I really loved Benedict Patrick’s Yarnsworld novelette “And They Were Never Heard from Again,” but I found the series’ first novel They Mostly Come Out at Night to be a disappointment. So I returned to the creepy forest of the Magpie King for a third Yarnsworld story with some trepidation, and again came out with mixed feelings.
From the Shadows of the Owl Queen’s Court takes place roughly 20 years after the events of They Mostly Come Out at Night, but all of the key backstory is supplied again, so it can easily be read as a standalone. It tells the story of Nascha, forced into service in the court of the Owl Queen, and of Bradan, son of an unhinged recipient of the Magpie Spirit’s power. Nascha wants to get away, Bradan wants to help people without relying on his increasingly unreliable father. Neither have the resources to accomplish their goals.
From the Shadows of the Owl Queen’s Court keeps the format from the first book of the Yarnsworld series, with the main story interspersed with the telling of in-world myths, while addressing the flat characters and stilted dialogue that were my major problem with They Mostly Come Out at Night. In addition, it introduces a couple intriguing side characters in the Gentleman Fox and the Lady of the Forest, whose mythologies are truly gripping.
By pretty much every measure, From the Shadows of the Owl Queen’s Court is a big step up from They Mostly Come Out at Night. But it still didn’t quite come together for me the way I was hoping. The characters were improved, but the main characters were not exceptional. The myths and subplots were at times fascinating, but I also felt that—despite a length of just about 300 pages—the adventures tended to run together or become repetitive. There’s a lot to like about Yarnsworld, but after two forays into the more extended work, I’m finding that I enjoy it much more in short bursts than in extended narratives. The Polynesian-inspired Where the Waters Turn Black has generated great reviews and sits at just 218 pages, so I may give that a try somewhere down the line, but for all that I’ve enjoyed the in-world myths interspersed through the novels, I haven’t read any extended work in Yarnsworld that’s gotten to the level of the novelette.
Recommended if you like: dark mythology.
Can I use it for Bingo? It’s clearly Self-Published and Forest Setting (although one scene away from hard mode). I’d also argue it has a Revenge-Seeking Character, and I suppose the title technically is X of Y.
Overall rating: 13 of Tar Vol’s 20. Three stars on Goodreads.