ARC Reviews

The Woman in the Woods and Other North American Stories edited by Kate Ashwin


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ARC was given by NetGalley & Iron Circus Comics in exchange for an honest review.

This review is being published after the release date (April 5th, 2022)

My heart, my freaking heart is so damn full right now! There aren’t enough words to convey how happy I am to have an arc of this graphic novel anthology right now. I ended up missing out on requesting an arc for this anthology and had it wish-listed, and as fate would have it, while on vacation I was surprised with this sliding into my library. If you haven’t heard me talk about how emotional I get every time I get a book by a Native/Indigenous author/s then here it is right here. I’m so emotional, so so grateful, and very privileged to have this right now.

As an Apache reader, book blogger, this anthology means the world to me just as all literature I receive by Native/Indigenous authors. If you would have told a very young, child Malli that I would be able to see more Indigenous people in literature that isn’t from a stereotypical lens and actually by Indigenous authors, I probably would have laughed and then broke down into sobs. Growing up as an urban Native and as someone who has spent years reconnecting with one’s heritage; you end up missing a lot of things, you can’t always go to PowWow, your elders aren’t always available to teach you, you have to devote large portions of time to learning your dialect (in my case, Eastern and Western Apache), and so on. So receiving this anthology, seeing stories I recognize, having heard these stories from my elders or others of my own age, it just means everything to me. It is everything.

As always for my anthology reviews, I have mini reviews for all the short stories where I talk about my thoughts, feelings, and include content/trigger warnings.

As It Was Told To Me by Elijah Forbes (Odawa) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This is a story about creation and The Creator, and about life. This story had me super emotional because I couldn’t help thinking about a similar story I was told from my Auntie. It got me really emotional and soft thinking about her and when she told me about how creation was a sort of awakening, how Creator created other gods/deities, and the way everything came into being. Reading this story, I just felt instant connection and just reminded that even if the story is slightly different, all tribes are connected to each other because of a story like this one.

“They were the most sacred being, feminine and masculine. Not in parts, but both at the same time.”

Chokfi by Jordaan Arledge & Mekala Nava (Chickasaw) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

This story is about how animals became vain because of their coats. Chokfi being a very proud rabbit, became curious after hearing about Otter’s coat being the most beautiful and his plot to make Otter’s coat his. I think the Trickster stories are always my favorite stories to hear from my elders because each story is different depending on the tribe. For example, a lot of Apache trickster stories revolve around coyote (which I feel in modern day is used, along with foxes, as trickster icons). Look, I’m not saying I’m biased, but this was one of my favorite stories from this anthology.

White Horse Plains by Rhael McGregor (Métis/Cree) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Brief mentions of starvation, brief scenes/mentions of violence, and brief scene of implied death

Honestly, this was the story that held my attention the most. This story revolves around the growing conflict between the Sioux & Assiniboine and the Cree. I find that so many stories in literature (in general) constantly revolve around the colonization and the wars that constantly broke out during that whole time period, but we never see the struggles and conflicts between different tribes very often. And for me, this story was the main reason this anthology caught my attention in the first place. I had only heard faint whispers about the White Horse Plains, but never had a chance to ask anyone about it or get the chance to research into the story itself to learn more. And this was both sad, tragic, but understandable and beautiful in some ways.

“It’s believed the spirit of the bride resides within him, helping steer those who are lost or misguided onto the right path so that they do not fall into a tragic fate.”

The Rougarou Maija Ambrose Plamondon & Milo Applejohn (Métis) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Content/Trigger Warnings: Mentions of killing animals, mentions loss of loved one (in the past), grief

I think this one surprised me the most out of all these stories. The stories of the Rougarou are something that I’m very partial too and I guess in a way, I connected with this particular story on a very deep, emotional and personal level. This story is about a young child to encounters a Rougarou and befriends the Rougarou, and the story behind this child’s Rougarou friend. This story, though short, has beautiful themes and I cried reading this whole story. I think this is going to be my most loved and preferred story of the Rougarou thus far.

“You put yourself in potential danger because you could sense help was needed. Facing your fear is a great sign of bravery.”

Agonjin In The Water by Alice RL (Ojibwe) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

If there was ever a story to remind you of how sacred water is, let this one story be it. If you don’t know, water is very sacred to Native/Indigenous people especially the plains tribes because droughts can be intensely rough to get through. This story does a fantastic job of emphasizing the importance of water and also the importance of story telling. And the artwork really helped paint a vivid picture for the reader.

“I cherished these stories and would love to share them with others as I grew older. And as I grew older, the water, our source of life, began to change.”

The Woman In The Woods by Mercedes Acosta (Taino) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Honestly, my breath hitched reading this story. For starters, this was my first time reading any story from the Indigenous people of the Caribbean. However, everything about this story was just so beautiful and the artwork really added to the beauty of this story. I wanted a few more pages of this story because I was just fully enthralled by everything, but I’ll settle for the few in this anthology. It was just so good and so breath-taking.

“Be careful of what you accept from spirits. Accepting their gifts binds you to them. Though some of us were never meant to be with anyone else.”

Into The Darkness by Izzy Roberts & Aubrie Warner (Navajo) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

If there was one story I wasn’t expecting to encounter, it was this short story right here. And I should have known from the synopsis of the book, too! However, I ignored my gut feeling and thought, “No, it wouldn’t possibly be…” and then it was. I bamboozled myself! But in all honesty, just the fact that I know what this story is about and how vividly remember my aunties and uncle telling me about this… Shivers and chills, down my spine. If you know, you know, and if you don’t then count your blessings.

By The Light Of The Moon by Jeffrey Veregge & Alina Pete (S’Kallam) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Again, this seems like an obvious story I’d love, but any stories that revolve around the moon and I just immediately swoon. This story is about how the Moon fell in love with the Octopus Queen, and how some marine life became bioluminescence. I loved this story, from start to finish. I think starting the story from the perspective of two divers and concluding the way it did was chef’s kiss. This is definitely another favorite that now lives in my brain, rent free.

“Her movements were a ballet that spoke directly to the Moon’s soul.”

I gave The Woman in the Woods and Other North American Stories five stars overall, because out of the possible 40 stars (5 stars being possible for all 8 stories) this anthology accumulated 40 stars (100%)!

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.



Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline


ARC was provided by William Morrow in exchanged for an honest review

This review is being published after the release date (July 28th, 2020)

Content/Trigger Warnings: Colonization, child abuse, grief, death, loss of a loved one, mention of claustrophobia, body shaming, alcoholism, gaslighting, sex, racism/racist slurs, anxiety, drug abuse, scene of attempted rape

Chills. I have literal chills running down my spine and every time I have tried to type this review, I get even more chills remembering what I read. This was such a wild ride and I never saw a lot of the twists and turns. There’s such a heavy, ominous vibe about this book and I can’t get over the way the rougarou was shown throughout this book. I also want to point out that this book is ownvoices for the Métis representation, Cherie Dimaline is a Métis author, but only one voice of the Métis community. I also want to point out that I’m not Métis. I’m Apache and I can’t make any commentary on any Métis cultural history or cultural elements that are laced throughout this book.

Victor has disappeared. After a night of their first serious argument, Victor left their home to check the trap only he never came back. Alone and broken hearted, Joan hasn’t stopped looking for her missing husband for almost a year. Then one terrible morning while hungover, she finds herself tumbling to the revival tent that many Métis have been gathering to hear a charismatic preacher. Joan comes into the tent after the service has already concluded, but just as she turns to leave, an unmistakable voice falls upon her ears.

I loved Joan as a main character. Joan is in no way a perfect heroine, but her flaws and the way she loves so deeply makes you appreciate her all the more. She’s such a loving character, she doesn’t shy away from the deep sorrow she feels, and she’s determined to to find Victor. I also really loved Zeus. He’s such an underdog and the way he grounds Joan was such a wonderful thing to read. I think both of these characters deserve more credit. Victor was a bit of a hard character to come to like because we don’t see enough of his personality. However, I love, love, loved how much Victor loves Joan and despite everything that happens with him, he still continues to search for her, continues loving her. I think these characters deserve much more credit for being the flawed characters they are, but also being so human in everything they do in this book.

“There’s lots of ways to become one.” She counted on her fingers. “Being attacked by a rogarou, mistreating women, betraying your people…that’s the ones we know around here, anyways.”

I really loved how we get some insight into Métis traditions and stories, especially with the Rougarou. Throughout this book we also get to see a deep strength of the Métis people. We see how the traditions, the stories, and the teachings are pass from generation to generation. And you just get an overwhelming sense of how resilient the Métis truly are.

The author dives into other important territories like the way religious missionaries continue to try to take advantage of Indigenous communities in their quest to take their land. We also see how colonialism continues to impact Indigenous communities as a whole and how quickly it escalates into violence. And of course, you see the racism and the stereotypes Indigenous people face every single day. You see how harmful it is and just how quick people are to assume certain things about you when you’re Indigenous.

I also want to take a moment to add this little side note. I’ve noticed a lot of readers have given this book a negative review and one of the main reasons has been to claiming this book is “too religious” or it’s a religious book. And hearing any reader say that makes me question if anyone who made this claim actually read the book in the first place. This is not a religious book in any way. This book is commentary on the way religion has been weaponized and used against Indigenous communities, how it continues to be weaponized. It’s also a commentary on how people are so willing to follow a religious leader without ever questioning their motives or actions. As someone who comes from a very colorful religious upbringing and having married someone who escaped from a cult in their youth, this is not a religious book and instead shines light on the problematic issues with religion that no one wants to talk about or address in any way.

“Old Medicine has a way of being remembered, of haunting the land where it’s laid. People are forgetful. Medicine is not.”

My only issue with this book was the multiple point of views. If you’ve been a follower of mine then you know I usually don’t read books with multiple povs. With how sharp my memory can be, when there are more than two point of views involved, things tend to blur together and that definitely happened with this book. There were parts I had to reread because I was struggling to remember who’s pov I was currently reading in.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. If I’m being honest, I definitely wasn’t in the right head space while reading this book and I think if I had been, the multiple povs would have been a bit easier for me to keep track of. I also want to remind all of you who are reading this review, if you’re not Métis then you don’t get to comment on the cultural elements in this book. Instead, you should be seeking out other Indigenous reviewers to hear their opinions on this book. And you should also consider doing your own research to help further your understanding about the Métis and their history. I can’t tell you how to read this book, but I strongly encourage you, if you’re non-Indigenous, to expand your knowledge, your understanding of things you don’t understand, and to challenge your preconceived ideas you may have about Indigenous people, Indigenous culture, and Indigenous history.

“If you’re gonna fight, then fight like hell. Otherwise you’re just dancing. And nobody ever defied death with a waltz.”

Buddy Read with Destiny from Howling Libraries 🧡

The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.