Myths in the Making: The Winter Knight by Jes Battis

Myths are mutable things, changing, overlapping, blurring—but persistent. They shape tropes and memes, underlie both the stories we tell ourselves and the stories we are told, and may create, at a level we may only barely understand,  our expectations of the world.

But what if you are a myth?

In a Vancouver where not all places (or inhabitants) belong to the world-as-we-know-it, myths live. Valkyries, Norns, the men and women of Arthurian legend. They are college students, translators, administrators, musicians, living, on the surface, apparently normal 21st century lives. But they have not forgotten who they are, their past lives recalled in snatches of memory and dream and stories told, and their power remains.

A series of grisly murders leads Wayne and Hilde deeper into their family stories, the repeating patterns that have shaped each iteration of their lives. Not every recurring story is the familiar one—Vancouver is not Camelot, but something closer to the castles and forest and lakes of medieval poems like Gawain and the Green Knight, with their potent, obscure symbols, multiple interpretations, and characters largely forgotten in recent retellings. And like those medieval stories, The Winter Knight is both a story of a surface quest, a tangible challenge, and a story we’d now call ‘coming of age’, of internal battles and internal change.

There’s always someone who goes after the beast and tries to tame it. Some knight who thinks they’ll turn it into a trophy. But you can’t. It’s as old as shadows, as old as flickers on the cave wall, as old as graves. You can’t bind that. Only live with it.

Battis creates moods and settings with a light touch, using a few words masterfully – and creates both a contemporary and a timeless sense to the story. Battles are fought with both the tools of the past and the tools of the present, and the two are sometimes melded into one. Ultimately, The Winter Knight is a hopeful story, for all its deep understanding of the difficulties and compromises of accepting the expectations of family, the stories that shape us and the pieces of each we keep and discard. Myths are mutable: perhaps, even when we are the myth, fate is not all.

The Winter Knight is published by ECW Press:

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