Silkskin and the Forest Dwellers/Lord of Shalott, Jay Mountney, Smashwords, 2012, Ebook price: $2.99 US.
I was given a free copy of Jay Mountney’s Silkskin and the Forest Dwellers months back but with finishing university and a new job, I scarcely had time to read, let alone *think* about her story in a way that would do it adequate blogging justice. I can now honestly report that I have read both of Jay’s novella’s (I bought Lord of Shalott because I am a sucker for Arthurian stories). Both stories use a fairy story/legend as its basis gaining some originality and freshness to the tale appropriated through use of gender swappage and unconventional, non-heteronormative depiction of love and romance (Oh yes these are adult and mature happily ever afters. Homophobes need not apply.)
Silkskin and the Forest Dwellers retells Snow White in a doubly interesting way by making Silkskin- the Snow White stand in- male, homosexual and presumably non-white. The story ends as predicted- with the evil queen defeated and normalcy restored to Silkskin’s kingdom. The fun to be had with this kind of appropriation is in finding the subversions. I would give this story a higher starred rating if not for the author’s decision to write in an old fashioned style. Though there is no rule that says you cannot do this, after all it worked for past story tellers, I found it distancing and this made it hard for me to care about Silkskin. I also felt that the story could have been more fleshed out and that this coupled with the distancing third person narration made the story seem rushed in places.
I am a total Arthurian legend sucker so I fell like a stone for Lord of Shalott. The Lady/Lord Jocelyn felt suitably poetic in the first person and I loved their description of the woven tapestry. This novella really displayed Mountney’s ability to write well. However, like Silkskin’s tale, I also felt that the story became rushed in the second half, especially since Merlin had not been introduced till the last part of the story. I also wonder if it would not have been more interesting to follow Tennyson’s poem to its natural conclusion with;
But Lancelot mused a little space;
He said, “She has a lovely face;
May God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott.”
A cross dresser misfit holed up in a tower ‘lent grace’ by Lancelot would be just as subversive as The Merlin healing Jocelyn’s broken heart (and on a random note I really hate the description of ‘The Merlin.’ He will always be Merlin Emrys to me thanks to Mary Stuart. I have a lot of faith invested in the historical Merlin). Be that as it may I really enjoyed this novella and especially the first half which I found to be achingly beautiful.
Silkskin and the Forest Dwellers: 2.5/5 inky stars
Lord of Shalott: 3.5/5 inky stars