Cover Image: Genius Loci

Genius Loci

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Member Reviews

Stars: 2.5 out of 5.

This really was a bit of a disappointment. The premise was interesting and had so much potential. I mean, what better place to tell all the urban legends of different places and countries, right? Yep, that didn't happen.

Instead we have a collection of mostly uninspired short stories, some of which don't really have anything to do with the concept of the book. I'm looking at you, the Corpse from Chicago. I mean, this story read straight like a short story in an urban fantasy series... which isn't bad in itself, but this collection is supposed to be about magical places in our real world, not an invented one... or did I read that definition wrong?

All in all, it was disappointing. I couldn't even tell you if there was a story I liked best, because they were pretty unremarkable. But it served its purpose as a palet cleanser between bigger books, so I guess that's that.
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This wasn't quite what I expected it to be, and as a result I did not finish it unfortunately. They seem like wonderful stories, but they were not the usual sorts of things I normally read.
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The blurb says 31 stories, but there are actually two books - Genius Loci and Animus Mundi - which have 15-16 short stories each. Like most anthologies of short stories, some of the stories I really loved and some I didn't like at all or even DNF'd. Some of my favorites included: The Gramadevi's Lament by Sunil Patel, Pocosin by Ursula Vernon, and Blue and Gray and Black and Green by Alethea Kontis.
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"There are places in the world that feel alive."

All places have their own personalities.
The Romans believed that the spirit of the land - also known as 'genius loci' - protected his own area.
Nowadays some people might dismiss this as mythology.
But have you ever had that strange feeling that you can sense a landscape's atmosphere?
If so, this book is right up your alley!

Almost every short story in this anthology is based upon a real location.
What's totally unique about the book's concept is that (almost) each story is preceded by information about the environment in which it takes place. So first you (often) get factual info, followed by a tale in which this place comes to life. You could see it as a combination of non-fiction and fantasy, two of my favourite genres.


One become two

This book started as a discussion on facebook between Jaym Gates and Brooke Bolander about the weird 'genius loci' of the places where they grew up, respectively Northern California and Texas.
As lots of other people jumped on the conversation, the idea formed to make an anthology around this theme.
It became a Kickstarter project and thus in 2016 a book saw the light: 'Genius Loci' (Ragnarok Publications).

In 2020 this project was apparently renewed, as the aforementioned book with 32 short stories seems to have been cut in two.
The republishing is now in the hands of Outland Entertainment.
One of the newborns was named after his parent: 'Genius Loci' (which now contains 15 short stories).
The other book was named 'Animus Mundi' (which contains 16 short stories).

At first sight, there's no information to be found about the reasons for that, nor about the actual changes (f.e. no illustrations anymore and other stories).
What's also rather strange is thateditor Jaym Gates doesn't mention this in either one of the two books.
It would've been nice to have more background info about it, as some stories - while some of them áre mentioned in the foreword - are not available anymore in the book itself.

If you want to know which 32 stories were included originally, I recommend you to take a look at the review of Alexander at

The stories that are left out now from the two books, are:
- 'The snow train' by Ken Liu (if - just like me - you're interested in that story, you can read it online on the website of Lightspeed Magazine: )
- 'The Town The Forest Ate' by Haralambi Markov
- 'Drowning Again in the Ocean of Her' by Ken Scholes & Katie Cord

On the other hand there are two other stories that replaced them:
- 'Pocosin' by Ursula Vernon (in Genius Loci)
- 'Second Verse, Same as the First' by Stina Leicht (in Animus Mundi)


Stories in 'Genius Loci'

If you want to know which stories are included in Animus Mundi, you can head over to this review:
Here's a list of those in the new version of Genius Loci:

The City - Vivienne Pustell ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Not only is the city alive, it's intelligent and deeply menacing as well.
Really impressive how the author has been able to describe it convincingly as a real character and how she pictured such a dark atmosphere in just a few pages.

The Grudge - Thoraiya Dyer ⭐⭐
Although the premise sounded intriguing, the description of the futuristic environment was rather confusing. The author has definitively interesting ideas in mind, but isn't able to present them clearly. This would probably come better into its own in novella-form instead of a short story.

Santa Cruz: A True Story - Andy Duncan ⭐⭐⭐
I loved the introduction about Santa Cruz, as I didn't know anything about the history of the place.
The story in itself seems like one that's told to you by one of your friends or by someone you meet at a bar. Although there's nothing extraordinary about it, it's a nice read nevertheless. 

And the Trees Were Happy - Scott Edelman ⭐⭐⭐⭐
If you've ever read Shel Silverstein's book 'The Giving Tree' and thought that another ending would be better suited, then Edelman's story will be your cup of tea. For those don't know it (just like me), there's a short summary of the story in the introduction. Interesting alternative ending of a well known story.

Well of Tranquility - Steven H Silver ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The setting and background were very original as the story takes place in the G'ndevank Monastery in Armenia. An interesting view on how pagan rituals were taken over by Christianity. Even though there's not much happening in the story, I was compelled to continue reading.

Forest for the Trees - Steven S. Long ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Despite the heavy themes, this smoothly written story feels delightfully joyous. Maybe a little bit predictable sometimes, but still very enjoyable.

Iron Feliks - Anatoly Belilovsky ⭐⭐⭐⭐
This story is a bit different from the previous ones, as the location wasn't a bigger area. Instead of a natural environment  or a city, the central place around which everything takes place is the Iron Feliks aka one of the most controversial statues in Russia as it's dedicated to Felix Dzerzhinsky (the head of the first Soviet secret police organization, which was succeeded by the KGB).
Despite this smaller scope, it was a nice read during which you also learn a few Russian words along the way.

The Crooked Smile Killers - James Lowder ⭐
How on earth did this story get selected for this anthology?
First of all, it's not about genius loci. Instead it's about superheroes (or rather supervillains) who are a cheap mix of existing ones like Batman, Frankenstein, …
Secondly, it's not based on anything, contrary to the other stories. Most of those use an existing place and let them speak through their words. A few of them are based on other things like an existing book. Anyway, there's always an interesting background story behind those creative writings. But for this story the introduction was just a few lines about a fictional character.
Furthermore with 24 pages (of the 176) it feels totally disproportional to the other stories which count only 10 pages on average. And if those number of pages were really needed to tell the story, it would be understandable. But as it is now, most of them are just repetitive bla bla bla. After a strong and intriguing beginning, the story only went downhill and wasn't able to keep my attention anymore.
This was such a deception on so many levels that it totally clouded my overall perception of the book at the moment I read it. Luckily the following stories were all better again.

Transplant Specialist - Sarah Goslee ⭐⭐⭐⭐
The several twists are nicely done, especially in such a short story. My only gripe is that it should have been longer than 5 pages. With some extra storylines there's even potential to make a good urban fantasy book out of this.

The Gramadevi's Lament - Sunil Patel ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
A gramadevi is a spirit that guards a village. This tradition is practised in the state of Orissa in Eastern India and comes from a folk religion that predates Hinduism.
Not only was it interesting to read about this unknown (at least to me) tradition, but the story was really well told. It kept you guessing about what would happen and the changes in atmosphere were very palpable. 

Beer and Pennies - Richard Dansky ⭐⭐⭐
This one has some real 'Blair Witch Project'-vibes. Thus it's an excellent story to tell by a campfire or on a Halloween night. Probably it would've been even better if it had been a bit shorter with less repetitions.

Afterparty, or: Not Out of the Woods - Chaz Brenchley ⭐⭐
Some mixed feelings about this one. Although I liked the smooth writing style and the atmosphere pictured in the story, the narration was rather confusing and the whole didn't make a lot of sense to me.

The Sleck - Keris McDonald ⭐⭐⭐
The feelings of the father who lost his daughter one year ago were described in a way you could totally empathize. It was a quick read, but overall I wasn't blown away.

Pocosin - Ursula Vernon ⭐⭐⭐⭐
There's something very enthralling about this author's writing style. Even though this is only the second story I've read of her, it strikes me that she's always able to write the most absurd things in a way you immediately accept them. And she certainly masters the art of piquing your interest in what's coming next. The only thing that disappointed me a little bit was the end, hence 4* instead of 5*.

Blue and Gray & Black and Green - Alethea Kontis ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Both the title and the introduction of the characters intrigued me from the beginning. Well told from the point of view of a young boy.


Want to discover more?
Lots of these stories made me really curious to discover more about the places and traditions mentioned in them.
You can see some of the interesting footage which I found on my blog in this article:
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Genius Loci is an anthology of stories about haunted places. Some of the hauntings are good, some benevolent while others are nasty and down-right dangerous. As with any anthology, the reader's experience may vary. I enjoyed several of the tales, but found that my overall enjoyment was less compared with Animus Mundi which covers similar territory. Still glad I read the book.
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This is a pretty good collection of short stories. There were some stories I really liked and others I didn't, but it had a good variety. Will be looking more into some authors in the book.
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Thank you to NetGalley for providing this book for review. 
I really enjoyed reading this anthology. Some stories I enjoyed more than others, but I don't think there was a story that I didn't like. 
I was disappointed because I mostly wanted to read this book for Seanan McGuire, but her story was not in the version that I read. 
In saying that, some of my favourites were Forest for the Trees, Beer and Pennies, and Pocosin. 
I think the concept for The City was really great, but the story just made me sad. 
Anthologies are great because each author has their own unique writing style and story to tell, and this shone through in Genius Loci. 
All in all I would recommend this book to someone interested in a spooky book that isn't committed to just one story line.
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I’m not great with short story collections, but I liked this one, and its theme of genius loci, or, spirit of a place. 
The stories were pretty varied, and I liked them all. My faves were:

-And the Trees were Happy: a nice follow up to Shel Silverstein’s "The Giving Tree". I loved the feel of the remorseless power of roots and age.

-The Forest for the Trees: Lovely, sad, and hopeful, all at the same time.

-Beer and Pennies: Vivid, though not scary, I liked the attitude of the spirit.

-After party: or, Not out of the Woods: Both melancholic and oddly joyful, as friends get together to help the partner of the man who brought them all together clean out the couple’s house.

-Pocosin: I LOVED this one! The fed-up witch, and her refusal to be swayed by her visitors.

Thank you to Netgalley and the Publisher for this ARC in exchange for a review..
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A very good collection of short stories, this book and its sibling. While united in theme, the stories vary wildly, but the names involved are enough to make this book worthwhile.
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This is mostly a fantasy anthology that includes some top=notch authors. There is a nice variety, and the quality is high overall. I would have missed this had I not received a review copy, which would have been a shame. This will probably satisfy a lot of sci-fi anthology fans too.

I really appreciate the copy in exchange for my review!!
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Thanks Outland Entertainment, Jaym Gates and Netgalley for the ARC.

Summary: Some of the stories in this book (Well of Tranquility, The Trees Were Empty, and Forest For The Trees) are good. None are great. Most are just ok. Some are annoying.

The City, by Vivienne Pustell: A smart city eats people away to nothing, and people quickly lose their memories of the people who were once there. They have to paint themselves so they disappear slower. It ends with <spoiler>a woman painting on buildings, when she runs out of paint to hide herself, and presses glass to her wrist</spoiler>. It's intriguing, so I wish it had been longer.

The Grudge, by Thoraiya Dyer: This story is about a disaster with sentient nanotech that was supposed to close a faultline. One brother tries to buy the property of another. In the disaster area, people can see into alternate timelines for a few seconds. Someone goes in and comes out as their alternate lifetime self. She is somehow able to fix the problem of one of the brothers buildings being partially inside the disaster area. It's not clear how. This kind of concept in general can be fun, but the execution here is lacking.

Santa Cruz: A True Story, by Andy Duncan: A man picks up a strange woman one night and drives her home. The narrator seems to think there is something weird about a small series of coincidences. That's it. That's the story. Not much of one. 

And The Trees Were Empty, by Scott Edelman: An old man returns to the stump of a tree he loved as a boy, traps his ankle and asks for an apple. When he was younger he had sold the trees apples, and taken the branches to build a house, and taken the wood for a boat. The tree gives an apple, and the old man becomes a boy again and the tree becomes full and young again. He naps and becomes a teen when he awakens. This time he sees the tree was not happy. He does everything he did before once again but this time he is sad. I like the folktale style of this one. Read this one to your kids.

Well of Tranquility, by Steven H. Silver: A monk discovers the Goddess of a place in a special room in Armenia. 

Forest For The Trees, by Steven S. Long: An old man who has cancer plans to kill himself, but then goes to the woods and wants to live again when he meets a little girl. But is she really a little girl?

Iron Feliks, by Anatoly Belilovsky: A story that takes place in Russia, where people start to teach a little girl about Stalin and related figures, when a dog stops a car from running them over. I guess we are supposed to take the dog as some kind of avatar of the place. Who could complain about a dog? So, I wish this story was more about the dog than the people.

The Crooked Smile Killers, by James Lowder: I'm not even sure that people who watch superhero and horror films would like this. I feel like I read the middle of a novel. Plus, even though this is a short story, there are multiple infodumps. The rest of the stories better be more than ok, or this story will lose the book a whole star.

Transplant Specialist, by Sarah Goslee: A story about three antagonists. I'm trying to be polite in this review, so that's all I have to say about that.

The Gramadevi's Lament, by Sunil Patel: Though dark, this is a balanced story about the affection between a devi and a little girl. 

Beer And Pennies, by Richard Dansky: A b movie horror film type story.

Afterparty - or, Not Out of the Woods, by Chaz Brenchley: Another boring story that seems like the middle of a novel.

The Sleck, by Keris McDonald: Another b movie horror film type story. The ending is particularly, derivatively cringy.

Pocosin, by Ursula Vernon: A God in the form of a possum goes to a witch because he wants to die. A preacher comes along and tries to convince the witch to let him bring the possum God to his God. The devil arrives. I fall asleep. I mean, Death arrives next, and it and the witch drown the possum God. I'll give this story one thing, the description of what happens next is pretty. The witch is tired and Death bargains to give her a little time. A possum comes out of the lake.

Blue and Gray & Black and Green, by Alethea Kontis: A childrens story about a seven year old boy and his nanny-housekeeper. Daniels job in the house is to keep things in the house from being dark and lonely, by being happy. There are soldiers. A shadow makes a series of visits to Daniel at his window, and Daniel talks to the shadow who remains silent. We find out the shadow used to be the monster under Daniels bed, and the nanny rips his face off and tells him chaotic spirits are not welcome and to haunt somewhere else. People who live in the area attack the ghost.

I don't expect people to write something completely original - who knows if that's even possible at this point in history. But there is middle ground between original and derivative that these stories just wouldn't venture in to.
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This book had so much potential to be good, but it fell flat in the end. A few of the stories were five-star reads, but the rest were average or below. I have read other stories by these authors and enjoyed them. This book just wasn't for me.
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The authors featured in the synopsis of this book are not listed in the table of contents. I was really looking forward to the scifi stories in this collection. I will check back closer to release date to see if any more was added.
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From the introduction to this anthology, it seemed the editors were going for a kind of rural gothic vibe, a la the Denny’s Tumblr universe (I’m sure there are better, more literary allusions to be made but this is my review so this what you’re gonna get). For me, this introduction and the individual introductions to each story were the weakest links in the whole. When you're aiming for a sense of mystery and the unknown, trying to over explain the concept of, for example, what an "intelligent city" is, is going to throw readers out of the experience.

That said, the majority of the stories in this book are well above average. There's some variance in terms of quality and style, but on balance each author presents an interesting take on the theme. Readers get to experience great examples of high-concept sci-fi, noir, folktales and more. The very best of these stories manage to introduce fantastically realised worlds and intriguing characters, leaving us wanting to explore even further.

For me, one of the best parts of this anthology was being able to discover how authors interpreted the idea of a Genius Loci - do places have spirits, or do people imbue them with their own characteristics?

A few of the stand-outs were works by Thoraia Dyer, Anatoly Belilovsky, James Lowder, Sunil Patel, and Chaz Brenchley.
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This was a bit of a mixed bag, and I believe the original Kickstarter release is split into 2 different anthologies here. From this collection, I wasn't a fan of the majority of stories, sadly, but Sunil Patel's "The Gramadevi's Lament" and Ursula Vernon's story were excellent. These were both 5 star reads, but overall the collection was lacking for me.
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