The AdderStane by Avalina Kreska
I’ve never read anything like this book before. It took me two full reads to get to grips with it and on the second read, I read slowly and I took notes so I could cross-reference events and characters. I spent two days doing nothing but reading ‘The AdderStane’. I gave it my complete concentration. I am glad I did.
The reason I had to read it twice, having thought about it, now I have read it properly, was down to expectation. I read a lot and I am so used to stories progressing in a stylised way, the first time I read ‘The AdderStane’, I was caught out by how unorthadox it is. It is certainly no formulaic read. I was expecting the plot of the book to turn here, or there but never that way. I kept being spun off course so on my first read, I got bogged down. I admit I skim read the end and decided the novel wasn’t up to much – but I couldn’t get it out of my mind because the story and the setting on Fetlar, one of the most remote islands in the Shetland archipelago, intrigued me.
I decided to read it again and this time, read it properly. During the second reading, I made sure I understood all the historical religious references, every time I encountered one, and there are many, before I moved on. I found the website for the ‘Papar Project’ and I looked at maps of Fetlar and read about the island’s history, topography and geology. Having visited Fetlar in May 2018, (before I read the AdderStane), I can affirm Avalina Kreska’s descriptions of Tresta beach, Houbie and Funzie are exactly correct.
The AdderStane is a supernatural tale, and it is a whodunit. There are references to books and films I spotted as I read. There is a bit of a Binchy romance going on between the pages. It is reminiscent of Brown’s ‘Da Vinci Code’ and there is a flavour of Hardy’s ‘The Wicker Man’ in the plot. There is a touch of Wyndam’s ‘The Midwich Cuckoos’, Carpenter’s ‘The Fog’, Kubrik’s ‘2001 A Space Oddesy’, even a bit of Scott’s ‘Alien’, in the way some of the characters eat their food …… and yet, it’s nothing like any of them. It is truly original.
At times, I feel, the descriptive writing is over done. Sometimes the turns of phrase the author uses are unusual in English, but often they work well as the phrase describes something so familiar, but in a slightly different way, giving the metaphor an interesting flavour. It all adds to the strangess, the otherness, of ‘The AdderStane’. The novel swings about, holding itself together fairly well, despite the jars from the axle of the plot and there are loose ends in the story and unexplained events. There are, however, many deft movements in the book and I read on wanting to know what was going to happen next. From chapter 15 on, the novel races to its conclusion and by the end of chapter 17, all seems in hand. But oh no! In Part 2, from chapter 18 onwards, the tale gets really weird and it is from here I’ve never read anything like ‘The AdderStane’ before. The totally unexpected ending introduces concepts of multi-lives, multi universes and the non- linear nature of time. The last three chapters and epilouge bring the events of the book sharply into focus and all the work of reading it becomes worthwhile.
I believe there is more to come from Avalina Kreska, and I look forward to reading the sequel, taking those loose ends and unexplained events of ‘The AdderStane’ into her next novel which I will read carefully and thoroughly the first time round.
The writing is both beautiful and informative, set in what will be to many the mysterious an exotic Shetland Island of Fetlar. The story involves the innocent unearthing of a sacred relic, a seemingly benign event that sets off a chain reaction of events, coincidental with the arrival to the island of a former schoolteacher on holiday, events that eventually threaten the existence of this seemingly (this is deceptive) insular community. The writing in the final chapters achieves an impressive lyric power that tackles the abstract with uncanny concreteness, a truly stunning cap to an already complex and deftly handled-narrative.
This was a different kind of book, a wonderful mystery in the mould of the Wicker Man; we are enveloped in another tight-knit and intense community, this time on Fetlar a small island which is part of Shetland. The story follows Fruma, a retired teacher who is holidaying on the island and in need of some time to come to terms with where she is in her life. Soon though strange things begin to happen, both generally and to Fruma in particular. Something untoward is going on, what are the mysteries of Papil Water and what is the Black Water that has suddenly appeared? And how does this tie into a missing man who went missing years before? Her dreams become vivid and invested with numbers and recurrent images which mean nothing to her at first. But gradually, with the help of the local vicar Fruma begins to see her connections are more deeply embedded in this island than she could have possibly anticipated and all point to the Adderstane, a prophecy that apparently is meaningless but is, of course, anything but.
This is an intense read, one that has you checking back to make sure you haven’t missed something important. It breaks several ‘rules’ in its storytelling that might not suit everyone but add to the overall sense that this is really happening and not just a story, if only we had the whit and imagination to hear what these ancient rocks might tell us. In a way it is hard to say I ‘enjoyed’ this book in a traditional sense because that would suggest that when I finished it I stopped wondering about it. You really do want to believe the truth behind it, the stories that are hidden in folklore and fairy stories. If you like something a bit different then this might well be for you.