Reviewed by Raul
When I had a chance to read The Vorrh by Catling, I jumped on it. I love debut novels because sometimes you come across a book that is just unusual enough to grab you. This was no exception, and the way the author plots the story, you can easily get lost in the beauty and creativity of his ideas. Though lacking in high fantasy magic, the shamanistic elements in the story make for a believable magical realism that embraces the characters. Reading The Vorrh is an experience I would recommend to anyone who wants to read something that is different from the run of the mill book.
The story has to do with an ancient forest that lies on the edge of civilization. Largely unexplored, the Vorrh exhales a soporific energy that robs people of their sense of identity: those who wander under its trees have a tendency to forget why they entered the forest in the first place and then never leave. The Garden of Eden may be hidden in its depths and creatures of unnatural origin may lurk therein – angels or demons. This ancient place has a heart beat that throbs in subtle iterations that reverberate outside the forest; its energy is an eternal and omnipresent thing that manifests itself in actual monsters the Vorrh creates in its center.
The story also has to do with a hunter and his prey. In this case the hunter is close to the forest, being one of a tribe of people who embraced the ways of the Vorrh but are now extinct. The shamanistic rhythms of his life are poised in relation to the forest – his weapons are magical and his prayers are not to some distant deity for the Vorrh is his god. His prey is also a man, but one who has no real sense of who he is. The prey carries a unique bow – an artifact created for him and that helps him as he tracks into the forest on a mission to cross its vast area. He knows he must succeed, but can not explain to himself why he must. The two will meet and only one will survive, but the experience will bring about an unexpected change in the survivor.
This story includes the miraculous as well. The life of the cyclops Ishmael, a creature of infinite sensitivity, that will appeal to every reader. Aware of his differences, it is his strength of character that brings the oddest of people together, and this harmony plays well with the theme of embracing the unknown that seeps into the rest of the book. Because the forest is exactly that, the unknown, and instead of fighting it, one must learn to embrace it.