The Balance by Kev Harrison
Review by S.J. Budd
“When myth becomes nightmare…The price of blood is always blood.
Natalia’s in trouble. She only looked away for a second, and now her brother’s hurt. Her relationship with her mother is fractured, her brother’s condition is deteriorating, and her only hope lays deep in the unforgiving forest. A secret spoken only in whispers offers a way out. But when help comes in occult forms a sacrifice may be the only way to restore the balance.
Humanity and nature collide in The Balance by Kev Harrison, a modern re-imagining of the Slavic folk tale of Baba Yaga, set in Cold War Poland.”
I’ve already read some of Kev Harrison’s short fiction so was super excited to get a sneak peak of his upcoming novella, The Balance from Lycan Valley Press. I really loved Cinders of a Blind Man Who Could See released this year by Demain Publishing and this latest offering is just as awesome!
Coming in at around 100 pages I read this one sitting and it was immense. This is one of those tales that are hard to put down once you stop. The plot is so original you can never guess at what is going to happen next. The building atmosphere of tension despair and hope present from the very first page really draws you in. (This would make for a really cool film!) The horror begins from the very first sentence and it threatens everyone involved.
Trouble begins when Natalia takes her younger prized brother out into the forbidden forest near their little cottage to play. For just a few moments she becomes distracted. During that tiny relapse her brother is hurt. At first it doesn’t seem too bad but when you live in the middle of nowhere with sparse supplies conditions for Natalia and her family take a turn for the worse. After a few days her younger brother hovers over life and death. The doctor has done all he can within his powers of medicine.
Her mother holds her to blame.
Natalia is desperate to save her brother. Driven by despair she returns to the forest alone in secrecy, this time going deeper than before. There is an old wise woman living alone in the forest that her grandmother would visit in times of great need.
However this is no ordinary wise woman, this is Baba Yaga. What will she want in return for her services? Who will pay the price?
This tale is told really well, a modern day fairy tale laced with horror. You feel so involved with Natalia’s plight constantly having to face tough decisions. She wants to do what is right but life is never that simple. Soon the fate of the village rests on her.
It was hard to pick a side in this tale of man vs nature. A part of me really enjoyed the revenge of nature but I felt sympathetic to Natalia and some of her fellow villagers. The tension really builds during this dark tale and many times it feels very bleak after the villagers angered the forest. The forest fights back in some very unusual ways and no one is safe from Nature’s wrath.
When the balance is upset life becomes very difficult for all parties involved. Who knows which side will win if the balance is not restored?
S.J.Budd is a dark fiction author and HWA member from Cornwall. Her work has appeared in The No Sleep Podcast, Aphotic Realm, Sanitarium Magazine, Siren’s Call Publications, Deadman’s Tome, Innersins, Aphelion, Bewildering Stories, Blood Moon Rising Magazine, Shadows at the Door and Danse Macabre Magazine, The Wild Hunt, Morpheus Tales and Freedom Fiction.
She spends far too much time on twitter @sjbuddj. You can find out more about her stories at www.sjbudd.co.uk