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Ancient Sorceries and Other Weird Stories
Monthly Reads > Ancient Sorceries by Algernon Blackwood Edited by S.T. Joshi

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RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) I read the first two stories so far (Smith: An Episode In A Lodging House and The Willows) and I'm currently working on the third story (The Insanity of Jones). This is my first Blackwood collection although I recall reading The Willows previously in another collection or maybe in college or high school.

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Tom (tomdb) | 5 comments It seems to me that The Willows and The Wendigo might be Blackwood's two most well-known stories, with The Willows receiving the majority of the acclaim.

I wonder what everyone’s preference of the two is?

I love the nature theme of both but, for me, the forest and thus The Wendigo holds the more effective scares. It also makes The Man Whom the Trees Loved the other stand-out story in this collection for me (although I do have a soft spot for Ancient Sorceries too).

RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) It's interesting how similar The Willows is to Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) I finished The Insanity of Jones and really enjoyed it.

Marie-Therese (mariethrse) | 550 comments Just picked this volume up and will be starting it soon.

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Ronald (rpdwyer) | 558 comments I've read some of Algernon Blackwood's fiction before, but this is the first time I've read “Smith: An Episode in a Lodging-House".

Hits one of my reading interests, occult fiction. My rating: 3.5 stars.

RJ - Slayer of Trolls (hawk5391yahoocom) I finished Ancient Sorceries and liked it OK. I also finished The Man Who Found Out and thought it was so-so, a little on the predictable side.

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Ronald (rpdwyer) | 558 comments "The Willows"

Considered a classic in our genre.

The story starts slow and is too descriptive in the beginning for my tastes. But the story hits its stride.

There are a couple of parts from the story I think highly of; here is one of them:

"We'd better get off sharp in an hour," I said presently, feeling for an opening that must bring him indirectly to a partial confession at any rate.

And his answer puzzled me uncomfortably: "Rather! If they'll let us."

"Who'll let us? The elements?" I asked quickly, with affected indifference.

"The powers of this awful place, whoever they are," he replied, keeping his eyes on the map. "The gods are here, if they are anywhere at all in the world."

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Ronald (rpdwyer) | 558 comments I came across online a copy of Book Review Digest: Volume 10, published in 1915, and this is what it says about "The Insanity of Jones":

"...they deal chiefly with subjective states of mind, and the incidents show peculiar or abnormal mental tendencies. In "The Insanity of Jones" we have the struggle of a mind obsessed with the idea that the manager of an insurance company in which Jones is employed is the reincarnation of an enemy who tortured him in a past existence., and that he must settle the score. Murder this becomes a sacred obligation. "

Marie-Therese (mariethrse) | 550 comments Started reading this just yesterday. I'm pretty familiar with Blackwood's work but a few of the stories in this collection are new to me, including the first, "Smith: An Episode in a Lodging-House". This is quite good but nothing special for the period-it could have been written by almost any of the major figures working in this vein. Were this what Blackwood specialized in, I don't think I'd be particularly curious about the rest of his work.

Fortunately, the second story here is one of the greatest and most distinctive of all weird fiction tales. "The Willows" is just extraordinary. I've read this at least half a dozen times previously but it never fails to engage my interest. Blackwood's intense interest in nature, his ability to wring the most out of setting, treating it almost as a protagonist rather than mere background, is shown to best advantage in this long but gripping tale of two men at the mercy of the natural world at its least hospitable. Blackwood walks a really fine line throughout the narrative between what is plausible and what is weird or uncanny; what might be the perceived as the result of mental derangement due to stress and what might be truly malign inhuman forces at work. That he never declares for either side, that he leaves it up to the reader, makes this story feel timeless and very powerful.

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Tom (tomdb) | 5 comments Marie-Therese wrote: "quite good but nothing special for the period-it could have been written by almost any of the major figures working in this vein"..."

I also feel this way about a couple of the stories. Which isn't necessarily bad but, I agree, his distinctive, nature-focused stories are where Blackwood is most enjoyable for me.

message 12: by Suki (last edited Jul 10, 2018 01:57AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Suki St Charles (goodreadscomsuki_stcharles) | 38 comments Well, this took a lot longer than I expected to get through. I liked it very much, but I found the writing to be rather dense (in a good way-- like a heavy meal, I had to pause often to digest what I had taken in). Not a quick or light read! Most of the stories had some element of ambiguity that I really liked-- I prefer that to stories that hold your hand and painstakingly explain every single detail.

I liked all the stories: Smith, Jones, and The Man Who Found Out were all the types of classic weird/horror that I love, but there wasn't really anything unique about them-- almost every author writing in that time period has something similar in their collections. Ancient Sorceries was shaping up to be my favorite story in this collection until they started in with all the "Yay, Satan!" business. I was really enjoying the eerie sense of being watched and the shapeshifting (it made me think of Lovecraft's Innsmouth, except with cats), then the story took that quasi-religious turn.

What really set Blackwood apart for me is his weird nature stories. The quiet, creeping menace in The Willows and The Man Whom the Trees Loved made them two of my favorites in the collection. I also enjoyed Snow, but since I am not at all fond of winter, I didn't relate to it as much. Sand was a really good read-- I liked the ancient Egyptian angle. The insidious nature of the sand in the story reminded me very much of The Elementals by Michael McDowell (although, apart from sand and the fact that they're both great stories, have nothing in common with one another).

Sutprisingly, the story I liked least in the collection was Wendigo. I'm not sure why, but I really struggled with that one. It was very interesting to me because it was set very near to where I grew up, but I just couldn't get into the story. It took me as long to read Wendigo as it did for me to read the rest of the book!

Overall, I liked the book a lot and would certainly read more of his work. I'm thinking of picking up The Complete John Silence Stories.

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