A #WyrdAndWonder Book Review| A Mythological Fantasy re-telling in the pages of “Cassandra” by Kathryn Gossow

Posted Sunday, 16 May, 2021 by jorielov , , , 1 Comment

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Gifted Book By: This novel “Cassandra” was part of a gifted #bookhaul of mine from my Mum and Dad for #WyrdAndWonder, Year 4! They happily surprised me with a lovely bundle of books I featured last Wyrd And Wonder celebrating the Indie Publisher Odyssey Books! This kicks-off my readings of those novels as I was overjoyed I can read all the lovely stories I had either showcased and/or featured but wasn’t able to read during our Year 3 Wyrd And Wonder.

Thereby, I was gifted a copy of “Cassandra” by my parents and I was not obligated to post an honest review on its behalf. I am sharing my thoughts on behalf of this novel for my own edification and a continued journey of sharing my readerly life on Jorie Loves A Story. I did not receive compensation for my opinions or thoughts shared herein.

Note: I received the Press Materials last year from the publisher and had asked if I could re-use them if and when I was able to read and/or review the stories I was featuring during Wyrd And Wonder Year 3 (2020); and thankfully was given permission to do so which is why I am using them during my readings this 4th Year of Wyrd And Wonder.

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Hallo, Hallo dear hearts!

I first was introduced to Mythological Fantasy through my readings during the first #Mythothon (@Mythothon) hosted by a dear friend, Louise @foxesfairytale. I was truly overtaken by all the different stories you can root out to read and how depending on the theme of what you wanted to read in Mythological Fantasy, you could take quite a wondrously lovely journey into this new (slightly hidden) niche of Fantasy literature. Ever since those first readings of mine, I’ve wanted to continue to join #Mythothon each year, but something seems to distract my attention or avert the hours I need in order to read during those events. Try as I might, I’ve missed a few rounds of the event and have set my eye on September, 2021 to re-join the community of readers who will be taking part in that round.

The credit goes to Louise for helping me re-look at this niche of literature and of unearthing such a wonderful foray into how stories set round different sets of Mythologies can become such entertaining reads! In this instance, I was wicked happy a copy of Cassandra was amongst the #bookhaul selections my parents surprised me with this Wyrd And Wonder, as I had known this was based on the myth of Cassandra but I hadn’t truly known much more than that before I started reading the story this May.

Cassandra is an intricate coming-of age story, wherein we follow in the footsteps of Cassandra (ie. Cassie) from a young girl into a budding young adult, as she curiously starts to recognise she has a gift for premonitions and knowing the future ahead of its arrival – but how that translates through her childhood and how she personally processes her precognitive thoughts and foreknowledge is uniquely writ into a backdrop of a life on a farm in Australia. Gossow takes you into this interpersonal journey of Cassie, as she navigates her home life, the pains of having a younger brother and of course, school life, too.

When I first started reading this story, I thought it was going to end up in a certain place by the end – yet, the final quarter of the novel tested my ability to stay rooted in the story and to find the ending. I just felt myself detaching from that mark in the book and I didn’t enjoy the final chapters as much as I had the rest of the novel as you’ll read in my review.

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A #WyrdAndWonder Book Review| A Mythological Fantasy re-telling in the pages of “Cassandra” by Kathryn GossowCassandra
by Kathryn Gossow
Source: Gifted

On a remote farm in Queensland, Cassie Shultz feels useless. Her perfect brother Alex has an uncanny ability to predict the weather, and the fortunes of the entire family hinge upon his forecasts. However, her own gift for prophecy remains frustratingly obscure. Attempts to help her family usually result in failure.

After meeting with her new genius neighbour Athena, Cassie thinks she has unlocked the secret of her powers. But as her visions grow more vivid, she learns that the cost of honing her gift may be her sanity.

With her family breaking apart, the future hurtles towards Cassie faster than she can comprehend it.

Genres: Australian Lit, Fantasy Fiction, Greek Mythos | Legacies, Upper YA Fantasy, Re-telling &/or Sequel, Upper YA Fiction

Places to find the book:

Borrow from a Public Library

Add to LibraryThing

ISBN: 978-1922200785

Also by this author: Cassandra (Author Interview)

Published by Odyssey Books

on 6th February, 2017

About [ “Cassandra” ] by the author:

My book Cassandra is a reimagining of the myth of Cassandra, set in Australian in the 1980s.
It was a finalist for Best Fantasy Novel in the Australian Aurealis Awards.

Published by: Odyssey Books (@OdysseyBooks)

Converse via: #Fantasy, #UpperYA, #Cassandra
as well as #OdysseyBooks & #WyrdAndWonder

About Kathryn Gossow

Kathryn Gossow

Kathryn Gossow is a writer and sometimes gardener living in a two acre garden in a pocket of the Brisbane River. When she is writing, her garden is a mess. When she is gardening, she forgets to write. It seems she cannot have both. She writes for that elusive feeling when she gets into the zone and there is nothing else in the world but her and the words that tumble onto the page. Kathryn has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, won a commendation in the Australian Horror Writers’ Association Flash Fiction Competition and has a number of published stories out in the world.

Rainbow Digital Clip Art Washi Tape made by The Paper Pegasus. Purchased on Etsy by Jorie and used with permission.

a few extra notes on this story:

When your first reading Cassandra, you don’t notice the texture of the story to be one of Fantasy because it takes place in a modern setting (during the 1980s) and has a very familiar vibe about it – especially as I recognised a lot of the Australian bits which are inclusive of its narrative. You have to drink this story in slowly and let it percolate in your mind’s eye – the Fantasy is there but as this is a Mythological re-telling, you have to have a bit of patience to let it draw you into its grip. Gossow has made this a very approachable read – for young adult readers or adults, who like seeking out Mythology in a more  palpable way.

Whenever Cassie is experiencing a premonition, the text shifts into italics and you have to decipher what is happening in that moment. Not all of her premonitions are understood – by Cassie or you, as a reader and that is part of the joy of reading this story. Because like Cassie, we, as readers are a bit in the dark about how all of this works and why it is happening. I love stories which give you pause to ponder its implications and continues to ask questions of you rather than disclosing everything before you have a chance to draw your own conclusions.

my review of cassandra:

Cassie has a fascination with observing life from a different perspective than most children. She is intuitive and inquisitive – lending well to how her extraordinary adventures have a way of giving her unique experiences others do not always understand. As we first meet her, she’s happily entertaining herself – using her imagination and rooting out truths to questions she formulates as she plays. She’s an interesting girl and when her curiosity turnt towards a snake – of where and how it lives, as much as what it must feel like if you were to touch it or have it close to you, is where Gossow brings in a bit of the fantastical into the story. For when Cassie slept, there was a scene about a snake – which I must admit, had I been Cassie, I wouldn’t have held my composure nearly so well but she saw the beauty of the snake and enjoyed his presence. Whereas I might have woken the dead with my screams.

Cassie’s family isn’t nearly as keen on how imaginatively creative Cassie sees the world – except for her Poppy (her grandfather) who seems to entertain her stories. He’s a kind-hearted grandfather who knows his role in the family is to keep watch over the weather patterns and be fortright in what he believes will affect the family farm. Cassie’s Mum, however, is a bit of a strict parent – she doesn’t like things which fall out of place and I had the feeling for her, Cassie was constantly disappointing her expectations for a daughter. You get to have a close encounter with the family as you’re reading as Gossow takes us into this family’s world – as we observe their everyday lives and the nuances therein to better see them as they are just as their living through their hours.

There is nothing more terrifying than being bit by something in nature – especially if it is something which can be life threatening. I appreciated how Gossow explored Cassie’s impressions and reactions to what happened to her with the snake – how she took us through Cassie’s own journey through that kind of trauma and how Cassie herself wasn’t aware of what was real or imagined or even, what was happening to her as she processed through both the trauma of that incident and the aftermath of it. It was an interesting sequence as the mind likes to trick you when your in pain and sometimes, if you can trick your mind back to focus on something other than the pain, I felt it might present itself as a distraction similar to what Cassie experienced herself through Gossow’s descriptions therein.

Gossow has undertaken such a wonderful method of involving us through the process of how Cassie realises she has a gift for knowing the future. It started off quite slow – building in awareness until even Cassie couldn’t dismiss it was happening. And, that of course, led to a few consequences as despite her foreknowledge about certain events, what she was struggling to understand is why others round her were not always open to listening to what she had to tell them. As not everyone in this story is willing to listen to a young girl who is giving them a forewarning about something that hasn’t even happened yet. I felt the way Gossow was describing this awareness in Cassie and the ways in which it came out in the story’s timeline was a brilliant choice.

As the story shifts forward in Cassie’s childhood – her brother Alex has his own growing gift which takes after their grandfather’s fascination with weather. Alex is younger than Cassie and a bit of a thorn in her side as he seems to gain more attention from her parents, grandfather and Aunty than she does herself but part of me felt that might be because Alex has a gift people could see sooner than the kind of information Cassie herself could give them. It had to be difficult though – for Cassie, knowing that her brother’s gift was readily taken as truth and hers was easily dismissed as being nothing at all.

When Cassie, her Aunty Ida and Mum speak with Vera at the fair – it was one of my favourite scenes because of how little is shared about why Aunty Ida and Cassie’s Mum are wary of Vera! She’s definitely one of those busy-bodies who likes to insert themselves into your orbit and find out all your news, but from the way she was being presented, I felt she was quite harmless though you could have cut the tension in that scene with a knife! Cassie continues to have episodes of knowing things in the middle of doing something else – her mind fades out at moments where it isn’t easy to hide the fact she’s elsewhere like she had at the fair in the tea tent. Her mind is an interesting mapping of events, thoughts and premonitions which aren’t always clearly defined.

What I found interesting is how Cassie continues to constantly try to connect with her family; even her Aunty Ida and each time she tries to get close to someone or to have an honest talk with them, they have the tendency of pushing her away. Not wanting to discuss anything at all and closes the subjects before they’ve even had a conversation. I could see why she was feeling invisible and indifferent as all the attention was placed on her younger brother – due to his gift for knowing the weather and how much a farm relies on the weather itself. For Cassie, it felt like her needs and wants weren’t as particularly payed attention too by comparison. Even her inquisitive nature seemed to be mark of consternation in her family.

Cleverly Gossow bridges the mythology into the story when Cassie meets Athena and everything starts to click into place – both for Cassie and for us, as I had a feeling this might parlay into a story I’ve heard previously but I wasn’t sure which course of direction Gossow might take herself. It was clever too how as Athena is telling Cassie the back-history about the origins of their names and the persons Cassandra and Athena were in that history, how those lives and their own started to have an overlap of insight into what was happening to Cassie now in the present. It is through her friendship with Athena where Cassie starts to seriously question and investigate the gift she has and what it truly means to her and others. Athena was her first true friend – as previous friends’ didn’t stand by Cassie when she needed them most nor did they fully understand her as much as I felt Athen might herself. The girls’ friendship also hinged on the fact Athena was a girl who loved Science and was home schooled in a way that allowed her to think outside the box on a constant basis and re-work through the ways in which Cassie herself was raised. The two girls’ seemed to have found each other just when they needed a friend and that sweetened the passages Gossow wrote about them for me.

As Cassie continues to go through her school years and her friendship with Athena has its share of ups and downs as all friendships do – especially as Athena was a bit shy about meeting Cassie’s family; we start to notice other changes in Cassie, too. She’s flexing her adolescence and trying to sort out where she fits in the world – sorting out boys and the ways of the world in the process. Gossow undercuts her inability to understand her gift with the passages of coming-of age in a time where she feels like she’s either under a microscope of criticism or completely invisible to everyone. It is a telling story about how one girl tries to sort out which path she wants to walk and the goings on of a life lived in a very rural area without the conveniences or liveliness of a larger city. This is something that also strikes notice from her mother. You can understand the frustrations both Mum and daughter have in this area – as once you meet just a few people, you’ve met most of the residents over a short period of time. It doesn’t lend well for forward growth and I felt both Mum and daughter felt as if they were stuck in one place without hope of escape.

Cassie’s mother was a hard character for me to have empathy towards as she always seemed to play favourites between her children; between Cassie and Alex. Yet, at the same time, she felt dearly removed from their lives and not as connected as you would think a Mum would want to be in her children’s life. Cassie and Alex both lived singularly solitary lives outside the goings on of their peers and if Athena hadn’t walked into her life so unexpectedly one day, I’m not sure she’d have any connection to the outside world as her family kept to themselves, staid on the farm and rarely moved in social settings. I felt Cassie’s family was a bit too isolated and perhaps if they hadn’t been things might have gone differently for them.

When twist in the story I hadn’t seen coming though I suspected it might have been what was finally revealled is the condition Aunty Ida has – it hit a personal note with me as my grandfather had it himself. I usually stay clear of stories that walk through similar medical issues my grandfathers had themselves but in this case, I hadn’t known it was part of the plot. The ways in which Gossow was foreshadowing this premonition by Cassie proved how difficult it is to have intuition pertaining to a loved one as I believed that is why Cassie fell short in being able to fully understand what this premonition was leading her to know ahead of time. It is one thing when you have the distance to strangers when it comes to knowing the future, but when you have to turn that sense of knowledge onto your own family – the difficulty lies in being able to handle it – emotionally and psychologically especially if you can’t change the circumstances therein.

Towards the final quarter of the novel, there was a change of tone and context to this story which did take me by surprise. As the story shifted gears a bit – to where Cassie was experimenting with alcohol and drugs and making bad choices in regards to which of her peers she was keeping company whilst sneaking out of her house. She was even unkind to her brother Alex and short-tempered when it came to the rest of her family. Even Athena couldn’t get through to her and instead focused on her own affairs. There were some difficult passages to read through – as with any situation that goes out of control for someone, there can be consequences to placing yourself at risk of harm. The language also took a turn and became so peppered in vulgarity, it was a bit hard to stay focused on the scenes as everyone seemed to rather curse than speak their mind.

I honestly felt myself being pulled out of the novel – it felt less about Cassie figuring out how to harness her premonitions to where she could use them in a positive way and effect positive change in the lives around her to a cautionary tale about a family cursed in fate and a girl plagued by a gift she couldn’t control. Which I knew had some foreshadowing in the first half of the story but the final quarter of the novel was a harder part for me to read and gave me more angst to get through than I originally felt it might as everything just started to derail. At least for me. I suppose it was because I thought this was going to go in a different direction than the one it took and for me, that was the greater disappointment.

In the end, the emotional weight I felt when I reached the final page was quite acute. If the myth of Cassandra is about a woman whose fate is cursed, I would consider this a winning ending because the Cassandra in this story truly didn’t get the kind of ending I would have hoped for her myself. In fact, it was such a sombering story all told. I predicted some of it – as Gossow made a point to pivot in some of the premonitions Cassie was having – how they related to her family and directly peered into her life as well – but none of it was known of course until it all played out. It is definitely one of those re-tellings based on ancient mythologies what makes you pause and consider the truer meaning behind the tale itself and feel grateful for the life you’ve lived.

On Australian foods and delights:

I had a feeling I knew most of the food in the novel, but for a few of them, I decided to search them out to see if I was right — one of them, the dagwood dog I had guessed right was similar to our American corn dog! I used to love those at carnivals and state fairs; however, ours was served with ketchup and/or mustard (or both!) and not tomato sauce. I imagine that might change my impression on how it tastes but perhaps one day, I can try it that way, too.

Gossow truly speaks to your foodie soul in this novel – if you love trying foods from other places and/or reading about food in fiction, be sure to read this after you’ve had a bit of a nosh yourself because you’re going to be dreaming of all the lovelies you could be eating!!

on the fantasical & mythological storytelling of kathryn gossow:

love when writers have such a burst of descriptive narrative as soon as you first sink your eyes into their stories – to where the character and/or setting you’re starting to read feels not just alive but pulsing with energy through your own imagination! Gossow has achieved this with Cassandra – as we tuck close to a young girl whose just turnt five and who likes her independence – from her family and from the norms of society. She is quite the character to meet – she’d rather play under the house than inside it and her sharpened insight on life is a refreshing change from how younger children are generally voiced in fiction. This in combination with how Gossow first alights us into young Cassie’s life is a burst of fresh air as you truly feel captivated by her story.

I’ve read stories and watched stories (ie. tv series or films) which involve premonition and precognitive dreams previously however, even when those stories involve second sight, I never had the chance to see this perspective of how knowing the future would impact the life of a child. I know I must’ve seen a story involving children who are gifted with this talent in the past, but I can’t remember any specific storyline which was as viscerally in-tune with the experience of having this kind of gift given to them as how Gossow introduced us to how Cassie realises this about herself. She’s created a very introspective character in Cassie, a girl who feels deeply and is thoughtful about how she interprets both the world round her and the experiences she’s lived through – which is why to see her realise what she’s beginning to awaken in understanding about this new gift of hers is quite the literary treat for me to read!

As this story is set in Australia, I was especially enjoying the different turns of phrase and the descriptions within the narrative which were decidedly Australian. I recognised those immediately as I used to write a lot of friends overseas and a few of them lived in Australia and/or New Zealand. This is why I knew when Spring begins in Australia just as our Autumn is about to begin stateside and how there are different flowers in bloom as well as the hot and dusty environments when the rains haven’t yet come to re-hydrate the land. I hadn’t realised how much I had learnt from my friends over the years or through other stories I’ve read set in Australia (such as the Coorah Creek series by Janet Gover). It felt like such a wonderful homecoming for me as a reader and I especially enjoyed being back in this setting as it was wonderfully familiar.

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Content Notes:

→ Neurological disorders

→ Brief mentions of Cancer

→ Attempted Rape

→ From infrequent strong language to a heavy peppering of it

→ More Upper YA than Traditional YA Fantasy

If anyone struggles with having medical diagnoses involving neurological disorders, the conditions of Cancer or infrequent strong language, I’d advise reading this story with caution. Thankfully, none of this took me outside the story myself – as the Cancer references were blessedly brief and the neurological disorder was one I already knew about myself due to my grandfather(s).

At first I thought the language was only going to be infrequent and a non-issue but as I started reading the final quarter of the novel, the language shifted and became more frequently strong – I felt it took away from the rest of the novel because there wasn’t anything to lead me that this would change at that point in the story until it actually arrived. The attempted rape scene was quite intense – it was a contentious scene all the way round because it happened in the middle of Cassie experimenting with mixing drugs and alcohol together – not the combination someone with premonitions needs to put in their system and it led into this scene.

Due to these inclusions, I decided this was more of an Upper YA Fantasy, than a traditional YA Fantasy due to the themes and subjects broached in the story as well as the bursts of more frequent stronger language. Initially, I thought it might have tracked as a traditional YA Fantasy rooted in Mythological origins and crossed into a contemporary coming-of age storyline. However, after finishing reading the story, it is decidedly Upper YA for teens who are seeking more mature stories and are reading in the gap years between Young Adult and New Adult Fiction before proceeding into Adult altogether.

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This book review is part of the #bookhaul of Fantasy novels my parents gifted me:

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Read about my #WyrdAndWonder #bookhaul!

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I look forward to reading your thoughts & commentary!
Especially if you read the book or were thinking you might be inclined to read it.
Bookish conversations are always welcome!

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Reading this story contributed to my #WyrdAndWonder Year 4:

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Enjoying my fantastical reviews about the worlds of Fantasy?

Ever since the beginning of Jorie Loves A Story, I have embarked on a Quest to seek out stories within the worlds of Fantasy which would heighten my awareness of the genre and give me wicked good reads – across the subniches of a genre I’ve loved since I was seventeen. Every May, I happily co-host @WyrdAndWonder – whilst throughout the months of the year, I regularly read & discuss the Fantasy reads I am discovering.

Visit my full archive for ALL my #EnterTheFantastic wanderings! As well as take a walkabout through my archives for #WyrdAndWonder – or take a walkabout through my archive for everything deemed wickedly fantastical!

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{SOURCES: Book cover for “Cassandra”, book synopsis, author biography and author photograph of Kathryn Gossow were all provided by Odyssey Books and are used with permission. Post dividers by Fun Stuff for Your Blog via Pure Imagination. Rainbow Digital Clip Art Washi Tape made by The Paper Pegasus. Purchased on Etsy by Jorie and used with permission. Tweets were embedded due to codes provided by Twitter. Wyrd And Wonder 2020 banner created by Imyril (Image Credit: Flaming phoenix by Sujono Sujono from 123RF.com) and is used with permission. Blog graphics created by Jorie via Canva: #WyrdAndWonder Book Review, #WyrdAndWonder Year 4 banner, #WyrdAndWonder #bookhaul collage banner (Photo Credit: © jorielovesastory.com) and the Comment Box Banner.}

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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 Sunday, 16 May, 2021 by jorielov in #WyrdAndWonder, 21st Century, Australia, Australian Fiction, Book Review (non-blog tour), Brothers and Sisters, Bullies and the Bullied, Childhood Friendship, Coming-Of Age, Content Note, Death of a Sibling, Fantasy Fiction, Father-daughter Relationships, Fly in the Ointment, Folklore and Mythology, Greek Mythology, Indie Author, Inspired by Stories, Modern Day, Mother-Daughter Relationships, Prejudicial Bullying & Non-Tolerance, Re-Told Tales, School Life & Situations, Siblings, Teenage Relationships & Friendships, Twitterland & Twitterverse Event, Upper YA Fiction, Vulgarity in Literature, YA Fantasy

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One response to “A #WyrdAndWonder Book Review| A Mythological Fantasy re-telling in the pages of “Cassandra” by Kathryn Gossow

  1. I’ve been adding quite a few mythological retellings to my TBR recently and this looked interesting too. I have to admit, I hadn’t heard of Cassandra until today, but I’m excited to learn more about her! It sounds like this book gets into some hard topics around family relationships and high school struggles, so I’m interested to see how that plays into the fantasy elements.

    I also love that the book is set in Australia. I’ve been trying to find fantasy books outside of traditional US/European settings, and it sounds like the Australian setting made the worldbuilding especially interesting in this book.

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