Book Review: ‘The Vernals’

With one published short story collection under my belt and two solid manuscripts, I was on a writing break. The break was to focus on getting my manuscripts to reach the readers — editing and publishing at least 5 of them this year.

Getting back into writing mode was a welcome pause in the middle of such a year. The opportunity came when Highbrowscribespub started an ‘anthology’ project called ‘The Vernals- A Trug of Short Stories’.

It was an opportunity for me to get out in the middle and write two short stories. I shared the manuscripts with Highbrowscribespub.

One was part of the mythological short story collection I had completed, and another story in the contemporary genre.

I was apprehensive about anthologies for a reason. The anthology is a bouquet of tales written by storytellers who are strangers to each other. The stories and the storytelling could be completely different and when we put together such a disparate set, it could be unexpected. This brought me to the publisher’s point of view — the risk is on the publisher. The contributing authors have written and submitted, and from there, it is the publisher all the way.

The intent of the publisher is clear in the book — it is an effort to provide a ‘platform for budding authors’. This takes away any sting from a literary critique, but if you are a reader of my reviews, you would agree that my focus is on the magic of the project.

I don’t consider myself a ‘budding author’ anymore, even though I am a student of fiction writing. I am part of the anthology too, so there is an inherent conflict of interest I must disclose before you read this further.

The Cover and Title:

The light yellow cover catches our eyes. The figure, a tree that is firmly rooted on a book, shows how both the writers and the audience grow from such a project.

Picture courtesy Highbrowscribespub

‘The Vernals’ is a product of the spring. Spring is the time of plenty and fertility of nature and the author’s mind. The stories that spring in the minds of the authors are vernal. The title agrees with the book.

Between the Covers:

Once I opened the cover, a new universe emerges in front of us. It is akin to a magical flea market, with each author, including me, standing in front of our stories, smiling and welcoming the reader to savor and experience the storyware from our pens, like a scene out of Harry Potter.

Ten authors and fourteen stories across multiple genres make the reading interesting. From human narratives to paranormal stories, from mythology to murder mysteries, the stories span across timelines and territories. From Nainital to Kanyakumari, each story comes alive in different parts of India. Some stories focus on the short events, while some stories span generations. Such is the diversity of the stories in the anthology.

This brings us to the stories themselves. I would refrain from comparative reviews for obvious reasons. The stories easily fall into two buckets — budding and vintage authors. I will leave the readers to discern further classifications.

There comes a point where I have to share my pick. I would pick three ( keeping mine aside) that got me hooked.

Fireflies over Naini Lake’ carries the narrator and the protagonist in a tight wrap while sprinkling the metaphorical presence of the fireflies. The plot, the language, the close interaction — the setting, the dialogue and the interaction between the old man and the young narrator are brilliant.

‘The Black Cat’ left me holding the book slightly longer than I normally would because of its ending with a paranormal twist. My eyes were searching for the ending with a connection with the title, but instead, I was served with an ending that left me with a question of whether to believe the myth of a black cat or not.

‘See You Tomorrow’ intrigued me with its absorbing language and wordplay but I was lost in the construct between the timelines of Maya’s and the protagonist’s death, while still trying to figure out if a dagger or a gun was used in each case. The writing is lucid and packs enormous potential.

The other stories make a good anthology. ‘The Perfect Murders’, ‘Point 4700’, ‘ Kavita’s passion’, ‘A Gift that Remains’, ‘Marriage has come to Town’, ‘Towards True Love’, ‘Eternal Love’, ‘Dilemma’, and ‘How Blue is my Sapphire’ make breezy reads and are interesting pieces of short fiction by the authors.

The anthology appeals to all emotions that a reader would expect. The love of the authors and their flair for fiction writing boils to the surface in each story of this anthology.

In Short:

‘The Vernals’ has some amazing stories and some good attempts. This disparity is the beauty of this anthology.

It is inspiring to note that the publisher Highbrowscribespub has taken the initiative to put together this diverse set of stories. It is an audacious effort and has landed well in the reader’s hands.

As a literary production house, Highbrowscribespub could, in the future, produce anthologies with vintage author contributions, while also continuing to publish budding author anthologies. My congratulations to the publisher.

My best wishes to the authors on their literary journey and the readers will be waiting for more.

~Ashok Subramanian

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Poet and Author. Poetry and Book Reviews. Investment Banker. IIM C Alumni. Engineering Graduate.

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