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This review is a story from Beneath Ceaseless Skies 300th issue. They’ve been providing some of the best secondary world fantasy short fiction for a long while and I’m happy to see such a big milestone come out of them.
Today’s short story is Uzumaki of the Lake by Richard Parks. You can find it here. Richard typically writes a lot of asian-inspired fantasy, as do I on occasion, and he typically is one of the better writers in regards to respect for the cultures and myths of various historical nations like China, Japan and so on. This is one of his latest stories mainly about the myth of a spirit in the lake. So let’s see what’s in store.
Uzumaki of the Lake
The story follows two men as they receive rumors of a mysterious spirit inhabiting the lake of a daimyo. Armed with equipment and warding spells, they set off to solve the mystery of the lake where the Lord’s wife supposedly passed, and the mysterious dragon beneath the lake.
I always enjoy Mr. Parks’ historical elements and it really shines throughout. The two men, Kenji and Lord Yamada, seek out a spirit while dealing with the various nobles whose estates surround the lake. They both have opposing personalities. One is a spirit hunter, who believes a lot of stuff the other wouldn’t believe. Yet he goes along with Kenji’s plan because supposedly, the spirit inhabiting the lake is the spirit of one of the lords nearby.
It provides such mystery and intrigue as to what happened between the woman and the lords. Was she killed, did she drown by herself? Maybe someone made her drown? Whatever the reason, she wanders the lake. I always love a good ghostly tale and while it doesn’t have to be scary, it does have to contain an element of mysteriousness to it.
Japanese legends, and many Asian ones at that, provide curious tales that you wouldn’t necessarily find as far as western folklore is concerned. You can feel yourself embodying the culture of Japan and the history of the feudal era, which anime such as Inuyasha, Dynasty Warriors, Nioh, Sekiro and a number of Japanese-inspired games. This story takes great care in showcasing the historical aspects as well as providing character development and personality to everyone.
The story itself was easy to follow and provided nice pacing. While the dragon myth wasn’t touched upon that much compared to the Yurei spirit that was the main focus, there was a lot to be told here. That said, I would have loved to have seen more of that myth portrayed, but it likely would have gone on much longer than that.
This story is a good example of taking care of a differing culture than your own, and Richard Parks does this flawlessly. The care and effort he puts into his world, his stories, and his characters, are shining examples of how to properly handle such cultures and characters. While it won’t surpass some of my favorite Japanese mangaka and creators, it still provides a fantastic journey.
That’s all for today.