Friday, October 10, 2014

The Colour of Dishonour - Review

The Colour of Dishonour by Rayne Hall is a collection of six short stories inspired the setting of Hall's epic dark fantasy Storm Dancer. What I love about this collection is that not only are all the stories well crafted, but they also all have a moral in them.

The collection opens with 'Kin', a highly ironic and moral story. Leha has three daughters, Mahlega, Gonil and Komal. She is proud of the first two but has disowned the third after having a child born out of wedlock. Their land is struck by their gods and by starvation. So, Leha seeks her daughters for food and shelter.
"The Seventh Scroll of Wisdom says that kin need to stick to kin like skin to flesh." This can neither be said for Leha nor her two eldest daughters. It is a very striking line at the beginning of the story. Leha believes she is following the rules to the letter and justifies disowning Komal. She believes she will be repaid for all she has done to her eldest daughters.
The reader meets Leha's first daughter Mahlega and her family, who are very selfish and insensitive. All they care about are their needs, like the child who wants new clothes while people are starving and dying. Moreover, All Mahlega cares about is the roofing and how she doesn't like dates and says they are for animals and beggars. Certainly not 'kin' a mother can be proud of.
When Leha proposes to live with Mahlega because of the famine, "They looked at her aghast.
"Out of the question," her son-in-law said. "I can't have you live here, with six people in two rooms already."
The husband is rude and utterly disgusting but nonetheless very realistic as we see this type of person in real life.
Mahlega gives her mother exactly what Leha had given her third daughter when she cast her out. It's highly ironic but sort of like divine repayment for casting out Komal.
"Mighty Ones, let these people taste the fruit of bitterness. Turn their own children against them, let them feel what it means to be cast aside." These are Leha's thoughts after being kicked out by Mahlega and her family. They are highly ironic and Leha cannot realise that she has done the same to her daughter before.
After being turned out by one, Leha goes to seek warmth and a place to stay from her second and so-called loving daughter, Gonila, who is far from being such a daughter. Later we see Gonila eyeing her mother's gold earrings. Not only is she heartless, but also greedy. Her mother shows up at her doorstep, cold and without a place to stay, and all she cares about is getting 'financial' support from a homeless woman, her homeless mother, who sold her house to pay for her daughter's, Gonila's, education!

After being turned out twice by the two daughters she did everything for, Leha still would not go to her third daughter, whom the reader knows will not be like her sisters.

'Kin' resembles William Shakespeare's King Lear. Even the name Gonila resembles Gonoril. It is a very powerful story about family, love, kindness, selfishness, cruelty and forgiveness. 'Kin' is a short story with the weight of a novel.

'Greywalker' is the second story in the collection. The Grey Walker is a zombie-like creature, and the story parallels that the exchange made by Dr. Faustus. It also has many stunning images. It is a carefully-crafted story that I have enjoyed reading over and over. I’m not a fan of zombies, but this story was different for me and I loved every bit of it. Few would find a beautiful image such as this in a zombie-like tale: “But his actions had not been waterdrops that evaporated in the sun without leaving a trace. They had been cruel flames, scorching deep holes into Laina's defenceless heart.”
The 'Greywalker' ends at a climactic point. We finally know why the witch never mentioned a payment at the beginning. Turgan is not mindless, nor is he innately evil but he ends up being a Greywalker and understands his purpose.
The 'Greywalker' is a 10-star story.

'The Water of Truth' is an excellent story about business and greed. However, it seems the so-called educated Yarkoud remains unaware of his greed and will continue repeating his mistakes. His sister, the one he calls 'uneducated' and is ashamed of her, is not bedazzled by money and wealth, and stands in strong contrast to her 'educated' brother.

'Each Stone, a Life' is a story of puns and nerve-wrecking. It was not my favourite but that is my personal opinion, although I felt as nerves as the protagonist of the story. It is very well written and plays on emotions well.

'The Colour of Dishonour' is a story with layers and layers of puns and irony.
“I have blood on my hands”, a recurring line of irony. Also, the use of the colours white and red and the contrast between them is used wittingly in this story.. It is a brilliant 10-star piece. I wish I can quote it whole – but will refrain from that.

'A Horse for a Hero' is the last piece in this collection and focuses on a winged horse named Pagos and his journey towards maturity. At the beginning Pagos dreams  of a sort of knight or warrior in shining armour. It seems it is not only princesses who picture such dreams.
"How dreadful he had been to the nomads, who admired him because they were poor! How nasty he had been to that boy, who was merely immature and spoilt!"
I love how Hall ties the beginning and ending of this story together.

Overall The Colour of Dishonour collection is a weighty but highly enjoyable set of short stories. I enjoyed them all and I loved how they all had a moral to them. It is not often you find the 'literature with a moral or purpose' these days, so this collection was by all means spectacular for me.

A must read to all and definitely stories I would go back to over and over.

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