Review by Shellie for: Other Kingdoms (audio) ~ by Richard Matheson
A fantastical and historical story that’s dark, funny and erotic – it includes fairies and a witch. Set in the trenches of WWI and the forests of Northern England, it’s told from the perspective of the narrator at 82 years old, reminiscing this adventure from his younger years.
About: In 1918 Alex White is 18 and enlists in the army to escape his sadistic militaristic father. Shipped off to the trenches of WWI in Europe, he meets what appears to be a young Englishman named Harold. Becoming friends quickly, within weeks Harold dies in Alex’s arms from a horrific wound. In his last moments Harold mentions a few jumbled sentences leaving Alex confused and distraught. Later when Alex finds a lump of gold, the size of his fist in the bottom of his soldier’s pack, he becomes even more curious. So he heads off to an idyllic community in the North of England called Gatford - Harold’s home. Here he hopes to find the answers to his questions about his friend’s last mumblings and the gold, and to heal from the wounds he too has incurred from battle.
There in Gatford Alex’s amazing adventures begin. It becomes apparent that fairies reside in the woods near his new home, where the locals keep eluding to the “little people’s” dangerous nature. Alex remains unbelieving, until he is inadvertently sucked into their conflict and drama. As he muddles over the boggling occurrences that keep happening, he becomes involved with a beautiful witch and an angelic fairy, creating room for some lustful interludes as well as a hard to put down story.
Thoughts: A fantastical romance of sorts told from an unusual male perspective, it balances the darkness of its horrific bits with lustful fluff and dry humor. At time it’s realistic and historical, including interesting factual details involving trench warfare - graphic details about the horrors of WWI with descriptions of what it must have been like down below ground level within dirt walls, including the various horrible odors, day to day waiting in the mud and filth, the inevitable rats, rotting corpses, mass graves, poor sanitary conditions and tasteless cold food. Contrasting this with some idealistic dreams of several youthful and inexperienced soldiers, the older and wiser narrator does a fine job of disparaging any kind of grand visions of what war is.
Listened to in audio, I think it was quite well done. The reader uses a moderated voice for Alex’s 82 year old self looking back and reliving his story, with his New York accent. He also uses a separate voice for each different English character in the novel, even varying accents for his female characters. Alex’s character is a bit cantankerous and slightly annoying at 82, however he is insightful into the foibles and mistakes of his youth. I imagine that male readers will enjoy this tale due to its perspective, and Alex’s lusty involvements. But I will say that it went into more detail than I liked in the erotic areas.
Beyond that I think that if you enjoy a realistic, historical fantasy containing some sexy content then this will be a great read for you. A note that it does contain violence, strong language and definitely is a book for adult readers. I give this book a 4 stars, since Matheson tells one heck of a story.
The paperback edition is published by Tor Books; February 2012; audio version by Blackstone Audio.
Author Bio: Richard Matheson was born in New Jersey, raised in Brooklyn, and fought in the infantry in World War II. He is the author of I Am Legend, Hell House, Somewhere in Time, What Dreams May Come, and more. He has won various prestigious awards over the years including the Edgar, the Spur, and the Writer's Guild awards. He lives in Calabasas, California.
This audio book was borrowed from our local digital library for no charge; that in no way influenced my review.
It will be included in the War Through the Generations Reading Challenge – featuring WWI for 2011.
Happy Friday folks.