The Feline Queen, Reviewed

Joanne Hall is the author of the Hierath trilogy of fantasy novels, which has attracted a small but loyal following. Her first collection, The Feline Queen, has just been published by Wolfsinger Books.

            Subtitled Tales of Myth and Magic, The Feline Queen is made up of nine short stories published in small press magazines between 2005 and 2008, together with three original stories. The opener, ‘Candlefire’ establishes several recurring themes; a woman accused of witchcraft and threatened by a brutal husband and seeks help from the local witch, who uses cunning to defeat the villain. The villains in these stories are almost always male and use physical brutality as a weapon against women who are unable to adequately fight back, although ‘The Witch On The Wall’ runs counter to this trend (but even here, the witch’s ‘evil’ is explained). In the second story, ‘The Last of A Million Wishes,’ a fairy is trapped by a spoilt young boy who tortures her until she is rescued by her friend in a satisfying twist.

            It’s interesting to see Hall ring the changes on the various archetypes that she uses; the title story is one of two featuring Hoff the Barbarian, a muscle-bound ox of a man who has more cunning than intelligence, but who is amiably entertaining when meeting a lost tribe of amazonian warriors. Better though is ‘The Caves of Otrecht’ in which he undertakes a quest with other warriors, all of whom claim to be ‘the chosen one. The ending is clever and unexpected.

            All but two of the stories are set in a sort of archetypal fantasy kingdom, two of which (at least) share the same setting; ‘The Ship-Breaker’s Daughter’ features a young-girl with a siren-like voice who must choose whether to obey her tyrannical father and cost men their lives, or revolt. In ‘Ismay’s Run,’ runners pass messages from town to town, but Ismay, who loves to run, finds herself betrothed to a local lord.  

            These recurring themes are distilled in ‘The Company of Women,’ the last –and longest- story in the book, in which a quasi-immortal liberates battered women from their oppression and founds an independent and isolated community away from male oppression. But when they try to free the women from a major temple, the violence escalates and threatens to spiral out of control.

            It’s a fine way to conclude a short but effective collection in which fantasy is used to mirror and magnify contemporary concerns, and should establish Jo Hall’s reputation.

Cover art by Andy Bigwood.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

• June 17th, 2011 • Posted in Reviews • Comments: 0