The Overneath

By Peter S. Beagle

ISBN: 9781616962692

Author Website: www(.)peterbeagle(.)com

Brought to you by OBS reviewer Caro


If there is a book with unicorns and author Peter S. Beagle’s name in the description, then it is a must-read book. And this is just what The Overneath is. Composed of several short stories, Beagle takes readers into enchanted countries, magical cities in our reality, and introduces us to new and old characters in his most recent book, The Overneath.

In The Green-Eyed Boy, readers are re-introduced to a well known character from beloved story, The Last Unicorn, none other than Schmendrick. In this short story we get a glimpse of Schmendrick’s beginning as a wizard’s apprentice. His mentor is Nikos the Wizard and the narration is from his point of view, detailing how he met Schmendrick, his family, his time teaching him, and the how he set off into the world. I really liked this story, especially because you get to see more of Schmendrick that you don’t see in The Last Unicorn.

“Call me Schmendrick, master. I might not answer to another.”

“I took you in because I smelled power around you, the way one smells lighting before a storm.”

“The whole secret of magic, is that nothing is fixed, nothing is forever; that everything, from the house I built, to that willow tree I planted, to that mountain you can see from my front door… all of it yearns to be something else.”

“But I explained to him, any number of times, that magic is not permission. That everything in this world costs, most especially including the gift residing somewhere in between his liver and lights and his soul.”

The Story of Kao Yu, is a short story that you will remember because of its somewhat tragic romance or one sided love. It is also about justice, honesty, and a different version of the unicorn readers are used to reading about. The main character is Kao Yu, a well-known judge who is able to see the Chinese unicorn, chi-lin, who helps the judge when he most needs it in making decisions. But there is someone the judge can’t bring himself to impart justice.

“China is one of the few countries where sadness has always been medically recognized.”

My Son Heydari and the Karkadann, this was an interesting short story, 1) I liked that it is told from a father’s point of view of what his son went through, and 2) I found the description of this other unicorn very interesting. This story takes place in a forest between Heydari, the Karkadann, and a shepherd girl. For a slight moment I thought the outcome would be different. I guess I wanted to believe that this unicorn could change its nature.

“He felt the way you feel when a storm is coming, even though it may yet be a day, or even two days, from reaching you: there is a smell, and there is a kind of stiff crackle, like invisible lighting, racing up and down your arms, and you have to think about each breath you take.”

The Queen Who Could Not Walk is a story that goes into my top favorites. I liked the way rulers in this story are chosen, and how when their term comes to an end, they peacefully go their way back into the world. The queen of this story uses a wheelchair to help her move around, which has an interesting background story, when her term comes to an end she can not take any other special possession but the wheelchair. In her journey she meets an old woman who helps the queen. It is not until the end that the reader learns of the old woman’s true reason for helping the queen.

“Just never saw anyone drown sitting up before. So stupid, I took it for a sign.”

“I used to tell him that he loved the hunt more than he loved me. And he would kiss me and say, ‘Not quite, heart of mine… never quite.’”

“Always a price. For all we take, we pay…”

Trinity County CA: You’ll Want to Come Again and We’ll Be Glad to See You! This story was very thrilling, kind of had me on the edge of my seat, not knowing what to expect. You have your senior and newbie on a mission that is supposed to be an easy one, until they come against a couple that knows more than what they’re saying, add some dangerous creatures, and you have a perfect action story.

“What, you had to be smart as well as big?”

The Way it Works Out And All, is the story of the Overneath, and very interesting I might add. The story involves two men, one sending the other correspondence from different parts of the world in impossible lapses of time. How can he be in one place of the world on day and in a different one another day? Where do all the tunnels lead to?

“I call it the Overneath, because it is above us and around us and below us, all at the same time. I wrote you about it.”

Schmendrick Alone. Once more, readers get another glimpse of Schmendrick. This story takes place some time after the events of The Green-Eyed Boy and before The Last Unicorn. Schmendrick finds himself without money and in trouble with an innkeeper. After getting himself out of that situation, he come across an older couple and their granddaughter who is set to marry a proud, wicked Lord. Schmendrick decides to help, and in the process realizes his true self.  

“No wonder Nikos never took any fee for my apprenticeship. He knew…”

Great-Grandmother in the Cellar

“I am your great-grandmother, boy. If that is not all you need to know, then you must make do as you can.”

Underbridge, this is another story that goes into my top favorites. I can even see it as a short film or something alike. This story takes place in Seattle, where a professor is struggling to get a full-time position, when he comes across an old man that takes care of a Troll under a bridge. As the story progresses, Richardson, the professor, becomes more and more aware of the Troll and its relationship with his guardian, the old man.

“But it was in daylight that Richardson first saw the Troll.”

“And love will keep you reasonably sane for a long time.”

“How about a taste of the guardian?”

The Very Nasty Aquarium, one more of my favorite short stories of this book. This story has a bit of horror, thriller, and slight romance. It all starts when Mrs. Lopsided is gifted an aquarium and she starts buying and decorating it with different objects. At one point she has the perfect couple for her aquarium, a mermaid and a diver. One day, while looking for more decorations, Mrs. Lopsided comes across a little pirate, very attractive at first sight, but she quickly learns that there is more to the pirate that can be seen. I loved this story, the supernatural aspect of the pirate and the events that take place while he is in Mrs. Lopsided’s possession is just out of a horror movie. This story would be in my top to read recommendations of the book.

“Was wicked as wicked could be, but oh, he was perfectly gorgeous to see…”

Music, When Soft Voices Die. Ever wondered what the voices that belonged to people that once lived in your home sounded like? Well, this short story has the answer! When a group of young men sharing a London apartment, after the Ottoman War, discover more than just sounds through an invention. Another great story of the few supernatural/paranormal stories of The Overneath.

“Emanetoglu manifested himself promptly at 8 a.m. on the fifteenth of every month, to collect the rent, and to drift into corners and corridors like smoke, commenting diffidently on the condition of paint, wallpaper, and bathroom floorboards.”

“[..] all of them rattling on about electromagnetism, etheric force, amperes, communal fields… I don’t half know what three-quarters of that gibberish means, but I have to know.”

Olfert Dapper’s Day. More unicorns! What better way to finish the book with a unicorn centered story, than this one. This story is filled with adventure and interesting characters. A story you must not miss.

“I saw it twice, and I had no right, I know that. I should never… did it… I mean, the creature – did it… do you think…?”

The Overneath is a great book of short stories by author Peter S. Beagle. He creates fantastic stories where you least expect it, and at the end they stay in our minds for a long time. If you are a fan of Beagle’s work, I recommend you read this book, and if you’ve only heard about him, this is a good book to start with.

*OBS would like to thank the publisher for supplying a free copy of this title in exchange for an honest review*