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The Dark North Volume 1

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  • Dark North, The - Vol. 1

    Published by Dark Horse Books
    Released on October 10, 2017
    Written by Martin Dunelind
    Artwork by Peter Bergting, Henrik Pettersson, Joakim Ericsson, Magnus Olsson, Lukas Thelin

    The Dark North is the first in a collection of short stories in the science fiction, horror, and fantasy genres spotlighting detailed illustrations from contributors across the gaming industry in Scandinavia. While each fairy-tale-like story is different, they each share a grim atmosphere, which have been influenced in no small way by the culture that spawned this book's creators. It perplexes me how often this region, frequently reported as the happiest in the world, produces content (writing, artwork, music, etc.) that delves deep into the darker side of the human psyche and manages to be deeply cathartic.

    The writing reminds me of Knut Hamsun's style in its brevity and enigmatic nature that allows for each individual to internalize the story and fill in their own blanks. At times I found the hard transitions frustrating roadblocks on the first read through, but upon a second reading the works made more sense and I was able to allow my imagination to be guided by the calm words and some beautiful and grotesque images.

    While all the stories have their own merits, the ones that grab me the most were the first two in the collection.

    The narrative in E18 WEST ties together the fantastic with the everyday and leaves an impression on the reader, making them thoughtful about their family's past and how it affected them on their path of self-discovery. I could see the ending being taken multiple ways, and I love that little bit of mystery. The ethereal artwork does a wonderful job setting a mood of melancholy with its use of watercolor style and substantial use of cool tones.

    ARCHON is a science fantasy in a tumultuous futuristic setting that mostly deals with one man's reconciliation with loss, then the story moves into a different and unexpected direction with an incredibly satisfying conclusion. The artwork paints a dystopian alien world so visceral, you can just smell the air polluted with machine oil. This world looks brutal, grimy, and decrepit.

    THE DARK NORTH is hard to quantify. The stories are not entirely reliant on the writing and the artwork out of context, while cool, does not make all that much sense. It might be closest to calling it a coffee table book due to its high production value and size. The content is wonderful, but the market for the book would be narrow. Knowing that, I think the creators made a conscious effort not to play it safe and follow tired fantasy tropes. I applaud the creativity and effort that went into making this work; you can tell this was a labor of love.

    If you are interested in finding out supplemental information about the book, I highly recommend the Kickstarter campaign page ( as it has a wealth of information about the project.

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