Muskov’s Asylum: Tales and Memories [Wish Publishing House]

Hello, darlings! I’m back with a review for a Brazilian Portuguese written book: Muskov’s Asylum: Tales and Memories, an anthology by Wish Publishing House! 🙂 As the blog is originally written in English, I’ll post my English review first and then leave you with a link to the Brazilian Portuguese review. Fasten your seat belts, this review is one of those rides!

Built in 1812, Muskov Asylum brought misfortunes for its patients, doctors, nurses and neighbors for 133 years before its collapse, at World War II. In this anthology set in an especially cold Russia, 28 authors tell us through Muskov Asylum’s memories some of the horrors and injustices that its patients have been through.

The only thing to be sure about Muskov Asylum, from its rise to downfall, is that no human is safe from its insanity.

Me after finishing this book:

Just remembering that those were my impressions and opinion as a reader =)

Muskov Asylum definitely isn’t your everyday anthology. The author selection, overall, was excellent, as even though you can tell the difference between tales (or chapters) and writing styles, the essence is the same – so much that turns the timeline something utterly natural. I have selected five out of my nine five stars tales of the book (no pun intended) to exemplify my feelings towards this anthology.

Fun fact about my individual ratings for every tale, before we go deeper: we had 9 tales classified as 5 stars material; 6 tales that earned 4 stars; 5 tales rated 3 stars; 6 tales reaching 2 stars; and only 2 tales that were not my cup of tea at all, so they unfortunately are 1 star rated. For an anthology, it’s a high success rating! =D

As each ”chapter” is a different tale, writing styles and points of view differ a lot on the book, and this includes narrative’s styles and characters. We have chapters focused on the background of patients, doctors, nurses, visitors, regular and sane people. Not always the same “class” of characters, per say, is the villain or the hero, and this is a big win for me. The human nature itself is cruel, and the times and place were perfect for those who didn’t mind experimenting with the suffering of others.

Regarding to size, most tales were 4 to 5 pages long, proving the point that you don’t need to write much to have your reader at your mercy. The first tale that I shall highlight, “Insane Soul”, from Poliana Marques, set in 1832 (20 years after the Asylum opening), is only four pages long and left me hanging. HARD. It tells the story of the Kuznetsov couple, which is forced to intern their older son Ethan when their daughter goes missing. One word to describe the author’s work: CHILLS.

Diving deeper into the types of character that Muskov Asylum presents us, I’d like to introduce “Celese” tale, set in 1906, and written by Marina Avila, also responsible for the gorgeous cover of the book. We are presented to this girl, Celese, whose only sin was loving to learn. She dared to study and focus on her career, developing her own theories about human existence. Threated by her ideas, that weren’t exactly aligned with the current religion of the masses, Celese’s own teachers from Saint Petersburg University provided her stay on Muskov Asylum.

This book also grants its readers with classic storylines, in which the patient meant nothing for the Asylum and only death could be their saviors. Under this light, my favorite tale was set in 1902, written by J. M. Menez. “The Lady With Two Faces” presents us with Eleni and Anya, two distinctive women that defied Muskov’s system and freed themselves from their pain in a brutal and shocking way. There wasn’t a single moment in which their so-called “treatment” was meant to help them.

There were also the stories with people aware of their own illness, but too deep in it to be cured with the knowledge available at the time. My highlight goes to “The Sixteen Reflexes of Maria”, from IAPSA, set in 1940 – only five years before the destruction of the Muskov Asylum. From the beginning, it’s crystal clear to Dr. Baryshnikov that Maria suffers from a mental illness, but he refuses to believe that there’s nothing he can do to help or treat her. With some forward thinking for said times, Dr. Baryshnikov thinks that submitting Maria to the “classic” treatments of electrical shocks and brain surgery is a waste of their time and of the patient’s physical health. In the end, he’s forced to face that Muskov isn’t ready to cure Maria from her mental illness and decides to help her in another way.

For those who got this far: I salute you. And promise that I’ve reached my last tale to be highlighted, set in 1911: “The Psychic Vangelia”, by Rodrigo Ortiz Vinholo. Vangelia arrived to Muskov Asylum after making a poor prediction about the son of the chief of her village. As the bad fortune of the boy did happen, the same people that once came to her searching for answers to an uncertain future now called her a witch. Without a single trace of mental illness, Vangelia soon has the entire medical staff of the Asylum in her hands, luring them with the fear of the unknown right into her plans. Hands down, my favorite from the book.

The only downside of the anthology, and the main reason behind most of my two star evaluations, is how some authors focused only in plots with sexual abuse involved. Don’t get me wrong: I know it happened way more than we can imagine. Asylum patients were vulnerable people even when they were sane, as nobody believed them, but I was bothered with the way some of the authors approached the topic, as if the professionals that worked in mental health facilities in the late 19th and beginning of the 20th century only thought about abuse. Again: yes, it happened much more than anyone will ever admit, to both men and women interned on those places. And no, there isn’t any problem in approaching this topic in the tales. It’s all about how it is done.

Interesting enough, the quote I selected for this review didn’t come from one of my favorite tales, but it sums up the soul of this anthology:

“He said that we wouldn’t find madness in great tragedy. No. City falls, earthquakes, fires, heartbreaks or even death would not drive a man to the asylum. Madness, according to him, hides within several everyday trivialities, in continuous misfortunes, in those moments which life seems particularly intended in conspiring against us: a popping button when we are out of time, hands brushing hot pots, a leaking pipe that wakes us at night, a forgotten bill we didn’t pay, a child crying in the neighborhood, the ink that ends before finishing an urgent document. It’s there, on the last small incident, that resides Hell.”

– “Tomorrow’s Sigils”, by Caesar Charone, page 140 [original quote written in Brazilian Portuguese]

I already mentioned that I LOVED this cover right from the start, but it’s so worthy to say it again! I love how the cooper details balance the eerie feels of the obscure building. I particularly love everything that sparkles, so this cover has my approval all over it!

Also, I NEED to give a shout out for the design inside the book: we have illustrations on the beginning of every tale, illustrative pictures in all the right places and a killer summary. Even if I didn’t like the anthology theme, it’s the kind of book that I’d purchase just because it’s BEAUTIFUL.


Overall, if you like horror, suspense or terror, short stories, historical fiction, supernatural twists, asylum settings and exploring the dark side of the history of mental health care, you have to read this book!

Thank you so much for reading this review! I got so carried away this time, you are a hero if you’re here!  Bellow, you’ll find more info on the book and where to find it!

Muskov Asylum is available in both paperback and ebook formats! I purchased my copy from Editora Wish’s website.

Editora Wish | Amazon | Skoob | Martins Fontes


With love,

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