#WyrdAndWonder | Short Story Review of “Ethical Will” by Kaki Olsen part of the UNSPUN: A Collection of Tattered Fairy Tales (anthology)

Posted Thursday, 31 May, 2018 by jorielov , , , 1 Comment

Book Review badge created by Jorie in Canva using Unsplash.com photography (Creative Commons Zero).

Acquired Book by: My path originally crossed with Kaki Olsen whilst participating on her blog tour via Cedar Fort Publishing & Media for her debut novel: “Swan and Shadow” (see also Review) in [2016]. Since her blog tour, in the years since our paths first crossed, we’ve kept in communication and a friendship organically grew out of our conversations. Therefore, when she started to publish Speculative Fiction stories such as “Ethical Will” in the UNSPUN: a Collection of Tattered Fairy Tales and her story involving an android and a dragon in the Iron Doves Charity Anthology – I have happily been able to feature her on jorielovesastory.com sharing our mutual passion for Speculative Literature.

I received a complimentary PDF copy of “Ethical Will” direct from the author Kaki Olsen in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein. I also received permission to print a copy of this story in order to read in full due to the fact I cannot read stories in electronic form due to my chronic migraines. I appreciated the kindness of the author who allowed me to find a way I could read her story.

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On why this anthology first appealed to me & why I look forward to having a copy:

As you might already be aware of – I have a serious ADDICTION to Speculative Fiction anthologies! So much so, they are amongst my *favourites!* to be reading outside of the INSPY Lit novella or short anthologies which are read with equal passion! When it comes to #SpecFic though, the best joy of my heart is getting caught up inside another writer’s vision of their world – of seeing how they pull together an anthology theme of purpose and how they chose to carry this vision through the shortness of their story! I am forever impressed by those who can pen shorter fiction as it is a struggle for me, as a writer to do the same! I just do not feel as free to write a story in short formats as I have the tendency to write better in ‘length’. Hmm. does that really surprise my readers of Jorie Loves A Story!? I think not! lol

In recent years, I came to garnish an affection for ‘altered fairy tales’ and variant re-tellings on stories of lore – it began with different adaptations in novel-length and then, I started to find myself across the genre spectrum finding myself motivated to see how a writer might re-cast a familiar story against a newer impression of shifting the tale into either a different genre of interest or through a new thread of Speculative possibilities!

Thus, this is how I came to itch to read this particular collection – as much as I want to still gather a copy of the first anthology Iron Doves which features the quirkiness of an android and a dragon who have the fate of the world in their hands in outer space! For those who have been following me for awhile, you know I had a healthy convo about this story during [2017]’s #RRSciFiMonth.

Ahead of reading this review of mine, you might want to visit the convo I had with Ms Olsen about the key components of how she wrote this tale & a bit more about her writing style in general!

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On my connection to Ms Olsen:

I happily have had the pleasure of interacting with Ms Olsen whilst hosting her blog tour “Swan and Shadow” and in the years since it was released. Our friendship grew out of a mutual passion for reading, researching our stories and the many mutual interests we each share whilst finding ourselves randomly conversing on Twitter. We have enjoyed keeping in touch sharing our bookish and writerly lives whilst appreciating a fascination with the world of Fantasy.

I am disclosing this, to assure you that I can formulate an honest opinion, even though I have interacted with her ahead of reading her novels. I treat each book as a ‘new experience’, whether I personally know the author OR whether I am reading a book by them for the first time. This is also true when I follow-up with them on future releases and celebrate the book birthdays that come after their initial publication.

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#WyrdAndWonder | Short Story Review of “Ethical Will” by Kaki Olsen part of the UNSPUN: A Collection of Tattered Fairy Tales (anthology)Unspun
Subtitle: A Collection of Tattered Fairy Tales
by Kaki Olsen
Source: Direct from Author

Whatever happened to “happily ever after”?

Heroes search for happiness, villains plot revenge, and nothing is as easy as it once seemed. Gretel suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, an orphan girl questions Rumpelstiltskin’s legacy, a monster cat searches for a child to eat, and the pied piper realizes stealing a hundred and thirty children may not have been his smartest idea.

Fairy tales have endured for centuries even though—or perhaps because—their conclusions are often more unsettling than satisfying. In Unspun, eleven storytellers come together to challenge and explore a few of those classic tales. Unexpected twists are sure to provoke both thought and laughter.

Gorgeous illustrations by Ruth Nickle accompany each piece.

Places to find the book:

Add to LibraryThing

Find on Book Browse

ISBN: 978-1986727877

Also by this author: Unspun

Genres: Anthology Collection of Short Stories and/or Essays, Fairy-Tale Re-Telling, Fantasy Fiction, Re-telling &/or Sequel, Urban Fantasy


Published by After Ever After Publishing

on 4th April, 2018

Format: ePub | PDF Chapter Sampler

Pages: 50

Formats Available: Trade Paperback, Ebook

Read more about ‘Ethical Will’ on the Author’s Site

Previous releases by kaki olsen:

Swan and Shadow by Kaki OlsenIron Doves: A Charity Anthology

I had the pleasure of being on the blog tour celebrating the release for “Swan & Shadow” – you can find my review and my interview as well as Ms Olsen’s Guest Post attached to the tour happily celebrated on Jorie Loves A Story. Previously, I had plans to discuss the short story within the “Iron Doves: Anthology” for ‘Wyrd and Wonder’, however, I will now be doing so in a special feature I’m creating called: #EnterTheFantastic where I showcase stories of Fantasy between ‘Wyrd and Wonder’ events throughout the calendar year wherein I continuously read fantastical stories!

About Kaki Olsen

Kaki Olsen

Kaki Olsen has published stories about swan maidens, space-faring dragons, dying astronauts and shape-shifting sorcerers.

Her articles in AuthorsPublish cover a variety of craft topics. She is also known for her academic papers on everything from Anakin to Zuko for Life, the Universe, and Everything. In her spare time, she travels excessively and reads voraciously.

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my review of ethical will:

We arrive inside Lena’s life on the auspiciously difficult time of her mother’s death – where she had succumbed to leukemia as a veteran of war. Lena was unsure how to carry her grief through the protocols of how we must part with the dead – especially in her case, as she was Jewish, respecting her mother’s wishes as best she could whilst allowing her mother to rest at long last. In this opening scene, we are observing Lena as she goes through the motions of what we all must resolve after a loved one dies – how to carry-on with the living bits. For her, it’s even more complicated as she’s meant to observe Shiva. Except even in this final gesture, Lena’s mind and heart was conflicted – she just didn’t have the same emotional connection to her mother her fellow soldiers had or even the other members of her family. The loss was more desolate and aching in her spirit than she wanted to let on, as she barely knew the woman who had passed and having to hear about her second-hand was pushing her to the edge.

When it comes to will’s being read – you have to automatically think going into hearing them there could be a few surprises – such as a large donation going to a pet charity or a seemingly benign request which takes on new meaning after it’s attempted to be carried out! This is how I felt about when Lena’s mother was referencing the ‘nutcracker’ – moreso, being an appreciator of Ms Olsen’s collective works, I sensed there was something rather fantastical coming our way!

You truly have to have a giggle over how Lena and her friends’ are talking about being ‘welcoming’ to a nutcracker! The good mirth of course, couldn’t quite last – this is set in a quasi-fantastical world after all – but letting them have their good fun at sorting out what to do with an object which celebrates the Christianity in the family was wicked good cheer! Sometimes I think though, people should think more about art or objects which are passed down generationally – as how do any of us know the ‘hidden histories’ of such things!? The quirky and the paranormal are never too far away from the fantastical or the dimensionally hidden worlds intercepting with our own!

When the nutcracker first visited Lena, it was very point-of-fact and authentically natural to see him there – he took up a space where he could be easily seen by Lena, who in turn, felt she was either overly exhausted to the brink of imagining him rather than realising she was fully awake seeing a nutcracker talk to her in formal language and bearing! For his sake, you had to feel for the little guy – he had previously been so dearly attached to both her mother and her grand-mother, I think by the third generation, he must have felt Lena would simply ‘accept’ the history of his connection and move forward! There is the first mistake, in think humans are predictable but then again, couldn’t the same be true of humans who presume they understand the fantastical creatures who come to reside with them? Perhaps a bit more caution on both sides is justified?

I am unsure what I would do in Lena’s shoes – finding out an entire back-history of involvement with a magical creature like the Prince would be a lot to take-in! Considering the ramifications and the curious ways in which you were left out of the family histories until now – when what you had inside you was a lot of doubt, resentment and an ache of anger which you could not easily dispell. Now, you have this Prince who not only wants to carry-on looking after you but has the audacity to tell you just how involved he was with your own mother!? It nearly felt to much,.. no wonder Lena wanted to run free of her home – it no longer felt like a sanctuary to her where she could feel untouched by the world.

Ooh, now it’s getting interesting! When you get to find out why ‘sugar plums’ are being sent in droves to Lena’s family, you get goosebumps of joy because of what it symbolises but also, of what it celebrates!! I truly am appreciating the threading of the original story elements from The Nutcracker into this lovely short – Olsen has re-envisioned this so very well, to where you have a suspension of thought towards how it is all possible! For the moment, it just makes jolly sense you could evoke an invitation to see your Prince!

There is a quick turning of tides – where the Prince must reveal to Lena the dangers of connecting to his realm – of how the Mouse King can rise in power and overtake anyone who is not ready to forestall his efforts. By the time you fully realise the effect of the Mouse King yourself, you see him as the vile person he is who has no temperament for empathy nor does he wish anything for himself beyond the control of others he feels he has the right to manipulate! He is rather horrid all round when you think on it! The sinister bits to his personality though is how well versed he is in hiding his true nature, of seeking to communicate as if you don’t realise it’s him your talking to and of course, the harder hitting realisations you can be overtaken by his manifestations!

The secondary heroine of this story is Lena’s Aunt – talk about someone who comes out from behind and becomes your champion! Whilst I also immediately found myself enjoying being around the Great-Great Grand-mother of whom was more readily known in our fables as ‘the sugar plum fairy’ – she wasn’t quite what I was expecting and it was her openness about protecting Lena from the Mouse King which felt so very sincere. I also liked how in their world – there were aspects of our world mirrored there – from the landscapes to the animals – dimensionally we might differ but in other ways, the discrepancies were minor.

When I reached the conclusion of Ethical Will it resolved in a way which I knew it had too but altogether wished it hadn’t. The title of the short story eludes to it’s fuller message – about how our ethics, morality and the very will we have to live and make choices against how we approach our living hours must be upheld in the highest degree of sanctity. Yet, there are forces seeking to work against us all the same – who can influence and try to alter our own minds and hearts, to where hard choices need to be considered. It is only the courageous and the strong of spirit who can survive (or hope to survive) and this short parlays itself across those lines of philosophical study.

Equality in Lit:

This short story is from the perspective of a Jewish family who are grieving the loss of the matriarch – Lena’s mother. Straight-away, whilst we are first getting the chance to learn about Lena’s loss, we are viscerally invited to stand with her during Shiva and during the observation of their Shabbat. This includes the inclusion of a traditional song which means to incant the arrival of the angels who are supposed to guard and protect the family upon hearing the words of the song being sung.

For those who are not as accustomed to the traditions being included, Ms Olsen has a welcoming way of giving you a warmth of information which does not feel bogged down but rather, almost as if you already knew what to expect because of how wonderfully she streamlined the explanations in-line with her characters living their lives. I appreciate finding writers who allow us as readers to get to know differences in spirituality and religion through the observation of how their characters live as to me, there is no greater teacher than feeling as if you’ve stepped into someone else’s shoes for awhile.

on the speculative literary styling of kaki olsen:

Being someone who has dealt with loss throughout her life, there were knowing moments of reflection for me whilst I was reading this short story. Especially since – one of the hardest bits to resolve after a person dies is how to reconcile their belongings – what to save, what to donate, what isn’t worth being given away at all – if you keep a close hold on your emotions and memories, sometimes just going through the belongings dredges up a heap of things you weren’t prepared to shift through all at once. Just some extra thoughts of mine as I was reading Lena’s reaction to the reading of the will – I felt Ms Olsen not only brought us concurrent into Lena’s awareness of the changes interceding into her life but of the heartache of what those changes would imply.

In keeping in step with the history of the original canon, what makes this a twisted tale of old is how well fused this new spin-off is with the traditional evocation of it’s theme. This is a nod to Ms Olsen’s passion for the ballet and for the stories therein but also, for finding an entrance into a tale a vast majority of readers will instantly recognise and yet – find themselves in a wholly new dimension within the world they love! This is a great feat – as it allows us to re-examine what we felt we know previously against the new events which are now taking place!

Fantastical elements:

→ A nutcracker like none other – I truly liked how the nutcracker came to life in this story – quite unassuming, very matter-of-fact and the one slightly disarming bit to him is how well he conveyed his message but his hostess (Lena) wasn’t quite catching on to some of the bits I was about how he’s able to be around her and how he needs to be ‘invited’ in order to say, etc.

→ The Mouse King – I was taken off-guard who this turnt out to be and the ways in which he chosen to overtake individuals who had innate rights he was violating by his interference.

→ Fairy Guards – no tale of intrigue and danger would be complete without the guards!

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This short story review is courtesy of the author Kaki Olsen

Whilst connected to the first annual Fantasy Event I’m co-hosting:

Wyrd and Wonder banner created by Imyril and used with permission.Follow her fantastical adventures via this main hub of the 2018 event!

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{SOURCES: Book cover for “Unspun: Anthology”, author photograph of Kaki Olsen, book synopsis and author biography were provided by the author Kaki Olsen and used with permission. Tweets embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Wyrd and Wonder banner created by Imyril and used with permission. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: Book Review Banner using Unsplash.com (Creative Commons Zero) Photography by Frank McKenna and the Comment Box Banner.}

Copyright © Jorie Loves A Story, 2018.

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About jorielov

I am self-educated through local libraries and alternative education opportunities. I am a writer by trade and I cured a ten-year writer’s block by the discovery of Nanowrimo in November 2008. The event changed my life by re-establishing my muse and solidifying my path. Five years later whilst exploring the bookish blogosphere I decided to become a book blogger. I am a champion of wordsmiths who evoke a visceral experience in narrative. I write comprehensive book showcases electing to get into the heart of my reading observations. I dance through genres seeking literary enlightenment and enchantment. Starting in Autumn 2013 I became a blog book tour hostess featuring books and authors. I joined The Classics Club in January 2014 to seek out appreciators of the timeless works of literature whose breadth of scope and voice resonate with us all.

"I write my heart out and own my writing after it has spilt out of the pen." - self quote (Jorie of Jorie Loves A Story)

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Posted Thursday, 31 May, 2018 by jorielov in #WyrdAndWonder, After the Canon, Anthology Collection of Stories, Blog Tour Host & Reviewer, Cultural Heritage, Dark Fantasy, Death, Sorrow, and Loss, Debilitating Diagnosis & Illness, Equality In Literature, Fairy Tale Fiction, Fantasy Fiction, Folklore, Inspired By Author OR Book, Inspired by Stories, Judiasm, Mother-Daughter Relationships, Re-Told Tales, Realistic Fiction, Short Stories or Essays, Speculative Fiction, Spirituality & Metaphysics, Terminal Illness &/or Cancer, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event, Urban Fantasy, Women's Health, World Religions, Yiddish Words & Phrases




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