Mahrime: Mythpunk for Monsters by Penny Blake

…and the longing for all the things that human company ought to bring but seldom does.

~ From the painter’s daughter by Penny Blake

Mahrime: Mythpunk for Monsters by Penny BlakeThis is a collection (mostly reprints) of odd tales, poems, and pieces falling somewhere between with elements of both. At times, I found the writing choices jarring with too much repetition or awkward word choices, but then in the next moment, I’d be swept up once again into the narrative cadence, trapped inside a universe unlike my own and yet bearing a feeling all too familiar for comfort.

I rarely read one-author short story collections, and a book of poetry even less frequently than that, but these tales resonated with me and kept pulling me back when busy life tried to distract. The book contains ancient tales of time forgotten; parables with modern reference in themes if not scenery; female…though not always feminist…narrative; and sarcastic, biting narrators who mock the innocence of the reader’s expectations, forcing you to revise your perspectives.

If you’re looking for a quick easy read, I doubt you’ll find it here, but if you seek to have your mind pried open to let alternate tales in that speak of those forgotten or pushed away, you’ll be well satisfied by what exists within these pages. It is a book for monsters, after all, with that word defined by no other characteristic than society’s rejection.

I found mythpunk intriguing as a concept. I’ve been a student of many mythologies but the term speaks to a self-aware othering that lacks the bombastic nature of most mythology. Instead, it replaces such arrogance with a snide, sarcastic undertone calling into question the easy answers other Western mythologies might offer. It’s quite an experience.

I give you here my thoughts on the pieces. These aren’t reviews as much as glimpses into the effect they had on me.


This is almost more poetry than prose. A winding, repeating, blast of details and destiny. Powerful and absorbing not like a traditional tale, but like the cry of hungry wolves who have found prey. It tells a story bigger than itself and infectious in its voice.

An odd, cyclical tale composed of many tales in one with the poetic cadence of stories told in the dark night not by the victors but by the monsters they killed. This destruction comes through fear, avarice, and revenge against acts already driven by vengeance where innocence has long been lost in the process.


This is a poem of grief, horror, and boiling anger that will strip the bones of the victors.

The Road Back Lost

I have read this story before in its original publication. It is a fairy tale with a literary tone expressing the side of those who cannot conform or are not allowed to. These are called monsters, and cast out or torn down, but choose that rough freedom over the harsh molding into an image not their own.


Bizarre, surreal, and recalling a tale with roots I don’t recognize if it exists outside of this story at all. A mood piece, a sinking into madness, a hope unwon, and yet maybe. We are left to wonder.

The Gingerbread Dragon

A lovely variant on the three brothers with the costs of peer pressure and the need to be as you truly are.

beyond the veil

A poem about ownership of self while others try to steal or lay claim to it.

the painter’s daughter

Beautiful story half in poetic form that speaks of creativity, and the spirit or soul filling an artist to bursting until there is nothing left but to spill it out and set it free.

Ado — when all is lost

Odd moment of clashing perspectives.

frogs’ legs

Another moment, this of being devoured, of passion turned to possession and a soul cage. Many of these tales are but glimpses that reflect back the haunting I find in the words.

the child and the crow

A fascinating, and very odd, fairy tale about a place oh so near and yet far apart. Lyrical and nonsensical at once, but the type of tale about belonging and following the path nature chose for you whether you understand it or not, a message that could be misused but in this context makes sense.

Mulengi Sinija

A mix of story and chanted poem showing the passage of tradition from one generation to another with its changing pieces and lost meaning.

the queen and the huntsman

Interesting tale of devotion and love with a truly snarky narrator.

the crow’s tale

A tale that is not a tale, but one with echoes to modern times. Very true to the narrator being a crow as myth presents the creature.


This is the final piece in the collection, but I didn’t make a specific note, writing my thoughts about the collection as a whole instead. That said, this short prose poem mirrors the themes of the rest with the ordinary turned monstrous, potentially harmful and yet beautiful all at once.

This entry was posted in Anthology Reviews, Book Reviews, Poetry Reviews, Reviews, Short Story Reviews and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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