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The Heart is a Mirror for Sinners

Publisher’s Description

Welcome to The Heart is a Mirror for Sinners and Other Stories.

Slatter’s work has been described by the legendary Ramsey Campbell as “enviably original, and told in prose as stylish as it’s precise. Not just disturbing but often touching, her work enriches and revives the tale of terror.”

From the fierce changeling children of ‘Finnegan’s Field’ to shades of old gods in ‘Egyptian Revival’, from the Lovecraftian echoes of ‘Lavinia’s Wood’ to a new kind of Victorian sleuth in ‘Ripper’, and from the re-imagined fairy tale of ‘The Little Mermaid, in Passing’ to the tender terror of ‘Neither Time nor Tears’, the stories in this collection spring from dragons’ teeth scattered on the field of story.


Review

One of my favourite reads was The Heart is a Mirror for Sinners and Other Stories by Australian author Angela Slatter.

The Heart is a Mirror for Sinners and Other Stories is a fantastic and disturbing collection with a few favourites that I really enjoyed. The novella ‘Ripper’ is a Victorian crime viewed through a gothic and supernatural lens. ‘Finnegan’s Field’ is a chilling tale about changelings.

Final Thoughts

The Heart is a Mirror for Sinners and Other Stories is a varied collection that is well-written, perfectly executed in the distrusting nature of psychological horror, supernatural horror and dark fiction.

Conclusion

Highly recommended for those readers who enjoy a literary style of dark fiction, the chilling nature of supernatural horror and the disturbing dread from psychological horror. A must-read!

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Dark Nature

*** I received an ARC/Review copy of this book in exchange for an honest review ***

Publisher’s Description

Generation after generation, humans have ripped apart the world, leaving garbage and desolation in our wake.Burning, destroying, and stealing from the earth. We see it happening day by day and do nothing about it. Our air is toxic with pollution along with our waters and the earth cries as it watches the destruction.

Until now.

From the depths of the darkest minds of horror comes mother nature’s final retribution. It’s time for Gaia to fight back, and karma really is a b*tch. Dark Nature is an anthology of thirteen dark tales of nature.


Review

My latest read was a horror anthology Dark Nature by Macabre Ladies Publishing.
Particular favourites of mine included “In the Wych Elm” by Emma Kathryn, a nice portrait of past and present uniting in a darkly woven tale of folklore and magic. “She Weeps Vermilion (O, Harbinger)” by Hayden Waller is an ocean themed tale of the destruction wrought by humanity and the vengeance that rises as a colossus from the depths. Lastly, “Pt. Reyes” by BF Vega was another good blend of environmental disrespect, cause and effect, with surreal folklore of the natural world creating new horrors for the mind.

Final Thoughts

Dark Nature is a unique horror anthology exploring scenarios when natural forces seek revenge on humanity for abuse and desecration of the environment. Although some stories were slow to build action or create tension, there were particular favourites of mine that underscored vengeance sought by the darkest of nature.

Conclusion

Recommended read for readers seeking an unusual anthology of different voices on the darkest natures of humanity and our environment. Well worth reading!

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A Song of Flight

Publisher’s Description

After a violent encounter with masked men and the sinister Crow Folk, Prince Aolu of Dalriada disappears without a trace, and his companion Galen is seriously injured.

Liobhan and the Swan Island warriors seek answers to the prince’s abduction. For Liobhan this mission is personal, as Galen is her beloved brother. While she and her team investigate, Liobhan’s younger brother Brocc is in serious trouble. Brocc’s secret attempt to communicate with the Crow Folk triggers a shocking incident, and sends him on a path which endangers the one he loves above all else.

What brought the Crow Folk to Erin? And who plots to use them in an unscrupulous bid for power? As Liobhan and Brocc seek the truth, it becomes clear the two missions are connected – and an extraordinary mystery unfolds.


*** I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review ***

My Review

My recent read was A Song of Flight by New Zealand-born Australian author Juliet Marillier.

A Song of Flight continues the story of Liobhan, Dau and Brocc, all introduced in the first in the Warrior Bards series in The Harp of Kings. Where Dau and Liobhan are now full members of the Swan Island warriors, Brocc has continued his life in the Otherworld with his fey wife Eirne and their newly born child, Niamh. But Brocc and Eirne are at odds over the mysterious Crow Folk who terrorise Eirn. While Brocc has made successful ventures to understanding the Crow Folk, when Eirne finds Brocc in treaty with on the Crow Folk, tension rise and a trusted advisor to Eirne is killed. Furious with Brocc, Eirne banishes him and Niamh from the Otherworld. Cast onto the road, Brocc is soon entwined in a dark plot to use his talents as an Otherworld bard to militarise the Crow Folk and set Chieftain against Chieftain. With Niamh taken from him and held as ransom, Brocc plays a careful and dangerous game with his abductors.

Liobhan and Dau also find themselves on a mission that draws Liobhan home to Winterfalls after the prince of Dalriada goes missing after a failed ambush. Dau is certain there is an Otherworldly explanation and once Liobhan begins to investigate, hers and Dau’s suspicions begin to align. The threads of Otherworldly escapes, espionage and rescue slowly wound into a common thread where returning the Crow Folk to their homelands is key. To this end, the Swan Island team must work with Brocc in the greatest challenge of his role as an Otherworldly bard.

Final Thoughts

A Song of Flight was a marvellous story that drew so many different characters throughout the series into a single volume, skilfully written to keep each of the story threads exciting and connected to each other. A beautifully written story, great characters and well-integrated mythology and lore.

Conclusion

A must-read for those who enjoy fantasy fiction, fantasy inspired by mythology and lore and fans of Juliet Marillier. A Song of Flight is a powerful story that combines the elements of storytelling, music, lore and mythology into an exciting journey. Highly recommended!

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Certain Dark Things

Publisher’s Description

Welcome to Mexico City, an oasis in a sea of vampires. Domingo, a lonely garbage-collecting street kid, is just trying to survive its heavily policed streets when a jaded vampire on the run swoops into his life. Atl, the descendant of Aztec blood drinkers, is smart, beautiful, and dangerous. Domingo is mesmerized.

Atl needs to quickly escape the city, far from the rival narco-vampire clan relentlessly pursuing her. Her plan doesn’t include Domingo, but little by little, Atl finds herself warming up to the scrappy young man and his undeniable charm. As the trail of corpses stretches behind her, local cops and crime bosses both start closing in.

Vampires, humans, cops, and criminals collide in the dark streets of Mexico City. Do Atl and Domingo even stand a chance of making it out alive? Or will the city devour them all?


Review

I recently read the much anticipated release of Certain Dark Things by Mexican-born Canadian author Silvia Moreno-Garcia.

Certain Dark Things is an alternate history where the existence of vampires has become well-known and governments taken measures to control, destroy or contain the threat they pose. Mexico is run by drug cartels and violent gangs, the warring vampire clans at the apex but only Mexico City is a vampire free zone. Or so the police force, much of the population and government think. When Atl escapes the destruction of her own vampire clan, an ancient Aztec vampire race who were warrior priestesses and flees south to Mexico City, she brings another clan of vampires on her trail wanting vengeance in the form of her death. Unable to survive any other way in a city where she is prey instead of the predator, Atl recruits Domingo, a roughened street kid about her own age, honest and dependable to be her ‘Renfield’. But soon Atl and Domingo rely more heavily on each other than a vampire and servant should. Only together can they hope to survive Mexico City, the violent street gangs, the police force and the vampires seeking Atl.

Final Thoughts

Certain Dark Things is an alternate history set in Mexico City, a fresh take on vampire lore, with substantial world-building and exploration of global vampire lore. The plot maintained a quick pace, a thrilling atmosphere of Mexican crime and vampire lore. Unfortunately, the ending felt flat, a little sudden and under-developed. Despite this, Certain Dark Things was a great read.

Conclusion

A highly anticipated novel promising crime elements, horror and vampires. Certain Dark Things was a refreshing exploration little known vampire lore. A great read for anyone who enjoys vampire stories, horror and dark fiction. A recommended read!

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Dreaming of Djinn

Publisher’s Description:

To open Dreaming Of Djinn is to open a jewel encrusted box full of exquisite and mouthwatering delicacies.

This sensuous and truly mouthwatering collection melding the modern and the ancient with the strangeness of speculative fiction, is a treasure trove of originality and exotic magic. It will ravish your senses as it transports you to a world of flying carpets, powerful ifrits, exotic foods and above all, dancing as deadly as it is beautiful.


My Review:

My recent reads included the anthology Dreaming of Djinn edited by Liz Grzyb is inspired by the Arabian Nights mythology, tales and folklore.
Particular favourites include ‘On a Crooked Leg Lightly’ by Alan Baxter, a tale of princess would-be assassins willing to escape societal control at any cost. ‘The Quiet Realm of the Dark Queen’ by Jenny Blackford is a beautiful weaving of Mesopotamian myth and legend with a feminist edge. Lastly, ‘Silver, Sharp as Silk’ by Dan Rabarts tells of the desert Ifriit and the unexpected reasons behind destroying travelling caravans.

Final Thoughts:

Dreaming of Djiin is a wonderful anthology of diverse tales, lavishly told and well-researched.

Conclusion:

A must-read for lovers of Arabian Nights, vivid tales and enchanting retellings of classics. Highly recommended!

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No Good Deed

Publisher’s Description :

Isobel assumed her wedding would be the grandest day of her life, but when she wakes in a ghost-filled tomb still wearing her bridal veil, it’s clear events have taken an unexpected turn.

With the assistance of a vengeful spirit Isobel escapes her imprisonment, but her new husband Adolphus will not be pleased to discover his wife is alive. As Isobel comes to understand her husband’s darkest secret, the newlyweds begin a deadly dance that only one will survive.


My Review:

I read Dark fantasy novelette No Good Deed: A Sourdough Tale by Australian author Angela Slatter.

No Good Deed is set in the Sourdough universe following protagonist Isobel, a former student of St Dymphna where she learned many skills from blade-work to poisoning, and not a lady easily pushed around. After a marriage proposal from the son of a old family (unknowingly long since fallen on hard times but keeping up appearances), Isobel thinks her marriage well made. Until she wakes in her wedding dress locked within a crypt with the remains of Adolphus’s previous wives. Alive and determined to get her revenge, Isobel finds support from another vengeful wife, this one incoproreal, but more than pleased to get revenge on Adolphus with Isobel’s help.

So begins the cat-and-mouse game between the newlyweds where Isobel must kill Adolphus if she wishes to survive her marriage.

Final Thoughts:

No Good Deed is truly a tale of revenge and laced with dark humour. The gothic theme is lavishly applied but joined with a strong female protagonist to make No Good Deed very enjoyable and unique.

My Conclusion:

Highly recommended read for lovers of gothic fiction, horror, dark fantasy and grimdark. Beautifully written, darkly humorous and enjoyable to the end. A must-read!

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A Local Habitation

Publisher’s Description:

October “Toby” Daye is a changeling, the daughter of Amandine of the fae and a mortal man. Like her mother, she is gifted in blood magic, able to read what has happened to a person through a mere taste of blood. Toby is the only changeling who has earned knighthood, and she re-earns that position every day, undertaking assignments for her liege, Sylvester, the Duke of the Shadowed Hills.

Now Sylvester has asked her to go to the County of Tamed Lightning—otherwise known as Fremont, CA—to make sure that all is well with his niece, Countess January O’Leary, whom he has not been able to contact. It seems like a simple enough assignment—but when dealing with the realm of Faerie nothing is ever as simple as it seems.

Toby soon discovers that someone has begun murdering people close to January, whose domain is a buffer between Sylvester’s realm and a scheming rival duchy. If Toby can’t find the killer soon, she may well become the next victim.


Review:

A Local Habitation is another fabulous journey into the amazing world-building and folklore of US author Seanan McGuire in her October Daye series.

A Local Habitation sees Toby sent to the independent fiefdom of Tamed Lightning , precariously placed between the two warring duchies in the Summer Lands of Shadow Hills and Dreamer’s Glass. Tamed Lightning is a fiefdom like no other in the Summer Lands, where technological promise meets the magic of the Fae. But the Countess of Tamed Lightning is also the niece to Shadow Hills Duke Sylvester and Toby’s liege, and to avoid diplomatic stand-off with nearby Dreamer’s Glass, Toby is sent to check on the Countess. A series of mysterious deaths within Tamed Lightning becomes an immediate concern and Toby’s mission becomes incredibly dangerous as a killer on the loose, intent on destroying all who still live in Tamed Lightning, puts Toby in a an impossible situation to avoid a diplomatic disaster and outright war between the two largest duchies in the Summer Lands.

Final Thoughts:

Cleverly written and rich in the folklore that makes the October Daye series so enjoyable, the addition of a promising technology to help the Summer Lands survive the alongside mortal world is an interesting premise that is jarring enough to suit the clash between natural and artificial worlds. Although the plot is a little predictable at times, the world-building skills and interesting characters keep the pace and interest high.

Conclusion:

A recommended read for anyone who enjoys paranormal urban fantasy, folklore based fiction, a paranormal mystery and well-written fiction.

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The Once and Future Witches

Publisher’s Description:

In 1893, there’s no such thing as witches. There used to be, in the wild, dark days before the burnings began, but now witching is nothing but tidy charms and nursery rhymes. If the modern woman wants any measure of power, she must find it at the ballot box.

But when the three Eastwood sisters join the suffragists of New Salem, they begin to pursue the forgotten ways that might turn the women’s movement into the witch’s movement. Stalked by shadows and sickness, hunted by forces who will not suffer a witch to vote – and perhaps not even to live – the sisters must delve into the oldest magics, draw new alliances, and heal the bond between them if they want to survive.

There’s no such thing as witches. But there will be.


Review:

The Once and Future Witches by US author Alix E. Harrow was an absolute delight. Following three sisters who meet unplanned after years apart in New Salem, drawn by an inexplicable magic, and caught in a half-spun spell to summon the Lost Tower of Avalon, dislodged in time and space, waiting for the next three witches with enough need to summon it back.

The oldest sister, Bella, is a librarian working at the New Salem College library. An unmarried woman who quickly finds herself drawn to the exotic and welcoming Ms Cleo, a black female reporter with more than a little hint of magic about herself. The middle sister Agnes, is beautiful and strong enduring a menial job as a mill-girl just to keep her independence. A strong woman whose beauty would allow the pick of any men, if Agnes would allow herself to be loved. But Agnes must choose to be supported by others, especially when she is with child and finds the stronger love in a man who isn’t the child’s father. While the youngest sister, Juniper, is a wild and fierce young woman intent on taking the male dominated society down so women (and witches) might assume their rightful place as leaders and advisers.

In the meeting of these three estranged sisters, bonds are rekindled and a other women across New Salem join their cause to have more than what is handed to them, to make certain their daughters have better lives than they did. But a dark spectre hangs over New Salem, an ancient malevolence that is determined to see the last of the witches crushed once and for all beneath a boot-heel.

Final Thoughts:

The Once and Future Witches was a wonderfully well-written novel with strong, detailed characters and a thrilling alternate history of 1893 and the post-Salem witch burnings. Beautifully paced storytelling with exquisite detail, this was such an strong book.

Conclusion:

Highly recommended read for those who enjoy historical fantasy, alternate history, magical realism and more than a dash of folklore. A must-read!

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King of Assassins

Publisher’s Description

Many years of peace have passed in Maniyadoc, years of relative calm for the assassin Girton Club-Foot. Even the Forgetting Plague, which ravaged the rest of the kingdoms, seemed to pass them by. But now Rufra ap Vthyr eyes the vacant High-King’s throne and will take his court to the capital, a rat’s nest of intrigue and murder, where every enemy he has ever made will gather and the endgame of twenty years of politics and murder will be played out in his bid to become the King of all Kings.

Friends become enemies, enemies become friends and the god of death, Xus the Unseen, stands closer than ever – casting his shadow over everything most dear to Girton.


Review

I read the King of Assassins (The Wounded Kingdom, #3) by UK author R.J. Barker, the final instalment in this dark fantasy series.

King of Assassins is set a decade after the events of the Blood of Assassins where King Rufra has ruled Maniyadoc with Girton at his side as personal guard, the Heart Blade openly as his assassin. In turn, Maniyadoc has been blessed with years of peace and spared the losses of the Plague of Forgetting that ravaged the other kingdoms. When the High-King dies in the Forgetting Plague and the throne is vacant without an heir, Rufra takes his court to the capital to vie for the High-Kingship.

To Girton’s surprise, there is more than diplomatic dangers and treachery in the capital with the Children of Xus and the Landsman seeming unlikely allies. Worse still, Girton’s magic reveals a much darker danger at the centre of the capital which threatens Rufra, his allies, Girton and everything they have ever fought for.

Final Thoughts

King of Assassins is a very satisfying conclusion to The Wounded Kingdom series. In keeping with the dark fantasy theme, this is a satisfying but not ‘happy ever after ending’ which is exactly what makes this final instalment consistent with the rest of the series. Some elements felt disconnected or unanswered which was disappointing but did not distract from the overall style which often was esoteric in some sections. A satisfying novel on its own and, importantly, as the final in a series.

Conclusion

A highly recommended dark fantasy novel and series for those readers who enjoy well-written and engaging novels and characters, and intriguing world building. A must-read!

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My Heart is a Chainsaw

*** I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review from NetGalley ***

Publisher’s Description:

“Some girls just don’t know how to die…”

Jade Daniels is an angry, half-Indian outcast with an abusive father, an absent mother, and an entire town that wants nothing to do with her. She lives in her own world, a world in which protection comes from an unusual source: horror movies…especially the ones where a masked killer seeks revenge on a world that wronged them. And Jade narrates the quirky history of Proofrock as if it is one of those movies. But when blood actually starts to spill into the waters of Indian Lake, she pulls us into her dizzying, encyclopedic mind of blood and masked murderers, and predicts exactly how the plot will unfold.

Yet, even as Jade drags us into her dark fever dream, a surprising and intimate portrait emerges…a portrait of the scared and traumatized little girl beneath the Jason Voorhees mask: angry, yes, but also a girl who easily cries, fiercely loves, and desperately wants a home. A girl whose feelings are too big for her body. My Heart Is a Chainsaw is her story, her homage to horror and revenge and triumph.


Review:

My recent read was horror novel My Heart is a Chainsaw by US author Stephen Graham Jones.

The protagonist of My Heart is a Chainsaw is Jade Daniels, a seventeen year old Native American girl living in Proofrock , Idaho. Derived by her peers, obsessed with slasher movies to hide a darker personal betrayal than a town that ignores her, Jade is trapped by the bleakness of her position, unable to escape living with her alcoholic father and shunned by Proofrock. What Jades wants more than anything is revenge for being unseen. When two Swedish travellers are murdered in Indian Lake, the manner suggestive of a local legend, a child called Stacey Graves or the ‘Lake Witch’ who has historically been blamed for many murders over the generations in Proofrock. Jade believes this is the beginning of her chance to see Proofrock punished for ignoring her abuse and her.

On the opposite side of Indian Lake is Terra Nova, the once-national park and Shoshone territory, now a construction site for incredibly wealthy families called the Founders. Jade strikes an unlikely friendship with Letha, daughter of one of the Founders and in Jade’s senior year. In the ensuring carnage and slowly rising body count, the identity of the murderer remains unclear, the reason for the slayings equally puzzling as threads of people’s lives cross and some are cut permanently. One thing Jade is certain about is that Letha is the Final Girl of Proofrock, the only one who can destroy the slasher in the very real reckoning for Proofrock. But Jade is forced to confront the realisation that slashers are fictional, following a genre while real life does not. Forced into grim reality, Jade tackles the wrathful supernatural force of Stacey Graves and finds her own heart is a chainsaw, roaring into being with a powerful need to survive, defend herself and those few like Letha she cares about.

Final Thoughts:

My Heart is a Chainsaw was a wonderful exploration of the slasher genre which combines supernatural elements boosted by Graham Jones’s characteristic style: tensioning the unknown with sudden shocks of horror. It works beautifully and is so skilfully done, it drives the story forward, keeps the reader on edge, waiting for the next sudden shock. There are strong characters and some explorations of very dark themes which give such a strong literary quality to the novel. Although My Heart is a Chainsaw felt a little slow to get into focus, once it did, it was impossible to stop reading.

Conclusion:

Absolutely can’t recommend this one enough! I enjoyed The Only Good Indians so much but this one is my new favourite by Stephen Graham Jones. Recommended for readers who enjoy horror of all sorts, psychological and dark fiction styles, lovers of the slasher genre and supernatural tales. A must-read!