness? As you know folklore is a huge part of our lives, we have all heard tales issued forth from families and communities about the places we live or visit (or read about them in school) – shared around campfires and hushed conversations. With ‘The Balance’ Harrison brings us a version of the Slavic folklore of Baba Yaga – it’s a folkore that I know about well but Harrison brings a freshness and a horror to this cannon like never before, which makes this beautifully crafted novella urgent reading for any horror fans out there.
He takes the basic concept of Baba Yaga but adds his own interpretation, adds his own slice of horror and reimagining crafting a slice of horror that is hard to forget – you can see in your minds-eye people discussing Harrison’s story around a campfire for years to come.
As mentioned previously the characters are where this novella excels, fully rounded, each lending themselves to the unraveling of the story and the horror within. But there is one other character that is not named and that is the place the story is set, there is a huge sense of place within the novella, it is so rich and so well written that one can get lost within the pages like an enchanted forest that doesn’t want you to leave, no matter how many breadcrumbs you leave to find your way out. There is also a great work on the sense of time, the period where the story is set – it’s so richly woven into the fabric of Harrison’s storytelling that it forms the capstone. With The Balance you are fully immersed in the world that has been crafted by an masterful storyteller.
The horrors that he writes about are delightfully and deftly put across, visceral and gory at points which are delicious dark and have an impact on the reader long after reading.
‘His mouth hung open, brambles like stitches woven in and out of the now blue lips. Where his eyes once were, two poppies had bloomed, their dense black stamens coated with seeds at the centre of the paper-like red petals.’
‘The Balance’ is expertly balanced folklore which has been deftly spliced with horror and in this strange, horrific alchemy Harrison has created the perfect horror infused fable… a book you need to read.
The Balance is published by LVP Publications and is available here.
Kev Harrison is a writer of dark fiction and English language teacher from England, living and working in Lisbon, Portugal. He has previously lived in various areas of the UK, as well as Turkey and Poland.
He is a staff writer for This is Horror and has had short fiction published in a variety of magazines and anthologies, including Lost Films, from Perpetual Motion Machine Publishing, Below the Stairs: Tales From The Cellar from Things in the Well, Aphotic Realm Magazine’s ‘Fangs’ issue and ‘In Darkness Delight: Creatures of the Night from Corpus Press. He has also had short fiction featured on The Other Stories and Tales to Terrify podcasts.
His first single-author release, ‘Cinders of a Blind Man Who Could See’ is available now in eBook and paperback (with additional content) from Demain Publishing, as part of their ‘Short Sharp Shocks’ range of titles.
Reviewed by Ross Jeffery
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