Review: “Ruhanna’s Flight and Other Stories” by Jeanette O’Hagan

Ruhanna’s Flight and Other Stories by Jeanette O’Hagan. By the Light Books. 259 pages.

Once again, I have joined the group of Christian speculative writers on Goodreads who have agreed to honestly review each other’s books, and once again, I am glad I did.

Ruhanna’s Flight is a collection of short stories that is unlike any that I have ever read. The first story, upon which the book is named, is the closest to poetry that I have ever read in a short story. Most of the stories in the book happen on the fantasy world of Nardva, which is finely crafted and is as well-constructed as any world building I’ve seen since Middle Earth. Not only does the world have consistent physical laws and geography, but unique vocabulary for trees, flowers, dishes and everyday items are used in such a way and with such effortlessness it makes you believe you are in another world, or at least another country.

The stories told in the first two-thirds of this book are soft and delicate, with a feminine touch. There is a strong family theme throughout. And it makes you believe that this world could exist much like the Shire of Middle Earth. There’s not a lot of conflict, and that’s not really what these stories are about. Rather, it’s a sense of how they leave you feeling wrapped in a sense of belonging when you’ve finished with them.

That’s the good part of this review. Unfortunately, it wasn’t all good. I found that the stories could have really benefited from something to hold them all together, especially since they almost all supposedly come from the same world. I found myself really wanting a map of Nardva. And the last few stories–a collection of science fiction space and time travel pieces–didn’t seem to belong at all. The collection would have benefited greatly with a little more forethought and repackaging as something inherently fantasy and inherently Nardvan.

Secondly, I found the stories needed an editor. There were some tense issues, some incomplete sentences, and several wrong words. Awkward, especially since the rest of the story was so lovely.

Spirituality was referred to only in passing, such as talking about The Maker, or some other oblique reference. I think for it to be called Christian speculative fiction, I’d like to see a little more here.

In summary, the short stories were a refreshing respite, but they would have benefited from a little more work.

I give them three and a half stars out of five.