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  • Writer's pictureDean Asquith

Into The Forest: Tales of the Baba Yaga Review

Writers: Gwendolyn Kiste, Stephanie M. Wytovich, Mercedes M. Yardley, Monique Snyman, Donna Lynch, Lisa Quigley, and R. J. Joseph, with an introduction by Christina Henry.

Publisher: Black Spot Books

Genre: Horror

Publish Date: 8th November 2022

Pages: 300

Reviewed By: Dean Asquith

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️


Plot


Deep in the dark forest, in a cottage that spins on birds' legs behind a fence topped with human skulls, lives the Baba Yaga. A guardian of the water of life, she lives with her sisters and takes to the skies in a giant mortar and pestle, creating tempests as she goes. Those who come across the Baba Baga may find help, or hindrance, or horror. She is wild, she is woman, she is witch-- and these are her tales.


Edited by Lindy Ryan, this collection brings together some of today's leading voices of women-in-horror as they pay tribute to the Baba Yaga, and go Into the Forest.


My Opinion


A dramatic and chilling ride through the haunting realm of Baba Yaga.


Still with me until the end of this review as we have an interview with Mercedes Yardley who wrote ‘Herald The Knight’ in this collection. One of my favourites!


This entire collection is jammed packed with dark poetry and blood curdling stories. This collection is hit after hit. There isn’t an aspect of the collection that falls short of the mark. The stories were the main call for me, forgive my ignorance, but I don’t really follow poetry as it doesn’t resonate with me as it would with others. I will say though, from my limited knowledge of the medium, they are dark and brooding and I’m so you will find yourself positively chilled! 


The stories are short and dramatic, passing haunting tales through you with pace and intensity. Among my favourites was ‘The Story of a House’ by Yi Izzy Yu which tells the story of Baba Yaga’s house, from it’s point of view. It is such a unique angle to take, one that I personally haven’t seen before. The other story that stuck with me was ‘Of Moonlight and Moss’ by Sara Tantlinger, a story of ultimately, love. A twist awaiting that ensured the story imprinted on my mind.


All of the collection has their own majesty to them and I assure you, if you are a fantasy/horror fan, there is something in this collection for you. Thank you Black Crow for inviting me on the tour. This collection is fantastic and I can’t wait to hear what you all think! Next up…an interview with Mercedes Yardley!


Into the Forest - Mercedes Yardley - Q&A

 

1. Tell us how you decided to approach your take on the story of Baba Yaga, which centres around the theme of Love?

 

MMY: You always hear about evil recluse Baba Yaga who eats children. I wanted to see what the witch was like when she had someone else in her heart. I think she’d still be prickly, because that’s simply who she is, but also fiercely loyal. She’s not afraid to do difficult things, so naturally she would crisscross the world to find her love. He, of course, would have to be as brutal and burns as deep as she does.

 

2. There’s a deep connection between magic and nature in this story, do you have a similar connection?


MMY: Absolutely! I love writing stories about place because the environment infuses the tales with their own brand of magic. Forest magic, sea magic, desert magic…I firmly believe that nature will hurt or heal you depending on how you treat it. I grew up in the very ancient, primitive desert and I feel it’s perhaps the oldest magic there is.

 

3. There was a very realistic grounding to the story with societies expectations and ‘what the world wants.’ What themes did you want to bring out in this story?

 

MMY: I wanted to discuss the treatment of women. I’ve often had the term “witch” thrown at me as if it were a bad thing. I also wanted to explore love, and two people fighting for each other. Lately there seems to be a stigma about romantic love in the media, where singlehood seems to be the only way to be empowered. That’s also a beautiful view, but I love the valiance of romantic partners wading into the fire for each other. Wouldn’t you command the trees and brandish the sword for your love? I adore it.

 

4. You write both long and short form stories, do you find the approach different each time and do you have a preference?

 

MMY: I love both forms! Short stories are exquisite and take discipline. Telling a complete story in very few words takes restraint and it’s a bigger challenge. Longer works let you weave more themes through it, and I love the freedom of that, as well. The story itself tells you how long it needs to be, so unless it’s something specific that I’ve been contracted for, I don’t even think about length while writing.


5. Are there other retellings you want to look at exploring through your writing?

 

MMY: Yes! I have several retellings on tap. I want to retell Blackbeard, and Little Boy Blue. I want to do Romeo and Juliet while focusing on side characters.


6. What is your favourite poisonous flower?

 

MMY: Oleander. It grows like mad in Las Vegas. I often take a sprig and clip it in my hair. It’s gorgeous and deadly.

 

7. What reads can you recommend us this spooky season?


MMY: I always suggest Silence of the Lambs. It’s such a good book. I’d also suggest Coraline, Wait Till Helen Comes, The Only Good Indians, and Hold My Place. They’re all wildly different and very worthwhile.



Into the Forest, out 8th Nov 22 is edited by Lindy Ryan and with a foreword by Christina Henry, features twenty-three new and exclusive stories inspired by the Baba Yaga—the witch of Slavic folklore—written by some of today’s leading women-in-horror and is published by Black Spot Books.

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