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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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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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Starve Acre

Publisher’s Description

The worst thing possible has happened. Richard and Juliette Willoughby’s son, Ewan, has died suddenly at the age of five. Starve Acre, their house by the moors, was to be full of life, but is now a haunted place.

Juliette, convinced Ewan still lives there in some form, seeks the help of the Beacons, a seemingly benevolent group of occultists. Richard, to try and keep the boy out of his mind, has turned his attention to the field opposite the house, where he patiently digs the barren dirt in search of a legendary oak tree.

Starve Acre is a devastating new novel by the author of the prize-winning bestseller The Loney. It is a novel about the way in which grief splits the world in two and how, in searching for hope, we can so easily unearth horror.


Review

I read horror folklore novella Starve Acre by UK author Andrew Michael Hurley after many recommendations. It did not disappoint!

Starve Acre follows protagonist Richard and his wife Juliette six months after the unexpected death of their son, Ewan. The couple are struggling to mend their marriage and Juliette is convinced Ewan’s ghost still haunts the house. When Juliette invites a group of occultists into the house to help with Ewan’s ghost, she is remarkably healed for a while, her thoughts of Ewan almost vanished as though he never existed in their lives.

Juliette’s husband Richard, has become fascinated with a legendary oak tree that once grew in the now fallow field of Starve Acre, a plot of land where nothing grows and where the oak tree -where once men were hanged for crimes – no evidence remains. But Richard finds the roots of the oak tree and a skeleton of a hare. Bringing the skeleton of the hare inside the house, Richard begins a dark reworking of magic and horror that is reborn from the fallow earth of Starve Acre.

Final Thoughts

Starve Acre is a only a novella but written in a skilful literary style more commonly found in novel-length volumes. Weaving together complex characters and events, important details are revealed like breadcrumbs leading the reader to the final truth of the mystery of Starve Acre. It is a glorious dark fiction tale, strong in gothic folklore and utterly chilling.

Conclusion

A highly recommended read. Starve Acre is a must-read for fans of dark fiction, those who enjoy gothic folklore, a literary contemporary fantasy and readers who enjoy a chilling mystery. Thrilling!

events, Short Fiction, stories

Stories of Survival Release

Pleased to announce that Stories of Survival published by Deadset Press was released on 21 August, 2021. This speculative fiction charity anthology is in honour of Australian speculative fiction writer and mentor to many, the late Aiki Flinthart, with all proceeds going to the Melanoma Foundation to help with the fight against cancer.

This anthology includes many wonderful stories from Australian and New Zealand speculative fiction authors. Featuring my own Fae-inspired short story “Three Tasks for the Sidhe”, you can read more about the research behind the story here.


More details on how to purchase ebook or paperback copies of Stories of Survival can be found here.

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A Dance with Fate

Publisher’s Description

Liobhan, the young warrior and bard, has lost her brother to the Otherworld. Even more determined to gain a place as an elite fighter, she returns to Swan Island to continue her training. But Liobhan is devastated when her comrade Dau is injured and loses his sight in their final display bout. Blamed by Dau’s family for the accident, she agrees to go to his home, Oakhill, as a bond servant for one year.

But Oakhill is a place of dark secrets. The menacing and enigmatic Crow Folk still threaten both worlds and while Brocc battles them in the Otherworld, Dau must battle his own demon – despair.

When Liobhan and Dau begin to expose the evil at the core of Oakhill, they place themselves in mortal danger. For their enemy wields great power and will stop at nothing to get his way. It will take all the skills of a Swan Island warrior and a touch of the uncanny to give them any hope of survival . . .


Review

I recently read A Dance with Fate (Warrior Bards, #2) by Australian fantasy author Juliet Marillier.

Following from the events of The Harp of Kings, Swan Island warriors Liobhan and Dau are competing for recognition among the band of trained warriors and spies who live on Swan Island, when tragic accident in a bout between Liobhan and Dau finds Dau severely injured and blinded. Claiming recompense for Dau’s injuries and blindness, Liobhan is made a bond-servant to the family estate for one year.

But events at Dau’s home estate of Oakhill are as uneasy as the ones he fled years before with darkness and deceit lingering over the place. In the Otherworld, Brocc is encountering his own trials as the numbers of the Crow folk grow and uncanny people under the protection of his Queen are increasingly injured and he is forced into a bargain that puts them all in jeopardy.

Final Thoughts

A well-written novel that followed effortlessly from A to further develop the three main characters of Brocc , Liobhan, and Dau At times the pace did feel slow and the content more heavily focused on the mortal realm, but as with the first novel in the series, the balance between the mortal realm and Otherworld is a key theme. Indeed, the three characters are challenged to further themselves in the mortal realm such as is the case for Dau, whereas Brocc has chosen his life in the Otherworld and it is Liobhan who truly walks the path between both worlds – those two people closest to her, her Swan island companion Dau, and her brother, an Otherworld bard.

Conclusion

A Dance with Fate is a highly recommended Fantasy novel. Readers who have enjoyed previous works by Juliet Marillier will enjoy this well-crafted historical fantasy, or those who are seeking a new experience of historical fantasy where the line between dark ages history and Otherworld legend is nicely balanced.

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

events, Writing

2021 Ditmar SF Awards Nominations!

It’s that time to the year when Australian science fiction, fantasy and horror writers and fandom nominate favourite collections, short stories, novels and illustrated works.

Celebrating the best of our Australian writers and active members in fandom is a key goal of the Ditmar Awards. For writers and fans, here’s the eligibility list for 2020 – you can nominate your favourites here!

I have a few short stories eligible from 2020, so while you’re nominating favourites, also consider these if you’ve read and enjoyed my writing!

“A Handful of Dead Leaves”, Alannah K. Pearson [ACT], in Greed (Seven Deadly Sins 5), Black Hare Press.

“The Bargain”, Alannah K. Pearson [ACT], in Unnatural Order, CSFG Publishing.

“The Bull of Heaven”, Alannah K. Pearson [ACT], in Taurus: Speculative Fiction Inspired by the Zodiac, Deadset Press.

“The Golden Lion-Monkey”, Alannah K. Pearson [ACT], in Leo: Speculative Fiction Inspired by the Zodiac, Deadset Press.

I would also like to draw attention to a few of my favourites for these categories from 2020:

Best Collected Works

Red New Day & Other Microfictions by Angela Slatter [QLD], Brain Jar Press.

Songs for Dark Seasons by Lisa L. Hannett [SA], Ticonderoga Publications.

Best Novel

Flyaway, Kathleen Jennings [QLD], Pan Macmillan Australia.

Best New Talent

Nikky (N M) Lee [NZ/WA], short stories including work in AntipodeanSF, Breach Magazine, Things In the Well and Deadset Press publications.

Get nominating as entries close midnight 15th August (+10 GMT). Support your favourite writers and active members in fandom!

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The Dark Chorus

Publisher’s Description

The Boy can see lost souls.

He has never questioned the fact that he can see them. He thinks of them as the Dark Chorus. When he sets out to restore the soul of his dead mother it becomes clear that his ability comes from within him. It is a force that he cannot ignore – the last shard of the shattered soul of an angel. To be restored to the kingdom of light, the shard must be cleansed of the evil that infects it – but this requires the corrupt souls of the living!

With the help from Makka, a psychotically violent young man full of hate, and Vee, an abused young woman full of pain, the Boy begins to kill. Psychiatrist Dr Eve Rhodes is seconded to assist the police investigation into the Boy’s apparently random ritualistic killings. As the investigation gathers pace, a pattern emerges. When Eve pulls at the thread from an article in an old psychology journal, what might otherwise have seemed to her a terrible psychotic delusion now feels all too real…

Will the Boy succeed in restoring the angel’s soul to the light? Can Eve stop him, or will she be lost to realm of the Dark Chorus?


Review

I recently read debut dark fiction novel, The Dark Chorus by UK Horror author Ashley Meggitt.

The protagonist of The Dark Chorus is thirteen year old Boy, an orphan with retained memories of an ancient Angel from Mesopotamian religion. After his mother’s death shortly after his birth, the Boy returns to the mental asylum where he was born and his mother died and through the repressed memories of the Angel, he captures his mother’s soul to eventually restore to a body. His first attempt is unsuccessful and he is apprehended by the police for a ritualistic murder. While awaiting charges, the Boy meets Makka, a violent teenager who instantly takes to protecting the Boy. In return, The Boy promises to help Makka kill his own father in revenge. And Makka becomes an accomplice to harvesting the souls from corrupted individuals to restore the Angel’s soul, that which lives within the boy.

After escaping detention with Makka, the Boy and Makka begin harvesting corrupted souls while Makka plans to avenge his mother’s death by killing his fascists father who he believes raped her. In their efforts, they meet Vee, a teenage girl caught in a paedophile ring linked to Makka’s father. The vengeful teenagers begin a spree of ritualistic murders, followed closely by a psychiatrist who discovers the history and ritual of the murders the Boy is committing are a rare brand of ancient Mesopotamian religion. Ultimately, it is the link between Vee and the padeophile ring and blackmailing those influential members of London society that offer protection to Makka, the Boy and Vee in the efforts to reunite the pieces of the Angel’s soul.

Final Thoughts

The Dark Chorus is the debut dark fiction novel from Ashley Meggitt and the unique combination of dark humour, ancient religion and ritual, mystery and psychology worked well with the paranormal themes. The prose is well-written, the combination of humour and historical aspects give a good depth to the characters and the story-arc. At times the writing does feel stilted and motives can seen out of character. But overall, The Dark Chorus is an interesting and well-delivered dark fiction novel.

Conclusion

The Dark Chorus is recommended to readers who enjoy dark fiction and paranormal themes, crime and psychological suspense, or the incorporation of ritual and history into a unique work. I look forward to more from this author.

*** “I received this book with a request for an honest review” ***

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Bleak Precision

Publisher’s Description

Eight stories, an essay and artwork by two-time Bram Stoker Award-nominated author, Greg Chapman.
Table of contents:
Kakophony
Horror Fiction: A Bleak and Depressing Look at Truth
The Pest Controller’s Wife
Fascination
Scar Tissue
Unrequited
Mongrel
Hard Bargain
Feast of Feasts


Review

Bleak Precision, a collection of horror and dark fiction tales by Australian-based author and artist Greg Chapman.

There are many good stories in Bleak Precision but some of the highlights of Chapman’s work included “Kakophony”, a series of frantic conversations between an unidentified narrator and the ‘voices in her head’ and the chilling ending to silence the cacophony of screams and torment is all the more disturbing for its delivery; “Unrequieted”, a psychological exploration of the dark depths of lost love, and the disturbing lengths to replace an unrequited love with a memory; “Scar Tissue” was a skilful blend of shock horror and dark fiction that examined the need to belong, and to be normal but through the lens of a zombiesque theme; lastly, “Hard Bargain” a provoking tale of Asmael and the Mountain in Purgatory, where a deal is struck between an angel, demon and Asmael over the life deemed ‘wasteful’ by humanity.

Final Thoughts

Bleak Precision was a collection of diverse, well-written and dark tales that had the right balance between disturbing dark fiction and the shock of horror. I look forward to reading more.

Conclusion

A recommended must-read collection for those who love dark fiction, and thought-provoking horror.

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Cursed: An Anthology

Publisher’s Description:

“It’s a prick of blood, the bite of an apple, the evil eye, a wedding ring or a pair of red shoes. Curses come in all shapes and sizes, and they can happen to anyone, not just those of us with unpopular stepparents…

Here you’ll find unique twists on curses, from fairy tale classics to brand-new hexes of the modern world – expect new monsters and mythologies as well as twists on well-loved fables. Stories to shock and stories of warning, stories of monsters and stories of magic.”


My Review:

I recently read Cursed: An Anthology collection of dark fantasy tales inspired by fairytales featuring authors Christina Henry, Jen Williams, Neil Gaiman, Angela Slatter, and Catriona Ward, among others.

Three original contemporary dark fantasy stories were real stand-outs. The story “The Troll Bridge” by Neil Gaiman was a new take on body-snatchers, the fairytale variants of a troll challenging three brothers, but here, three versions of the same man throughout his life. “New Wine” by Angela Slatter was an original dark tale with aspects from Bluebeard and stepmother fairytale themes and even a darker take on Cinderella. “At That Age” by Catriona Ward is a dark fiction exploration of Changeling folklore, with some aspects from the Hansel and Gretel fairytale.

Two original dark fantasy stories set mythic realms were of real note. Christina Henry’s “As Red as Blood, As White as Snow” was blend of the Snow White, Rose Red and Bluebeard fairytales which was dark and lavishly written. “Listen” by Jen Williams was a fantastic exploration of the Red Shoes fairytale and folklore of the Scandinavian Necker and the Forest wild gods.

Final Thoughts

Cursed: An Anthology is a unique collection exactly as promised: a weaving of old and new to create original tales inspired by curse folklore. The combination of Dark fantasy and contemporary fantasy tales was a great balance and also highlighted the way fairytale themes are incorporated into many aspects of speculative fiction.

Conclusion

Cursed: An Anthology is wonderful collection that spans Dark fantasy and contemporary fantasy with original tales inspired by cursed folklore and fairytales. Recommended read for those who love Dark fantasy and how original stories continue to find inspiration from these classic fairytales. A lavish, and dark read!