In The Dark Of The Moon
Chrysa Markou has known for years that her parents left their home in Greece for her sake. She resolved long ago make them proud: she would win every race, ace every test, get into a top college, and become a doctor. But when her parents die in a fire, she finds all her carefully laid plans in disarray. Seeking an escape and a fresh start, Chrysa returns to the mountain village she was born in but hasn’t seen since she was an infant. There she learns the fire that killed her parents was no accident and that her mother’s ghost lingers between life and death while her killer remains at large, waiting to strike at Chrysa and all they hold dear. With the help of her own earth magic and a host of creatures from traditional Greek folklore, she uncovers the identity of the killer. Chrysa must find and defeat the murderous sorceress Skia and, in the process, come to grips with the fact that making her parents proud might mean embracing the magic within her and forging her own path.
Set in the remote mountain villages of modern Greece, IN THE DARK OF THE MOON is a young adult fantasy novel that reminds us that we must take ownership of our own lives if we are to truly succeed.
The setting of IN THE DARK OF THE MOON is modeled closely on the Vikos Gorge in the Zagori region of Northern Greece. The landscape, as you can see, is a far cry from the beaches and whitewashed buildings that most people associate with Greece. It is also incredibly varied: dense, lush green forests coexist with rocky outcroppings, caves, rivers, and springs, all of which give way to grassy alpine meadows and lakes near the mountain peaks. It’s easy to see how a place like this could inspire stories of fairies and spirits.
Greek folklore? Is that the same as Greek mythology?
Well, yes and no. The creatures of Greek folklore are most probably descendants of the ancient gods and demigods of Greek mythology, about which almost everyone who has been through a high school English class knows at least something. Zeus, Athena, Odysseus, Achilles…these names will ring a bell or two for many. But what about the kallikantzaroi, vrykolakes, and neraides?
The Kallikantzaroi (singular Kallikantzaros)
These goblin-like creatures live underground for most of the year, sawing away at the world tree. They come out at Christmas to wreak havoc on mortals, who can protect themselves by keeping a fire burning in the fireplace or by putting a colander outside the door. The kallikantzaroi, who can only count up to three, will spend all night trying to count the holes. On the Epiphany (January 6), they return underground and find that the world tree has healed itself. So they start sawing again until the next Christmas, and the cycle repeats.
Vrykolakes (singular Vrykolakas)
The vrykolakas is often compared to a vampire, but in many ways it more closely resembles a ghoul or a werewolf. It’s sometimes described as swollen and ruddy (from all that fresh blood, donchaknow), and sometimes it has hairy palms and wolf-like fangs. In some stories, the vrykolakas rises from the grave and simply roams around being creepy. In others, it engages in poltergeist-like activity or creates epidemics in the villages through which it passes.
Neraides (singular Neraida)
The neraides are most likely remnants of the ancient nymphs, nature spirits tied to trees, springs, caves, etc. Interestingly enough, the neraides of Greek folklore bear an eerie resemblance to the faeries of the British Isles. There are numerous stories of the neraides stealing people away, and there are even accounts of the neraides leaving changelings in the cradles of newborns. Some stories say that they make excellent wives if you can capture one. If you steal her veil, stories say, she’ll be forced to stay. The story calls to mind the selkie legends of Ireland and Scotland, which state that seals can shed their skins and become beautiful women (who, you guessed it, make excellent wives).
These creatures are just a sampling of the rich landscape of magic and superstition that was alive and well in Greece throughout the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Some superstitions remain to this day.