“Light” fantasy more often becomes oriented on teenage reading. After all, in the genre, where the world-creating power of imagination is asserted, it’s worth erasing a mark about the age in the passport. Young adults and adult youth and the books for them. And it’s very economical! Buy a new book and it’s read by the whole family – children, parents and pets.
There’s moderate enlightenment, moderate didacticism, necessary adventure plots, necessary characters who grow up influenced by the extraordinary circumstances – and, of course, new worlds and ideally: elaborated, alternative and magic. The somewhat changed reality is still recognisable, but seductive in its novelty. The extent this magic is effective depends on the proficiency of the dreamer.
By the way, the dreamer isn’t the author, but the reader – young adult.
Maryna Makushchenko, “The Dark Side of the House” (The Old Lion Publishing House)
Yarka is fourteen. She must be two-three hundred years old, domovyk (protective house spirit in Slavic folklore – translator’s note) grows up slowly until it finds its own home. Yarka lives with father, mother and brother. She looks unnaturally adult, being unnaturally young as for the spirit. And as for supernatural, yes, this kiddo is a Kyivan domovyk. But somewhat special. Home and human gave birth to her. These are called Pokruchi (crossbreed species in Slavic folklore – translator’s note) on the fact of origin, but Yara’s powers aren’t domovyk’s but mermaid’s. Domovyks can play with physical dimensions an can’t leave Home under pain of death. Yarka can’t disappear, walk wherever she wants and lets out Fog, which activates the most secret horrors of people and other creatures.
But the goal in life is shared here: to protect the house from destruction, which is caused by people who have stopped believing in Spirits. The oldest magic is against plastic windows. I wouldn’t risk betting on the winner. Moreover, in the quality city fantasy.
But it’s not enough. Powerful pureblood Night lady appears in the city. The last time it was a hundred year ago and everyone knows the history of Kyiv at the beginning of XX c. when the scope of citizens completely renewed. Who, by the way, brought their domovyks to the flats or simply rejected the spirits. Yarka must oppose the new powerful enemy. Yara with family lives in the “First”. This is the house of Pidgirskyi on Yarvala.
Time to look at the Yaroslava’s name. The first clash of the kid with her enemy takes place in the “fourteen-B” – income house, where “Suziria” theatre is located; another adventure’s in Liberman’s estate on the Bankova Street. Legendary Chocolate, House of the Weeping Widow, House with Chimaeras are also present, one of which is protected by Yarka’s friend. Indeed, in this story of architecturally-infernal Kyiv there won’t be a talk without “Thirteen” – that is, Andriivsky Uzviz, 13. The headquarter of the Kyivan home spirits is situated here in this novel.
The history of these houses in the “Dark side” is a so-called story about the domovyks of Kyiv. By the way, this is the name of the book which the father of Yaroslava constantly reads. After all, only human history means something. Domovyks serve only the Home they belong to. People (and some “hybrid” inhumans) are free to choose. The houses in the novel have dazzling adventures the same as girls-pokruchi and boys-domovyks have. And even in the Writer’s Association, that is on the Bankova Sreet, 2, something literary-interesting will happen finally.
Despite the obvious enlightening purpose (and obvious young auditory of the book), the main problem of the Makushchenko’s novel is typical for fantasy but ethically difficult.
Here the mechanism of xenophobia is analyzed (and it’s practised slowly, what half-blood Yarka will experience).
The Night lady destroys the houses systemically – tracing the crimes of NKVD (People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs in the Soviet Union – translator’s note).
But she’s sicced by another character, who follows his animal antisemitism (by the way, real biographical person). And another route is drawn: tracing Jewish pogroms. Fates of the inhumans from the Makushchenko’s world are determined by genocides and crimes against humaneness (the humanity) Actually, the main question in the books sounds like this: what exactly can we call humaneness? Is this option enough to be present in the creature to be called a human being?
Imagine that someone voluntarily wants to be a human being, are other variants available there?
Natalya Motolinets, “Varta in the Game” (ASSA (Agency of Skilful Specialists and Authors))
Varta is the name. This is the name of 25 years old magician, an active participant of the youngest coven of magicians, witches and alchemist. And “undercover” – a waitress in the modern café called “Agatha”, an adopted child of respected parents.
In this game fantasy, Lviv inferno is divided into two wings – light and dark, “opaque” and “fireflies”. The difference in them is that the one is fed with positive emotions of people, the other with negative. The distribution of power between the dark and light determines the Game, the series of competitions, which are judged by the special jury once in hundred years. The victory in the Game means that the winners will take the majority of administration in the Central European Conglomerate. The procedure looks like this: the mark like a sewer hatch appears, for example, it should be poured with blood chosen in advance victim among the dark of light. Whose blood is poured – that clan lost. Varta belongs to the dark side and she’s very powerful. But she prefers to keep out of the Game. Until Prague curly-headed cutie Zlatan appears in the city and forces her to do it. On the way, there’re several Zlatans and each of them is mysterious, beautiful and dangerous. The witch-friend foretells Varta the meeting with three powerful men, each of them ends with death. So what? The Game has started. Varta steps in the Game.
A magical thunder mixture of “hunger games” and electoral rallies to the Parliament. And the purity of intentions and the purity of the Game is the same as on TV-show and politics. Co-trust and co-honesty are at the minimum. Everyone is led by the only guideline: “The strongest will survive”. This slogan is partially about evolution (the topic of inhumanity progress is important for “Varta”)
The global task of the Game lies in the distribution of energy, not power. When the blood of the magic creature pours the twelfth mark, the power is let out, thanks to which the creatures live the next hundred year. Zlatan has a theory: this power isn’t a gift, it’s a byproduct of a demon, which is summoned in this manner. You can make a wish to this demon, for which you should pay; or you can stay cursed for a hundred year. Once, half-legendary Vartovi ( ‘varta’ – guards in Ukrainian – translator’s note) opposed the demon’s power. Zlatan is mistaken: there’re no demons in the magic world of Motolinets. And what about the Vartovi, Varta’s name is a crystal clear sign of the end.
But back to the explosion of the energy. The energy release at the finish of Game suspiciously resembles the Big Bang. But this magical world is forming as an attempt to combine the ideas of the Creator and the Big Bang. As an old joke: first the exploding, then the act of creating, then a monkey becomes a human; better in the reverse order. The dark and light differ from each other less than magicians from people. They have aim, purpose in life. Even if it’s ruled by the victory in a somewhat gullible quest. People here go to the hated work and bake buns for the family every day. Keep to routine and wait when it’ll blow up.
Varta briefly mentions that she can feed on pain from broken dreams, it’s a nourishing meal. The victory in the Game means only one thing for a magician – there’s a new dilemma: to be happy or to be hungry. After all, magic in Motolinets world is literally young because wizards, giving birth to children, transfer them their magic. So, long life is ahead to solve moral dilemmas.
Roksolana Syoma, “Neighboring worlds” (Legend)
2016. Decent Galician lady Kazya lives in a happy marriage and upbrings first-grade daughter Zosya. She was called Kazymyra after her grandfather-Lemko. The family story’s complicated: grandfather was a Greek Catholic priest, a guide to the “gangs” of the UPA (The Ukrainian Insurgent Army), he survived the Yavozhnivsky concentration camp in 1946. Pole grandmother – hat-headed lady in her youth – in the old age she turned into a scary witch, not owing to the sweet life. Kazya inherited from grandfather pantheism – kind of faith in Absolut, no matter what name of the God is recently used (he was a priest, heh).
Kazymyra will need this faith. She frequently asks: “What does the religion teach us?”, not seeing the controversy in this question. Firstly, Kazya feels the presence of supernatural creatures – let’s say, a domovyk lived in her flat in Sykhiv and different ghosts wandered around her rented flats. Secondly, esotericism is directly her job, but she calls it psychology. The woman gives lectures about a near-to-death experience that she herself experienced in the car accident. Kazya’s course is called “Love. Pray. Live eternally”. And finally, as it already seen from the name of the novel, the woman is doomed to jump between dimensions, yet in the delegated dreams-hallucinations.
Mysterious fantasy-time-travel about Volyn butchery, the first mentioning of which will appear at the beginning of the anti-Polish-antisemitic speech of Kazya (it’s not a joke), and the actual plot of the novel will tell about the cultural preconditions of tragedy (no, it’s still not a joke). The pathetic mysterious novel about interethnic hostility and class hatred. The author of the “Worlds” isn’t afraid to amuse and evoke interest in the reader, she, like other figures of mass Ukrainian literature cares about Ukraine.
1935. Kshyshtof, whose family practically owns the “Zh. town”, in his forty grey years, feels adventurous: falls in love with the maid Hanna. The lady shares this passion. So, they make love in the master’s every room, while his wife takes care about alabaster mines, gives birth to one child after another (eight out of fifteen are alive). This story will touch Kazya and not-from-this-world Zosya.
Kazya works on the plan of the next lecture at night and hears piercing woman’s scream. Zosya wakes up from a nightmare with bruizes on her neck: a woman from the dream tried to kill her. You have to be patient and wait to find out what’s going on here. Because Kazya wants to reflect on the advantages of cremation and her husband will report her thoroughly about the love of men to female legs, and Hanna will tell her a breath-taking story about first periods, and Kshyshtofova will guide to the history of “Russian marble”, Kazymyra gives a tour across Zhovkla and so on, and so on.
After all, the absence of dynamics isn’t the “Worlds'” fault, it would be wrong to blame them. The imagination of plurality of the worlds, which is the food for fantasy, is dynamic. Syoma tells about romantic two-worlds: two neighbouring worlds, not more. There’s the real world and I’m sick in it. And there’s imaginary world, available only partially, and I’m sick in it too. And here’s – in between the worlds, at its border, in its point of transition I’m sick as never. Finally, this concept is perfectly given for analyzing Ukrainian history: wherever something is done – everything is for the worse. So, the “Worlds” are left the main topic for improvisation: thirst for Absolut and therapeutic idea “the death of the body is only the beginning of life for the soul”.
Maryna Smagina “The Room” (KM-Buks)
Books about happy people are boring. Another thing – stories about the people who become happy. Or even more awesome – stories about the way how people are made happy. Maryna Smagina wrote a book kind of “warm stories for coffee” (coffee overflows here) but more creative and in several time and place dimensions. Amelie from the town knuckles down to rescue parallel worlds from loneliness. And there’s a town, southern Stepove, where Yana goes for holidays.
But the town is overly extraordinary.
In “The Room” there’s only one fantastic assumption. Memories are material. The things preserve their materiality, that’s the way the power is formed which is able to tear the dimensions. There’s a dark flat on the third floor in the old building with squeaky doors. An old woman who picked up lost things and brought them to the separate room had been living there. Now, Yana’s uncle bought that stuffed flat and asked her to do something with the garbage. In the room, Yana finds a box with things which she decides to return to the owners.
Videocassette, music box, train ticket, herb, woman’s portrait – each thing has its own story about love. And talkative cats, old and young, which live between the dimensions, ghosts and time travelers will add to those stories. After all, everything in this town is somewhat confabulating. This word is used to name the wrong memories that didn’t really happen. Smagina’s characters don’t have superpowers but such a confabulation will be useful. Not everything recollected here is innocent.
There’s a girl who “chills” between dimensions. That’s why she can’t see dreams. She’s advised to bring a bottle of sand with her, the sand will land her. Sand and dream will immediately associate with the Sandman, who sprinkles sands into the eyes to make a child fall asleep faster. In Smagina’s book, the sand must literally inspire with dreams in the world where everything exists according to the dream logic. In this manner, barriers between the worlds will totally collapse. The girl will give Yana the Keeper that bottle with sand, by the way.
Forced recollection is rarely connected with pleasant memories. When we’re forced to remember something, it’s usually something bad. Pleasant memories don’t need to be searched, they accidentally spring to the mind. That’s why the metaphor of lost things, which remind about how to be happy in “The Room” works well. Good memories in the novel it’s also kind of dream-inside the dream. And they’re disturbing.
For instance, when the life tosses you an ideal date. And you lost his phone number. But then the phone number is found. The question: will you finally phone him? What will you hear in response? And what if that man doesn’t exist? He introduced himself as Ole Lukøje! He’s the twin brother of the Sandman. Another story about the loss. Not to upset us over the cup of coffee-vanilla-cinnamon it won’t be voiced. Who died? Why is such a level of tension preserved in the marmalade novel when it’s going about the dead? I wouldn’t call back that “close your eyes” (literally “ole lukøje”) even after a perfect date. In the room with old garbage is always dark, in Stepove is always hot as hell. And everyone around you looks for at least one bright memory. And it seems to me that you can get to Purgatory called Stepove by bus from Mykolaiv railway station.
The book is about people who were forced to be happy. Amelie meets Twin Peaks.
Despite other works, this novel isn’t Ukrainian. The book is translated from Polish. And in Polish prose fantasy traditions are powerful and influential. We can do without Andrzej Sapkowski.
Anna Kańtoch, “The Secret of the Abandoned Monastery” (ASSA (Agency of Skilful Specialists and Authors))
Immediately after the war broke out (under the “red” command) angels had fallen down from heavens. This miracle communistic authorities described as the Vatican had sent its saboteurs and angels started to be imprisoned and killed. Clear allegory of the red terror and not really interesting. Attention-grabbing will begin further.
Nina is thirteen years, five years ago she herself had seen the fall of an angel and doesn’t believe in lies about the Vatican. However, she lost the faith in God because the angels are on the earth for a long time and nothing has changed for better. But this girl is selected. The girl really has peculiar abilities for this: well-read in adventure novels she has the peerless talent to analytics. The angel, who hides in the neighborhood, sets her a task: go to the monastery next to Markota and live there for a while, having fun, he said. The angels either can lie or have a sarcastic sense of humor. Nina won’t have time for fun in the monastery.
Dozens of them gathered there – psychics, analysts, tough men, daredevils, who start to disappear one by one. And the angel, who must have protected them looks like involved in these disappearances. In the monastery garden, there’s a pile of the dry trees, which the locals call the Demon Circle and which is up to the disappearance of the selected. And the monastery is charmed: people forget it at the moment they mention it. And monastery angel-guard voices the mission which these children have to realize. One of them has to become the leader of the Christian army, moreover, criteria of selection are completely unknown to anyone.
Detective book about heroic underground “on the landscape” of Christian fantasy.
Already on the first ten pages, there will be an important key-hint to the plot. Angel’s wings are immaterial, made from some energy. Not everyone sees those wings and not everyone is shown them. And here’s the next scene where scared Nina is looking for the way to the monastery, almost running in the darkness, out of breath and excited – “the fear gives her the wings”. The energy, created from this fear, means a lot in this novel. If something has a divine origin, it should be fear, not faith. To lose the faith because of the doubt is surprisingly easy. To lose the fear because of the conviction of its real grounds, have you tried?
Every day the magic is enhanced in this world. Every day among the potentially selected superpowers appear and develop. They say angels have brought magic into the world. It’s said even when they’re not sure whether the winged creatures are messengers from heaven. The phrase “the world is changing” obtains the spooky implication. Eight years have passed after the Second World War, the generation which remembers nothing but war and will know nothing but communism terror is growing up. In this background, the monster which lives in the Demon Circle doesn’t seem so unalterably frightening, because fear is the thing the children will be living with their whole lives.
By the way, in the original name of the novel, it runs about the mystery of the Demon Circle, not about the monastery. There’s exit from the monastery, there’s no such from the Circle.