Theatrum Mundi, available to order now
Gjerta Jørgensen is part of Slædepatruljen Sirius, the dogsled team which patrols the northern part of Greenland. It’s a place of mystical beauty – and great dangers, from without and within…
The debut volume for Spectral Press’s new Theatrum Mundi imprint is this intriguing collection of stories from British Fantasy Award winner Ray Cluley – in addition to the titular tale, there are a number of shorter pieces which pick up on some of the themes or iconography addressed in the first story.
Gjerta’s tale is a slow burner, told in two timeframes – Gjerta as she is now, dealing with the perils of late December on the ice cap, where the dogs can succumb to exhaustion or worse, and there is almost too much time to think; and Gjerta growing up, venturing into a forest near her home. Cluley’s finely wrought descriptions of the savage beauty of the ice cap will induce chills even before the horrors he’s describing take a grip, and he teases out the connections between the two strands as the contemporary story drives towards a finale that may haunt your dreams.
The other five pieces vary in style, from the shock tactics of It’s Beginning to Look A Lot Like… to the Roald Dahl-esque Mistletoe Wine, and the reflective Turtledove – my personal favourite story of the collection. The Rain Deer and Hans are both disturbing tales, which could perhaps have been expanded slightly to greater effect.
Verdict: You can feel the cold at the heart of these tales – in all senses. 8/10