Book Review: Civil Dusk by Nicole R. Ordway

Today’s book review is one of the few times I step away from picture books. Nicole Ordway is a very talented writer, one of HCS Publishing‘s author/editors, and a good friend of mine. She is passionate about her writing and a very fun Con buddy. I loved her most recent published book Civil Dusk and wanted to rave about it here.

“civil dusk – n. The time of evening when the sun is six degrees below the horizon, when the light is still enough for you to see things … and for things to see you” (pg 3).

Ordway’s story brings ancient myths to modern day in Hugh Reid’s incredible journey of self-discovery. I could not put the book down! I am going to highlight a few of the many strengths of this book: the story, the characters, and the myths.

Beautiful cover (copyrighted image). My copy of Civil Dusk.

Who isn’t drawn into a story of a man finding his true nature is magical? Mythological creatures still exist in Ordway’s modern-day reminder that we can still be chosen to restore balance. Adventure, discovery, reuniting with family, and a daunting task lie in wait in these pages.

Ordway’s story-telling is as magical as her Nuggle. Her descriptions are vibrant: “Bioluminescent seaweed thrived in acres of color and light that surrounded the palace in every direction. Their multi-layered tendrils waved hypnotically in the gentle current” (135). The pacing is enough to ensure the story foundation is firm and quick enough for a fast read (for those with limited reading time). I appreciate the balance of modern-day with ancient myth. She makes me believe a fairy really could be curled up in the flower petals around my house.

Ordway also finds a way to give a powerful truth as the Mither of the Sea speaks of the meaning of life with Hugh, “to live, to experience all one can so that when the end comes it can be embraced knowing that it is not the only journey in the world; it is merely the last” (96).

Ordway’s characters are three-dimensional. She creates an image of Hugh’s first encounter with an other-worldly creature, “He was an ugly, stunted thing with pale, wrinkled flesh and gleaming, yellow eyes that reminded Hugh of swamp lamps” (12). From Hulda’s steady strength to Coira’s mischief and temper, Hugh meets a variety of beings. Ordway pays close attention to the details like characteristics and speech patterns, creating a vivid shape and personality for each one.

The uniqueness of each character highlights the bonds and interactions each has with the other. Hugh abruptly finds himself needing to rely on Hulda’s guidance. As strong as Hulda is, she admits she cannot keep the balance the way Hugh can. While Coira is playful and also plays a part in helping Hugh realize his true nature, he draws strength and comfort from her. Hugh’s interactions with the mythological creatures are unique to his own nature, too, as we discover he can mentally connect with the Nuggle while others can’t.

Where I envision the Nuggle standing.
Image Photo by Ramon Vloon on Unsplash.

Which brings me to my final point in the is all-too brief review of Civil Dusk: the mythology. Ordway writes what she researches. If it’s in her book, she has a good grasp of it. Like other authors, she may find her own ways of flavoring a concept, but it’s only after a thorough understanding of convention.

The moment a powerful Nuggle arose from the water I knew I would love what she did with the rich mythology surrounding the Scottish islands. I am fond of shape-shifters, so it’s a delight to see Hugh discover and come into his selkie nature. Ordway takes care to portray the underlying conflict, which is trickery the goddess Skadi falls under, through masterful poetry. This break in form can also help the reader follow the mythical side of the conflict apart from Hugh’s journey. I must also give a little shout out to the brief appearance of Freyja, one of my own personal favorites!

There are many more reasons why this book ranks high on my recommendation list … but don’t just take my word for it. Read it and SEA for yourself.

What are your thoughts?