Rating: 4.75 stars out of 5
Detective Quinn Manning wants nothing more than to see Diamond Dace, one of Fagerdal’s most notorious drug lords, behind bars. After years of the man eluding the authorities, when Manning accidentally stumbles onto an opportunity to catch the powerful dealer red-handed, he doesn’t hesitate. But what should be a simple tail instead drops Manning into a real-life world of myth and legend.
Hush is a hulder, a forest spirit also known as a pine tree Mary. Since the beginning of time, his people have lived in the forest, feeding off the energy they derive from the lust and desires of passing hunters. But Hush is an abomination, the only male of his kind.
After a lifetime of starvation, Hush has struck a deal with a human. A simple trade that will give the human what he desires and keep Hush from wasting away completely.
When Manning saves a young man from Diamond and one of his men, his view of reality is altered forever. And Hush, who has never met anyone like Manning, finds the man’s attraction to him enough to finally stave off his constant hunger.
Together they set out to rescue Manning’s partner, and their connection to one another grows. But can a human detective have a future with a creature of the forest, a creature who isn’t supposed to exist?
It’s no secret that I am a fan of stories that contain mythological references and historical elements. If both those items happen to be a tad obscure, even better. For it sends me running to gather more information about subjects I’m less familiar with and I love it when that happens. And so it is with the quite marvelous story of Pine Tree Mary by Ofelia Gränd. In all of the probably thousands of stories I’ve read by now, this is only the second story (that I can remember, tbh) that has a hulder in it. Not just as a main character, but in it at all.
And just like in that story, Pine Tree Mary sent me running to the reference books, primarily because of the name. Turns out yes, among the many names for this ancient forest being, the warden or protector of a certain forest, is really Pine Tree Mary.
“Names include: huldra, huldrå, hylda, skogsrå or skogsfru/skogfru (meaning ‘lady (ruler) of the forest’ or ‘forest wife/woman/spirit’) and tallemaja (‘Pine Tree Mary’). They are often referred to as Ulda by the Sámi. The males are called Huldrekall (hulder man), huldu, or huldrekarl are often said to be hideous in appearance and have grotesquely long noses.
Both the male huldrekarl and female huldra are forest and mountain dwelling creatures that take the form of tall and very beautiful humans with long flowing hair.”*
Both can be kind or evil, depending on their own action and, of course, how you treat them.
Which lead me back to Pine Tree Mary.
The author folds a police crime story into a mythical romance and does so with to a heartfelt gritty effect. Grand gives a ruthless drug crime boss, a desperate police detective, and an abused male hulder in need and takes those elements and creates a tale you can’t put down. The innocence of Hush translates so beautifully on the page, from scene to scene, from the dialog to the descriptions, that you care for Hush and connect to him immediately. It’s so easy to envision the life of pain and abuse he’s lived under his sisters, and yet, he’s still so pure in spite of that.
And the character of Detective Quinn Manning, aware of police procedures, trying to bring down one of the worst criminals he will ever face, comes across a being he has no explanations for. The growth in feelings, acceptance of Hush and the preceding investigation all works.
Of course, there is never enough of the mythology for me. I loved the communication with the animals, the birds and the moose. The descriptions of Hush’s physical structure is so intriguing.
Basically, I just want a sequel! I am really invested now in these characters and I want to know what happens next. This is a HFN and I want nest. You will too. This is a fascinating story with characters that make you ask more questions and reach for the next story in their relationship. Hopefully the author is listening.
Cover Art: Written Ink Designs is haunting and quite beautiful. Perfect for this story.
Published October 5th 2019
Edition Language English