REVIEW: Folk, Zoe Gilbert

Friday, 9 March 2018

Every year they gather, while the girls shoot their arrows and the boys hunt them out. The air is riddled with spiteful shadows – the wounds and fears and furies of a village year. The remote island village of Neverness is a world far from our time and place. The air hangs rich with the coconut-scent of gorse and the salty bite of the sea. Harsh winds scour the rocky coastline. The villagers' lives are inseparable from nature and its enchantments. Verlyn Webbe, born with a wing for an arm, unfurls his feathers in defiance of past shame; Plum is snatched by a water bull and dragged to his lair; little Crab Skerry takes his first run through the gorse-maze; Madden sleepwalks through violent storms, haunted by horses and her father's wishes. 
I really liked Folk, I mean I have no idea what was going on most of the time, but I really liked it all the same. Contrary to my initial impression that it was a novel, Folk was instead a series of vaguely connected short stories about the mysterious going-ons on the island of Neverness - a man with a wing for an arm, a maiden being carried away by a water-bull, and a woman who wraps her newborn in a blanket of mist… 
Neverness is a world in which the stories told in the glow of nightlights are a reality. They are tales steeped in fairytales, folklore, legend and old wives’ tale, and Zoe Gilbert managed to evoke an incredibly successful, over-arching atmosphere that really emphasised the aspects of the tales that were mystical and otherworldly.
Although I must point out that, as with any other short story collection, I feel as though some worked better than others. Long Have I Lain Beside the Water, Veryln’s Blessings and Tether were particular standouts - they were dark, ominous, human and encompassed everything I needed from a collection such as this. Others (A Winter Guest, for instance) were needless and out-of-place, and honestly, I feel as though it would have been a far stronger collection if they had been left out entirely.
Overall, I was glad for the experience and the short visit to the island of Neverness but, thanks to varying story content quality, Folk definitely fell middle-of-the-line for me.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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