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Wendelin Gray

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Wendelin Gray is a US-based linguist, artist, writer and dancer fluent in three East Asian languages with research interest in the development of advanced reading and writing skills in foreign language learning. Formally trained in Russian, she is an independent scholar of East Asian language and culture. After teaching ESL in the primarily East Asian and Russian immigrant communities for over a decade, she served as a core volunteer on multiple multiethnic committees for the Pittsburgh-based Silk Screen Asian American Arts Organization from 2007 to 2018 and has provided regular programming for the Pittsburgh Japanese Culture Society events since 2011. She also has studied Middle Eastern, Classical Chinese, Korean, and Classical Indian dance styles for many years. Her books are strongly influenced by the literary traditions of these regions and are written for an all-ages audience in mainly the horror genre.

LUCKY CAT AND THE GODS OF WAR Cover
BOOK REVIEW

LUCKY CAT AND THE GODS OF WAR

BY Wendelin Gray • POSTED ON March 31, 2019

This third volume of an SF series about magical figurines explores a dangerous political faction and a gritty resistance group.

In Chicago in 2075, Shiren Tsai helps his father, Zhengyan, run the Mandarin Duck Lounge. Zhengyan is dismayed by the rise of the Futurists’ Task Force in Britain, but his son is skeptical of any danger. Though this new political faction claims to represent “prosperity, unity, and peace,” it apparently makes strides via drone strikes and AI soldiers that kill civilians. The True Bystander, an underground newspaper, reports the murder of Giséle Guerin, a seer in the Chamonix region of France. The Futurists fear culture, and humanity’s spiritual connections pose the greatest threat to their unified world. By 2079, the Futurists have taken over North America and formed the superstate of Atlantia. To combat this fascist monoculture, an enigmatic woman called the Empress begins contacting those willing to fight through their dreams. In 2101, after the formation of three superstates, Chika Hagiwara lives in the fenced-off village of Tyosha in the Eurasia superstate. She joins the resistance Movement at her local Sleep Clinic. A Lucky Cat supernatural doll named Shanalandra, who comes to life and can change size, eventually brings Chika to meet the Empress at Nambata Castle, where they prepare to attack Eurasia’s leader, Hanxu Xing. In this follow-up to Lucky Cat and the Snow Maiden’s Vengeance (2018), Gray continues to add meticulous layers to her saga of spirit-animated figurines battling for humanity’s freedom. The grisly acts committed by the superstates are numerous, including when Chika “watched the sentinels shoot the burning figure...to make sure the victim was dead.” But as fans of the series know, the author’s portrayal of magic is subtle and rewarding. Within Nambata Castle is a “cloud of swirling snowflakes” in which “the souls of the dead wept with displeasure at their fate.” Yet while grand in scope, the drama often feels diffused across too many jumps in time. The question of whether or not to kill Xing’s son provides a flashpoint in a story that sometimes feels bigger than its characters.

This engaging and complex series installment offers fans more supernatural maneuvering.

Pub Date: March 31, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-79703-382-2

Page count: 262pp

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2020

LUCKY CAT AND THE SNOW MAIDEN'S VENGEANCE Cover
SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY

LUCKY CAT AND THE SNOW MAIDEN'S VENGEANCE

BY Wendelin Gray • POSTED ON Oct. 23, 2018

In this sequel, humanity remains controlled by three superstates, which come under attack from supernatural monsters.

In the author’s SF series opener (Kumori and the Lucky Cat, 2016), three powerful superstates arose after World War 3. In 2090, they find themselves opposed by statues, figurines, and dolls come to monstrous life. This second outing also includes events around 2090 but skips ahead to 2101 and backward to 2080. In 2101, a young lawyer from New Bangkok, the capital city of the Eurasia superstate, is sent to investigate irregularities at a detention camp, one of several built during the Reorganization to control people left in some “forbidden zones” considered dangerous, such as Japan. She finds a journal from 2090 noting the awakening of inanimate dolls and sculptures: “They are now more than just clay or stone or resin. Something else has entered them, using their empty forms to fight a secret war.” In 2090, Suna Hagiwara and her niece are resettled in New Bangkok, bringing with them a maneki-neko (beckoning cat statue), and Suna is drawn into the resistance Movement. Ten years before that, Suna’s sister, Yuki, is commissioned to make a special set of dolls. One of these, the Empress, enters the dreams of people in a sleep clinic that’s a front for the Movement, and Suna’s awakened maneki-neko promises to become clan guardian of the Hagiwaras. Gray (Magic Hair, 2019, etc.) has a nice control of the tone in these series installments, a delicate precision that helps balance the drama of dystopian fears and supernatural battles: “A barely whispered sigh so unearthly and gentle that it was almost imperceptible to human ears. Let this curse fall upon them.” Her characters are well developed and the worldbuilding feels solid. Things do still feel unresolved by the book’s ending, although the third volume may bring resolution. The jumps between time settings could become confusing, but the author helps readers out with an appended timeline as well as chapter headings with date and place to keep the audience oriented.

Another absorbing, entertaining entry in this one-of-a-kind SF series.

Pub Date: Oct. 23, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-72637-555-9

Page count: 213pp

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Dec. 10, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 2020

KUMORI AND THE LUCKY CAT Cover
SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY

KUMORI AND THE LUCKY CAT

BY Wendelin Gray • POSTED ON June 14, 2016

In this literary dystopian novel, a young woman’s life changes radically as she listens to the advice of her Japanese cat figurine.

After World War III in 2090, three super-states have gobbled up the globe. The Reorganization that followed reshuffled the masses and worked to erase all memory of their cultural pasts. It’s now 2138, and 30-year-old Kumori Ando of the super-state Eurasia lives in New Caledonia’s dreary southern sector, working a dull but reliable cubicle job. She has a rare memento from the old days, a cat figurine a few inches high with a beckoning paw, red-flecked fur, and gold highlights. Dubbed Lucky Cat, the figurine comes to life and talks to Kumori, often delivering advice. Kumori discovers Chen Wei, a young man sheltering in a dumpster, and brings him home. She learns he’s a member of the resistance movement, which aims to dismantle the Reorganization and give people freedom again. Kumori wants to join the movement as well, but she’s soon embroiled in the machinations of the secret police, whose ranks include her brother, Tsumori. He offers to get Kumori a good job and apartment in the cushy northern district, and she agrees, hoping to work undercover for the movement. Her exposure leads to a violent confrontation in which Lucky Cat shows her supernatural powers, growing to a gigantic size and destroying buildings. The adventure continues in further volumes. Much dystopian fiction can be heavy-handed, but Gray (Magic Hair, 2019, etc.) employs a spare, delicate style that’s effective, whether describing an interrogation, quiet scenes, or a huge cat’s rage: “Lucky Cat tore her way through the top few floors of that building, smashed the glass façade of the police station…with a kick of her hind leg and the whipping motion of her tail…shrieking as she went.” But the romance between Kumori and Chen is so understated as to seem anemic; what draws them together beyond happenstance? Chen’s comment, “Yeah, you’re cute enough,” is typical.

 An absorbing, well-written blend of SF, surrealism, and Japanese magical-girl fantasy.

Pub Date: June 14, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5335-8213-3

Page count: 244pp

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Oct. 3, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2019

https://youtu.be/WTssbgRPf5Q

Lucky Cat and the Snow Maiden's Vengeance Trailer

Awards, Press & Interests

Favorite author

Fuyumi Ono

Favorite book

Shiki

Named to Kirkus Reviews' Best Books of 2019: KUMORI AND THE LUCKY CAT

ADDITIONAL WORKS AVAILABLE

Magic Hair

A conquerer. A thief. A ghost. Three figures’ lives intertwine as magic alters their destinies. When invaders destroy nobleman Ambrosius Devictus’ hometown of Tredentium, his family is reduced to poverty, and he is jailed by the city’s tyrannical leader for stealing a loaf of bread. Locked away in the notorious Blactus Prison, Devictus is visited by a mysterious woman whose succor leads him into a dangerous confrontation with his jailers.
Published: July 24, 2018
ISBN: 1723567299

Sohyeon After Midnight

High school senior Sohyeon Choi and his family are an average second-generation immigrant family living in the affluent DC suburb of Addison. His life of studying, gaming and paintball is suddenly disrupted one night when an odd-looking man in an old-fashioned boat spirits Sohyeon away across the sky into another dimension, pulling his family into a war between two unknown worlds. One of these strange, distant worlds is Khabu, land of the immortals. Within the ancestral crypt of the royal family, it is rumored Khabu’s ancient kings still live out their days in animal form, and Khabu’s enigmatic high priestess, Minha, searches for a champion to help the royal family heal the rift between the queen and her rebellious brother. The second world, Eokhmisseun, is a land of humans ravaged by the demonic creature Litt, whose magic has forced the ruling council into hiding and turned most of the citizens into shadowy half-men with a taste for blood. Connected to Khabu through the gift of a flock of magical birds the underground leaders in the capital city use to communicate, one member of the council also holds a mysterious artefact, the only remaining silver weapon to be found in both lands. As the dark past of Khabu engulfs both lands, the menace begins to spread to Addison and plunges it into darkness. Sohyeon After Midnight is a genre-bending horror-fantasy inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s The White Ship and Shadow Over Innsmouth as well as H. G. Wells’ Island of Doctor Moreau.
Published: March 19, 2018
ISBN: 1981993584

The Haunting at Ice Pine Peak

Trouble is brewing in the province of Ling-xiu when the murder of an elderly queen sends young Princess Bingsong into exile at a forgotten mountain villa. When a series of hauntings begin and she finds her father’s old diary, Bingsong, her handsome bodyguard Azuma, the villa’s mysterious steward LimTamm, and teenage servant girls Peitho and Lysithe are drawn into a 400 year old murder mystery hinted at by a string of small nightingale paintings. Bingsong’s struggle against an arranged marriage merges with the sinister history of the villa, the site of a massacre spurred by the rivalry between two temple acolytes. As corrupt security forces led by the province’s head magician Kimon are poised to take over the capital and eliminate Bingsong’s puppet king father, Kimon awakens an ancient evil in his quest to find the ruins of the drowned palace of Zu-bai, once the home of the world’s most powerful magician. As the epic battle between the spirits on the mountain is set to span two provinces, Bingsong and her friends must delve into the ancient history of the neighboring province of Zu-dang in order to lay to rest the grudges of the past. Set in the world of the Vulpecula Cycle with the same Silk Road sensibility, The Haunting at Ice Pine Peak is inspired by popular monster horror films of the 1930s and is a cross between “Dark Shadows” and Chinese literary classics like The Dream of Red Mansions. The Haunting at Ice Pine Peak won the Bronze for Young Adult Fiction E-Book in the 2016 Moonbeam Children's Book Awards and earned the 2018 Story Monsters Approved Seal for Tweens.
Published: July 14, 2015
ISBN: 1514742055

The Vulpecula Cycle

Upon hearing rumors in the forests of China of a space mission to a lunar colony, foxes Hua and De use their magical powers to masquerade as humans to get on the shuttle, the Heavenly Tranquility. But the mission, headed by China and manned with an international crew, quickly goes awry when the magical imposters disrupt the flight, throwing the ship onto the inhabited planet of Ting-duo in the Vulpecula constellation. The new world they encounter is a feudal, Silk Road- style realm that forces the stranded crew to pick sides in battles between rival provinces and court magicians. As romance blossoms between the fox fairies and their crewmates, the arrival of a rescue mission from earth, the Scavenger, shatters the peace of everyone from both ships as the politics of earth and the revelation of Hua and De’s true nature threatens their future.
Published: Jan. 11, 2015
ISBN: 1505250641

The Weary City

Alone and stuck with an unwanted pregnancy, trailer park queen Terry Watts is given an old book of spells by a stranger after a regrettable night of drinking. Instead of granting her wish to be free from her troubles, the spell sends her to a blasted, post-apocalyptic city ruled by a magician and his pack of mastiffs. Seeing that the city holds no promise of release, Terry turns to the mysterious, oddly familiar young woman Annabella and the biker Gage who are the few who remain to wander in the city, hoping they can help her get back home. All the city holds is magical dust, soul-eating dogs, dead flowers and vengeful spirits of children sacrificed to the Dogmaster, for Terry was not the first woman to be trapped in the city by the strange book of spells. As friend becomes foe and foe becomes friend, Terry must make a choice about her unborn child and confront her own family’s history.
Published: Feb. 24, 2015
ISBN: 150619365X