Cloud & Ashes: Three Winter’s Tales

Tiptree Award Winner

In the eighteen years since her IAFA William L. Crawford Fantasy Award–winning debut novel Moonwise, Greer Gilman’s writing has only grown more complex and entrancing. Cloud & Ashes is a slow whirlwind of language, a button box of words, a mythic Joycean fable that will invite immersion, study, revisitation, and delight. Cloud & Ashes comprises three tales: “Jack Daw’s Pack” (Nebula Award finalist), “A Crowd of Bone” (winner of the World Fantasy Award), and the new third part, a whole novel, “Unleaving.” Inventive, playful, and erudite, Gilman is an archeolexicologist rewriting language itself in these long-awaited tales.

“A work that reads like language stripped bare, myth tracked to its origins. Seasons, weather, lust, pain, sacrifice … the stuff of old ballads becomes intensely real, with the natural contradictions of a cold wind that both chafes and dances…. And the payoff is immense. I finished Cloud & Ashes almost tempted to write a thesis that compares it favorably to what James Joyce did in Ulysses and tried in Finnegan’s Wake, yet feeling like I’d lived through it all.”

Cloud & Ashes is not a book for every reader; but it is a book for every human. (It’s also a book for every library that desires to be worthy of that appellation.) There might seem to be a contradiction in those words, and there might well be, were every human to read. But to my, mind reading is an effort that exists outside its own exercise; that is when we read, it may feel like an internal, unshared, indeed unsharable experience. But that is not, I think the case. When we read, we go to the place where writing comes from, and in so doing, I think we leave something of ourselves behind as readers. Greer Gilman found whatever it is that is left behind, she has captured it in her net of words and managed to write it down and get it published. That is a herculean feat. It may only happen once in her lifetime or in ours. But it’s happened here and now. What you do with it is up to you. For eternity, as it happens.”
—Rick Kleffel

“A book whose hold on your mind, on your memory, is assured. It is a story about story, and stories are what we are all made of. Abandon hope all ye who enter here.”
—Paul Kincaid, SF Site

“Gilman’s ‘A Crowd of Bone’ . . . is dense, jammed with archaic words and neologisms . . . but the story—complex, tangled in narrative as well as syntax, and very dark—rewards the most careful of readings.”
The Washington Post Book World

“‘Green quince and bletted medlar, quiddany and musk’: Greer Gilman fills your mouth with wincing tastes, your ears with crowcalls, knockings and old, old rhythms, your eyes with beautiful and battered creatures, sly-eyed, luminous or cackling as they twine and involute their stories. Gilman writes like no one else. To read her is to travel back, well back, in time; to wander in thrall through mist on moor and fell; to sink up to the nostrils in a glorious bog of legend and language, riddled with bones and iron, sodden with witches’ blood.”
—Margo Lanagan, author of Tender Morsels

“Greer Gilman is a master of myth and language with few equals in this world. Cloud and Ashes is a triumphant, heart-rending triptych, a mosaic of folklore, intellectual pyrotechnics, and marvelous, motley characters that takes the breath and makes the blood beat faster.”—Catherynne M. Valente, author of In the Night Garden

“No one else writes like Greer Gilman. She is one of our most innovative and important writers, in fantasy or out of it. If you want to see what language can do, the heart-stopping beauty it can achieve, read Cloud & Ashes.”
—Theodora Goss, author of In the Forest of Forgetting

Greer Gilman is the author of the novel Moonwise, which won the Crawford Award and was shortlisted for the James Tiptree, Jr. and Mythopoeic awards She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Praise for Greer Gilman’s writing:

“Greer Gilman is a writer like no one else. Many try to employ the matter of myth and folktale, but their tongues are inadaquate—Gilman can employ words as the bards of Ireland did, to make realities . . . Moonwise doesn’t resemble a work of the past age—it is the past age come back new, in its clothes and its language and its dark riddling heart. Moonwise simply has no peers.”
—John Crowley

“Greer Gilman’s diamond of a novella . . . might reward a lifetime of re-reading. A question like ‘What is it about?’ is as useful applied to Gilman’s novella as asked of a snow leopard. Both simply are.”

“Moving, engaging, mysterious, glorious…In her flying pastiche of words and images Gilman does in the fantasy vernacular what Joyce aimed for.”


“Jack Daw’s Pack”
(Nebula finalist, 2001)
He is met at a crossroads on a windy night, the moon in tatters and the mist unclothing stars, the way from Ask to Owlerdale: a man in black, whiteheaded, with a three-string fiddle in his pack.

A Crowd of Bone
(World Fantasy Award winner, 2004)
Margaret, do you see the leaves? They flutter, falling. See, they light about you, red and yellow. I am spelling this in leaves.

(A new novel-length story.)
When a star falls, we do say: the Nine are weaving. Look! The Road’s their skein, that endlong from the old moon’s spindle is unreeled. Their swift’s the sky. O look! says Margaret. The children of the house gaze up or glance. The namesakes. Look thou, Will. Look, Whin. They stitch your daddy’s coat.

On the web:


Cover art Kathleen Jennings.

Author photo courtesy of Liza Groen Trombi/Locus Publications.

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