On The Shoulders Of Otava: Laura Mauro
Reviewed By Steve Stred
One thing I’ve loved about recently joining Kindle Unlimited (or subscribing is more accurate) is that it’s opened up a world of content for me that seems to slip through my cracks. I remember a number of months ago seeing ‘On the Shoulders of Otava’ being praised by someone on Twitter, but I foolishly forgot to write it down on my ‘books to investigate’ list.
Then, just a few days before I read this, it popped up on my ‘suggested for you’ on Amazon and instead of needing to wait for payday, I saw it was on KU and voila! Locked and loaded on the Kindle.
I went in fairly blind, expecting a snowy, creepy story based on the cover and knowing a bit about Mauro’s style of writing and boy was that correct.
What I liked: Have you read much Finnish Folklore? I may be the minority here, but as I’m working on a trilogy of books referencing some Finnish and Norwegian Folklore, I have a small grasp of some of the stories told over time, but this one hit some boxes that I hadn’t dived much deeper into yet.
The story follows a group of women soldiers during the 1918 Finnish Civil War. We get thrown into creepy right away when one of the male soldiers comes back from the woods ‘different’ and things go straight crazy. Mauro lets the time and setting do a lot of the dread building and as the women continue to march towards their commanded destination, a young girl comes along and the group splinters.
Mauro ramps things up even more as we get some background/folklore history shared and a number of the puzzle pieces click into place. Ultimately, we end up finding out characters moving deeper into the woods and every single horror reader out there knows – that’s never a good thing.
I loved the pacing of this book. It was reminiscent of an army moving forward. We’d get some slow down then a lot of action, followed by a slow down and more action. Mauro deftly weaves the winter weather and survival narrative around the human element and that worked to elevate the tension, that by the end of the book was palpable.
What I didn’t like: I finished reading this book last night and for the life of me, I can’t decide if we actually had a resolution or a ‘closing of ends.’ Maybe that was the point? Maybe I missed it and it just slipped right past me? It certainly didn’t dampen my experience, but it’s an odd thing to try and put a finger on something that my mind tells me should be there, but it can’t place it.
Additionally, for such a short book (listed at 55 pages) some parts are very dialogue-heavy. That definitely plays into the pacing of the book, but some may find it too much of a slow down.
Why you should buy this: Well, as I mentioned if you haven’t read much Finnish Folklore, this would be a fantastic book to dive into that world. Mauro writes with ease and grace but fills the pages with tension and dread. The story has a number of layers that whittle away at the reader and when all is said and done, you’ll want a blanket to warm yourself up, the snowy world feeling like a living and breathing entity.
On The Shoulders Of Otava
Siiri Tuokkola takes up arms for the Women’s Guard during Finland’s 1918 Civil War along with her comrades.
Stationed in a remote village outpost, rumours of strange things in the woods come to a head when Siiri’s comrade Mirva goes missing in a blizzard. Determined to find her, Siiri braves the deep forest, where mysterious lights weave through the trees, and those who look upon them for too long may find themselves afflicted by a strange madness.
But there are worse things in the forest than lights, and Siiri must face them if she is to find Mirva before it’s too late.
Steve Stred is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections. He has appeared in anthologies with some of Horror’s heaviest hitters.
He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with his wife, son and their dog OJ.
You can follow Steve on Twitter @stevestred
You can follow Steve on Instagram @stevestred
You can visit Steve’s Official website here