Rhys Hughes' Sangria in the Sangraal was published by Eibonvale Press in September 2016. It was originally published in 2011. This new edition contains two stories not incluced in the original.
Information about Rhys Hughes:
Rhys Hughes was born in 1966. Tartarus Press published his first collection, Worming the Harpy, in 1995, and since that time he has published more than thirty other books. His fiction is generally fantastical and his output mainly consists of short stories, though he has published several novels. His work is frequently compared to that of Boris Vian, Flann O'Brien and R.A. Lafferty, but he cites his major influences as Italo Calvino and Donald Barthelme. His three most recent books are the collections Bone Idle in the Charnel House (Hippocampus Press), Orpheus on the Underground (Tartarus Press) and Brutal Pantomimes (Egaeus Press). Fascinated by paradoxes, he incorporates them into his fiction as entertainingly as he can. Sangria in the Sangraal was inspired by a real visit to the town of Albarracín in the year 2007.
Click here to visit his official website.
Information about Sangria in the Sangraal:
An entire story-cycle in miniature. One thousand years of the remarkable magical history of a secret region of Spain where few people venture even now. Albarracín is a rose-red town tucked away in the mountains of Lower Aragon. Once the seat of an independent taifa during the dominance of the Caliphate of Cordoba, it remained saturated with ancient mystery long after the separated kingdoms of the peninsular were forged through conquest into the single nation we know today. In Albarracín still lurk the djinn of the wondrous past in their dusty bottles and the ghosts of heroes and villains locked in the crucibles of a rogue alchemist.
As Alarcon once wrote, “A happy time it was when our land still remained in peaceful possession of all the spider's webs, dust, woodworm, respect, faith, traditions, uses and abuses sanctified by the centuries!”
Above the roofs of the crumbling town serenely float the clouds; but these are not mindless puffs of vapour. On the contrary, they control the destinies of those who dwell below. In a modern world where the East is trying too hard to become the West, only Albarracín has successfully reversed the trend; for in this place the West always was the East; and the true flavour of Oriental magic remains bright on the tips of the swords, in the pulse of the hearts and on the rims of the cups of the men and gods who enter therein.
This new edition contains two stories not included in the original - Señor Chimera’s Hysterical History and The Bone Throwers.
A REVIEW OF RHYS HUGHES' SANGRIA IN THE SANGRAAL
Rhys Hughes' Sangria in the Sangraal or Tucked Away in Aragon (The Albarracín Tales) is a fascinating and rewarding short story collection of interlinking stories set in Albarracín, which is a secret region of Spain. This new Eibonvale Press edition contains two stories ("Señor Chimera's Hysterical History" and "The Bone Throwers") that were not included in the original collection. I'm delighted to say that this collection is among the best collections I've ever had the pleasure of reading.
Sangria in the Sangraal is one of the author's most memorable short story collections, because it's a beutifully written, imaginative and original collection of amazing stories. It has everything that readers have come to expect from the author: good prose, imagination, humour, originality, freshness, sharpness and surprises. It will impress everybody who loves good fiction.
Rhys Hughes is one of the few authors who have never failed to impress me. His fiction is remarkably original and unique, because he has his own literary voice that is easily recognisable. He effortlessly combines literary fiction and speculative fiction to create mesmerising and witty fiction that leaves readers wanting more. This short story collection can be seen as a proof of his extraordinary writing skills, because it's something special and highly enjoyable.
I think it's good to mention that if you're a newcomer to Rhys Hughes' fiction, Sangria in the Sangraal serves as excellent entry point to his short fiction. If you're already familiar with the author's impressive body of works, this collection with its new stories will be a rewarding reading experience to you.
This short story collection contains the following stories:
- The Shapes Down There
- The Spare Hermit
- Sally Forth
- The Magic Gone
- Oranges and the Arrows
- The Man Toucan
- Latitude, Longitude and Plenitude
- The Kind Generosity of Theophrastus Tautology
- Scaramouche's Pouting Mouth
- Knossos in Its Glory
- Señor Chimera's Hysterical History
- The Bone Throwers
I found all of these stories excellent and captivating, because each of them has been written well and reveals readers something new about the mysterious region of Albarracín. They can be seen as a kind of a strange and unique fictional and historical guidebook to Albarracín. They invite readers to explore Albarracín, its inhabitants and its wonders, and they reward readers with fantastical scenes that are not easily forgotten, because they will linger on the readers' minds.
Each of these stories is an important part of the whole, because they're interlinking stories, but they work well as standalone stories. Together, they form an entertaining and deeply satisfying collection that shimmers with delightful originality.
I have to mention that I was surprised by how amusing, entertaining and inventive these stories are. Although I've read many stories by the author and know what to expect from him, I found myself being surprised by what I read, because the stories were skillfully written and contained many surprises.
Here's more information about the stories and my thoughts about them:
The Shapes Down There:
- In this opening story, two clouds - older Altocumulus lenticularis and younger Cumulus humilis - have a conversation about the shapes they see below them.
- It was intriguing to read about the clouds and their thoughts. I also enjoyed reading about what the emir of Albarracín thought of the clouds that had suddenly appeared on the sky, because he was a bit worried about the weather.
- This is a delightfully entertaining and strange story.
The Spare Hermit:
- A story about a penniless traveller, Murk, who finds himself in an odd situation when he follows the advice given to him by an old man.
- In this story, the author mentions interesting things about Tarot cards.
- This is a brilliantly written story that will stick to the readers' minds, because the story is something different.
- In this story, a woman finds herself being the target of a rescue operation against her will, because the rescuer believes her to be a damsel in need of rescuing.
- I love this story, because it's wonderfully whimsical and offers a new perspective into the "damsel in distress" situation.
- This story has an intriguingly fairy-tale like feel to it.
The Magic Gone:
- In this story, a time traveller called Harold Clatter, who is preparing for his doctorate, arrives in Albarracín and meets Lord Pedro and his minstrel.
- This is one of the most memorable stories in this collection, because it's satisfyingly strange and humorous.
- An excellent and well written story with a good and memorable ending.
Oranges and the Arrows:
- A story about why there are no orange trees in Albarracín.
- I'm not going reveal what the reason for Albarracín not having any orange trees is, but I can reveal that the events leading to their disappearance are very intriguing and involve a stork, an arrow and a cup.
- A fascinating and well written story.
The Man Toucan:
- In this story, God peers over the edge of Heaven and becomes intrigued about Albarracín, because he doesn't seem to remember it and can't recall its name.
- The scene in which God meets a genie is simply brilliant, because its consequences are thrilling.
- I like this story a lot, because it's fresh and brilliantly imaginative.
Latitude, Longitude and Plenitude:
- In this story, Carlos Delgado has found an old message in a murky green glass bottle and sends it to the Bishop of Albarracín. The message contains information about what happened to Gabriel Caballero.
- Ah, what a great story! I enjoyed reading the tale of Gabriel Caballero, because it was an account of happenings following a shipwreck.
- There's something about this story that is delightfully reminiscent of classic adventure tales and old stories about shipwrecks.
The Kind Generosity of Theophrastus Tautology:
- A story about two inquisitors who break into the house of Theophrastus Tautology and accuse him of using sorcery.
- It was fascinating to read about what the inquisitors thought of the loss of respect towards their profession and how they reacted when Senor Tautology invited them into his house to witness how he uses sorcery.
- A brilliant and wonderfully written story.
Scaramouche's Pouting Mouth:
- A story about a clown, Scaramouche, who has survived the battle. Scaramouche travels towards Albarracín with a cunning plan on his mind.
- This story has an excellent and memorable ending, because the author writes well about what happens to Scaramouche and his plan.
- I find this story refreshingly original.
Knossos in Its Glory:
- A story about Mogul Xenon who wants to use real sets for his new film instead of synthehic images, because in the year 2049AD the world is a different place and the characters of every urban skyline has altered radically since the development of special plastic that absorbs excess carbon dioxide and other gases.
- This story reveals intriguing and unexpected information about Albarracín.
- A well written story with an excellent ending.
Señor Chimera's Hysterical History:
- Señor Chimera is a monster who lives at the centre of the labyrinth and learns of what happens in the outer world from visitors. He eats his visitors to satisfy his hunger.
- I was fascinated by what Senor Chimera is and what happened to him.
- This new story is a wonferful addition to the collection.
The Bone Throwers:
- The events in this story take place in the year 20,307 BC. Og and his tribe have feasted upon the divine flesh of a god. Now the dead god has become a bizarre skeleton.
- The conversation and fight between Og and Ug is simply brilliant and offers plenty of amusement to readers.
- A memorable and skillfully written new story that fits this collection perfectly.
These stories defy easy classification, but it's possible to classify them as literary speculative fiction. Their contents range all the way from fantasy and magical realism to historical fiction and literary fiction, and some of them have metaphysical elements. I find this kind of diversity charming, because it's entertaining and satisfying to read stories that are not your normal kind of fiction, but something more.
One of the reasons why I find these stories captivating is that they have a pleasing amount of underlying sharpness and charming twistedness. The author has a delightfully inventive sense of humour and he knows how to entertain his readers with humorous elements that are spiced up with freshness and sharpness.
If you enjoy reading quirky stories and love beautifully written stories, Rhys Hughes' Sangria in the Sangraal should be on your reading list. It's such a splendid collection that you simply can't afford to miss it. I consider it to be essential reading material to readers who love literary speculative fiction, because it's a brightly shining literary gem.