Tag Archives: mythic

Harbinger: Book 1 of Northern Fire by Ian H. McKinley

New Brunswick’s resident writer of fantastic realism, Ian H. McKinley, has just released Harbinger, Book 1 of his Northern Fire series. It is firmly rooted in Nordic myth and legend, a time of swords, spears, axes, bow and arrow and fearless sea raiders that pillage enemy villages along the coasts and fjords of the Northlands.

“Mr McKinley’s writing style is solid and detailed, yet pleasurable to read. He has concocted a mythopoeic story of the first rank in Harbinger.” 

Four Children of Destiny

Four children are born in the village on Darknight (the winter solstice) marking them as special and destined for greatness, according to the villagers and seers among them. Harbinger (which is the name given to an unusual sword found by one of the children) traces the lives of the four (Lars, Thay, Cairn and Lora) as they grow, learning the ways of the village and the wills of the various gods they worship. Alll learn to handle the various weapons of the day for the village being on the coast could be at the mercy of the Sea Wolves without warning. The Sea Wolves are a little bit pirate, a little bit coast guard in that while they may give protection to a village that provides them with supplies and young men to train, they raid enemy villages and cart off spoil and men to serve as slaves at the oars.

When the four become of age they are given to the Sea Wolves by their parents (some of whom are former Sea Wolves themselves) to train and to become better Fjordlanders. While the Sea Wolves are off on a raiding expedition, the four are left behind to guard the three boats. The raid goes terribly awry and a lone survivor makes it back to the four instructing them to set fire to the boats and escape for their lives:

Lars clenched his teeth, heaved in a deep breath, nodded and hissed, “Aye, I’ll light a northern fire.” An odd look crossed Lora’s face and she said, “It’ll set the world ablaze.”

The four escape in the remaining boat and this is the true start of the adventures to follow as the sea takes them far from home and brings them ashore in a place they had only ever heard of, trying to survive as strangers in a strange land with varying customs, language and a healthy fear of the “Thorn People” as Fjordlanders are known as in these parts. Their fortunes improve somewhat when they come across the outcast Elkor, a bitter and disfigured man falsely labelled by the ignorant populace as a necromancer.


I truly enjoyed reading this book, and while I am not a fan of the wizards and warriors type of fantasy, Harbinger is closer to reality, aside from the place names which are realistic enough in their own right. Mr McKinley’s writing style is solid and detailed, yet pleasurable to read. He has concocted a mythopoeic story of the first rank and one that will have you highly anticipating Book 2 of Northern Fire: The Winter Wars, due in November 2017.

You can purchase copies of Ian’s books directly from his website, which also has coloured maps of the imaginary countries of Harbinger: http://northernfire.net/

Here is the official trailer for Harbinger:

Ian is a career diplomat with Global Affairs Canada who has served abroad in Colombia, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and at the Canadian Mission to the U.N. in New York. He speaks English, French, and Spanish, and can say hello in Shona and Swahili. Ian is a proud member of the Writer’s Federation of New Brunswick (wfnb.ca) and the Sunburst Award Society that promotes Canadian literature of the fantastic (sunburstaward.org). Ian was named a Prélude “Emerging Writer” at Frye Festival 2016. His previous book is The Gallows Gem of Prallyn.

This article has been Digiproved © 2016 James FisherSome Rights Reserved  

Brothers by David Clerson

QC Fiction has released another translation (this time by Katia Grubisic) of a Quebec novel entitled Brothers by David Clerson. This novel (under its French title Frères) won the Grand prix littéraire Archambault 2014. The other two QC Fiction novels, Life in the Court of Matane and The Unknown Huntsman were exceptional in their content, very diverse and humorous in an off-beat way. Brothers is certainly no exception. Yet, providing a brief outline as to what the story is about is like describing colours to the blind or music to the deaf. Or rhyming “orange.”

Brothers is a fantastical story that you are unlikely to forget anytime soon.

Myth or Dreamworld?

The time and place is unknown. In fact, this could be all a dream, or an oral narrative, handed down from generation to generation and often that seems to work best in coping with the narrative.

So, in a nutshell: there are two brothers, both unnamed except for the appellations “older brother” and “younger brother.”The older brother has no left arm. His mother told him she chopped it off the day he was born so she could fashion it into a brother for him. This younger brother is ‘whole’ but his arms are too short for his body. (Sounds like phocomelia like that caused by thalidomide usage).

Are you with me so far? Good.

The two brothers live with their elderly, sight-impaired and senile mother who raises goats for food and keeps a small garden. They live close to the ocean, which is portrayed as a dwelling place of all types of creatures, loathsome leviathans and other nightmarish beasts. The ocean is always black, always washing up things animate and inanimate for the brothers to play with or sell in the village. Eventually, they repair an old boat and venture on an odyssey in search of their “dog of a father” who- yes- really is a dog. And a giant one at that.

Still with me?


Author David Clerson has cleverly constructed a story that could have been told hundreds of years ago by peoples living near the ocean. Similarly, there is no easy way to pigeon hole the time or place of the narrative, let alone the genre that Brothers could be filed under. There are moments of sheer horror, not of the demonic or spiritistic type, but that of vivid, untenable situations and eerie experiences. This is especially so when the older brother experiences life as a dog, eventually seeking vengeance on the family that abused him and the bitch he loved:

“He woke ready to paint the world the shade of nightmares.”

One cannot really sum up the entire story in a paragraph or two. Brothers is a book that has to be read, or rather, experienced. When I first started reading it, I was fairly reminded of the H.P. Lovecraft novel The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, for Brothers appeared dreamlike to me; Lovecraft’s novel was the only touchstone I had to interpret what I was reading and assessing the imagery appearing in my mind. Certainly, dreams figure prominently in the brother’s lives (it is in a dream we are introduced to the dog of a father), and often I wasn’t convinced that the story wasn’t simply a dream that the older brother was having. Or was it reality? Did the younger brother ever exist? Was their father really a dog? Clerson’s striking heroic story is there for the interpretation. Brothers would make for a very stimulating and lively book club discussion.


QC Fiction has found some legitimate French-language gems and made them available to a wider English audience of readers. Their first two books were very entertaining, amusing and intriguing, and Brothers is no different. It may not be as accessible as the previous two releases, but it is a fantastical story that you are unlikely to forget anytime soon.

David Clerson was born in Sherbrooke, Quebec, in 1978 and lives in Montreal. He was a finalist in Radio-Canada’s 2012 short story competition. Brothers is his first novel.

Brothers translator Katia Grubisic has been working as a writer, translator and editor for fifteen years, and has published poetry, fiction, translations, and criticism in Canada and internationally.

This article has been Digiproved © 2016-2018 James FisherSome Rights Reserved