The third in her series of dark fantasy collection, Cursed Children of Naor is another strong, entertaining read from Justyna Plichta-Jendzio. As was the case with the first two collections, the book is comprised of three stories connected by theme, mythology, and setting.
A Son of the Wolf Pack opens the collection on a bit of a weak note. The werewolf take is an interesting mix of horror and fantasy, but it just seems too familiar. Fortunately, the typical red herrings as to who is the werewolf are deliberately obvious, almost as if we're being challenged not to believe. What ultimately redeems it, however, is the final revelation as to who really is the werewolf, along with the deeper mythology surrounding the curse.
Shroud of the Past is a more original tale, transporting us from the frozen lands of the opening story to a more medieval pastoral setting. Here, we get an interesting look at race and gender in the world of Naor, with a very different sort of evil working behind the scenes. I quite liked what Justyna did with this one - it just felt like a magical story, and one with some interesting women at its heart.
With Dragon’s Race we change setting and story once again, moving into the dangerous deserts, and into a more heroic sort of fantasy. I hesitate to call this one a coming of age story, but it is very much centered around a young man forced to confront his destiny. This feels like the biggest and richest tale in the collection, as well as the most traditional. It takes a while to get going, but once it does it hits all the right buttons.
Justyna writes very well, with an imagination that's equal to her narrative talent. Her grasp of dialogue and mythology is what really drives her writing, with the the episodic nature of the stories keeping things fresh. I would like to see a longer novel from her at some point, simply to have time to follow a group of characters once we get to know them, but that's not a complaint, just an idle wish. If you've yet to visit Naor, then Cursed Children of Naor is a great place to start.
Kindle Edition, 270 pages
Published 2014 by Devine Destinies