MO Books welcomes its newest reviewer, Nelson Appell, who you’ll often find behind the circulation desk at Washington Public Library. Nelson enjoys fantasy and non-fiction, but he’s open to any genre, if it’s well written.

I originally read Neil Gaiman’s “The Truth Is a Cave in the Black Mountains” last year. Originally published in an anthology called “Stories,” it won the Locus Award and Shirley Jackson Award for Best Novelette.

In the afterward of the book, Gaiman explains that the story was first performed orally at festivals, accompanied by music, with paintings by artist Eddie Campbell projected behind Gaiman. Building on that collaboration, Campbell created more pictures to fill out a new book that is not quite a graphic novel, and not quite prose either: it is “a tale of travel and darkness with pictures of all kinds.”

Gaiman writes stories that feel like folk tales that have always been there, just waiting for him to discover. Like his other works, this story is quirky and dark and mysterious. In Jacobite times in Scotland, a dwarf seeks a former reaver named Calum MacInnes.

He asks MacInnes to guide him across the Scottish Mountains to Misty Isle. There is a cave on the isle where legend says you may find gold. MacInnes has been to the cave once himself, and knows the path to the cave. The dwarf wants gold, or so he says. The reaver agrees to take him, though perhaps he’s after something, too?

The story is about their journey to the cave, the few people they encounter in the mountains, secrets, love and revenge, and the cost of the gold hidden in a cave. Campbell’s illustrations of the Scottish mountains and sea are haunting. The spare, dark artwork matches Gaiman’s spare words.