The Balance: Kev Harrison
Reviewed By Steve Stred
Kev Harrison has quickly gone from a writer I haven’t yet read, to a must-read author. Through his short fiction and Demain Publishing releases, Harrison has cemented his spot with me, for engaging, enjoyable short fiction/novella length reads.
With ‘The Balance’ I was intrigued from day one, yet as is typical lately, it took me some time to finally get around to having it at the top of my TBR.
I knew a bit about it going in, more-so the Baba Yaga mythology aspect, but I was keen to see his take on it, especially as I’d heard it was set in Poland near a place he lived for a few years.
What I liked: The story is incredibly straight forward. Siblings Kuba and Natalia live with their mother in a small town. One day, Kuba falls and breaks his leg. The local doctor tries to prevent an infection happening from the avulsion fracture, but it’s no use. They don’t have the required antibiotics to prevent amputation. So, Natalia secrets Kuba to the mysterious old woman on the outskirts of town, thus causing a ripple effect within the village.
Harrison has crafted a fantastic, quick read, that walks the line between fantasy and dark fiction. The familiar fairy tale aspect of it being a single-parent household, and the battle between Church and Nature was really well done and the book seemed to have a quality all on its own that pulled you along and made you have to read it.
Natalia was a really well-done character. One that the reader sympathizes with immediately and feels her struggle as she goes through her options. Her story arc was spot on.
What I didn’t like: For a book that was so compulsive to read and so engaging, I’m struggling to think of any moment within that made me uneasy or had a sense of dread. Maybe that’s because of my personal familiarity with Baba Yaga and expecting the story to play out as it did? Especially as early on Baba Yaga explains her role and what she is responsible for? Hard to pinpoint really.
Why you should buy this: This book was fantastic. Even without me finding it chilling or unnerving, I absolutely had to know what happened and couldn’t stop reading it. Harrison commands the characters and while the details were scarce, the village itself becomes a necessary plot element throughout.
When myth becomes nightmare … The price of blood is always blood.
Natalia’s in trouble. She only looked away for a second, and now her brother’s hurt. Her relationship with her mother is fractured, her brother’s condition is deteriorating, and her only hope lays deep in the unforgiving forest. A secret spoken only in whispers offers a way out. But when help comes in occult forms a sacrifice may be the only way to restore the balance.
Humanity and nature collide in The Balance by Kev Harrison, a modern reimagining of the Slavic folk tale of Baba Yaga, set in Cold War Poland.
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.
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