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James Stitt
A Brief History of Olivarra
James Stitt, author
A Prince murdered, his death falsely attributed to Axis air raids, the royal family swallowed into the silent blackness of a snowstorm, seemingly plucked from a military convoy. Thirty four years later, the denizens of the once sovereign Principality of Olivarra struggle to maintain their individual and collective lies, as long believed and carefully crafted narratives begin to unravel. Michel and Josi Gruner, young Olivarran parents, host Michel’s sister at their riverfront cottage, once the royal game warden’s cabin. When a storm floods their cellar, exposing relics of recent and ancient history, they naively race to understand their import, while men still loyal to the defunct Principality trace their every step. A trap has been set, but neither those who are caught nor those who lie in wait realize all have been ensnared in a millennia old cycle which had preserved the independence of their isolated nation. James Stitt conjures depth, compassion, and human drama to offer a compelling new take on Cosmic Horror at the edges of the Cthulhu mythos. Set in an imagined central European country, A Brief History of Olivarra exposes the reader to events transpiring over a single early summer week of 1978, when family and royal secrets collide, and eldritch forces long slumbering, reawaken. Interspersed with historical commentary on Olivarra, poetry, riddles, and illustrations, the work blends several mediums to create an immersive experience for the reader.
Plot/Idea: 8 out of 10
Originality: 9 out of 10
Prose: 9 out of 10
Character/Execution: 8 out of 10
Overall: 8.50 out of 10


Plot/Idea: A short, tightly plotted political thriller, A Brief History of Olivarra relates the history of a fictional European nation through the lens of a man who uncovers some documents lost in Nazi invasion, and uncovers a personal connection to the country's royal lineage at the same time.

Prose: The writing is strong and economical. The framing device of Michael’s story serves the plot well, and narrative movement between the 70s and the 40s is well-crafted. Descriptive and figurative language is excellent and makes for a very enjoyable read with some adventuresome elements.

Originality: The premise is unique and clever. The author seamlessly weaves a fictional country into contemporary history.

Character/Execution: The protagonist Michael is skillfully developed and his personality is clearly and thoughtfully depicted through actions and dialogue alike. Supporting characters are also provided sufficient development to service the plot and enhance Michael’s characterization while feeling organic to the setting and narrative.

Date Submitted: April 11, 2024