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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!

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Shadow and Bone

Publisher’s Description:

“Soldier. Summoner. Saint. Orphaned and expendable, Alina Starkov is a soldier who knows she may not survive her first trek across the Shadow Fold—a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. But when her regiment is attacked, Alina unleashes dormant magic not even she knew she possessed.

Now Alina will enter a lavish world of royalty and intrigue as she trains with the Grisha, her country’s magical military elite—and falls under the spell of their notorious leader, the Darkling. He believes Alina can summon a force capable of destroying the Shadow Fold and reuniting their war-ravaged country, but only if she can master her untamed gift.

As the threat to the kingdom mounts and Alina unlocks the secrets of her past, she will make a dangerous discovery that could threaten all she loves and the very future of a nation.

Welcome to Ravka . . . a world of science and superstition where nothing is what it seems.”


Review:

I recently read young adult fantasy novel Shadow and Bone (The Shadow and Bone Trilogy, #1) by US author Leigh Bardugo.

Shadow and Bone is set predominantly in East Ravka, ruled by a greedy king prone to excess, unaware of the growing power and dominance of the once-feared Grisha, those with the supernatural abilities of creation: weather, fire, the body, and metals known as ‘the little science’. Those of Grisha ability live in luxury compared to the common people of East Ravka. Protagonist, young female cartographer, Alina Starkov is on deployment with the First Army to the Shadow Fold, a supernatural barrier dividing Ravka into East and West. The Shadow Fold, first created by the most-feared Grisha, the Black Heretic, is a inhospitable wasteland populated by Volcra, winged monsters.

While making a crossing of the Shadow Fold, Alina’s childhood friend and fellow orphan, Mal Oretsev, a tracker and rifleman in the First Army is among those in the expedition attacked by the monsters and Alina’s dormant Grisha power is suddenly released, saving Mal and many of the expedition. Alina’s Grisha power is as rare as that belonging to the Black Heretic and General Kirigan or ‘the Darkling’, a power that Ravka have waited generations to see. Where the Darkling creates shadow, Alina creates light and together, their powers can finally destroy the Shadow Fold and re-unify Ravka.

Alina soon finds herself in the luxury and splendour of the highest Grisha ranks and training. But nothing is as it seems among the Grisha and Alina misses Mal and security he always provided. When her powers cannot reach the strength the Darkling needs for them to destroy the Shadow Fold, he suggests a specific amplifier for Alina; a collar of antler from a supernatural white stag. It is Mal who tracks the stag but when Alina receives the antler collar, she understands the horrible price she must pay and soon Alina can only hope to save Ravka from the darkest of deceptions.

Final Thoughts:

Shadow and Bone is young adult fantasy novel and has many fascinating elements to the world-building, the powers of the Grisha themselves are a interesting concept. The social and political intrigue that form the context to the main storyline is equally fascinating. But there is sense of a missed opportunity in the simple main plot which is predictable, making the interesting and diverse characters feel underwhelming in some instances. Nonetheless, Shadow and Bone has significant potential and hopefully, the political and social context of Ravka and the history of the Grisha will be fully explored in the remaining novels of the trilogy.

Conclusion:

Shadow and Bone is recommended for readers of young adult fantasy looking for a unique fantasy realm, and those who enjoy a fantasy concept that is intellectually challenging. The predictable storyline can feel a bit stale for more advanced readers but the characters are all interesting and engaging. Overall, a recommended read for those who enjoy young adult fantasy.

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Mongrels

Publisher’s Description:

“He was born an outsider, like the rest of his family. Poor yet resilient, he lives in the shadows with his aunt Libby and uncle Darren, folk who stubbornly make their way in a society that does not understand or want them. They are mongrels, mixed blood, neither this nor that. The boy at the center of Mongrelsmust decide if he belongs on the road with his aunt and uncle, or if he fits with the people on the other side of the tracks.

For ten years, he and his family have lived a life of late-night exits and narrow escapes—always on the move across the South to stay one step ahead of the law. But the time is drawing near when Darren and Libby will finally know if their nephew is like them or not. And the close calls they’ve been running from for so long are catching up fast now. Everything is about to change.


Review:

One of my recent reads was Mongrels by US author Stephen Graham Jones. I am a fan of classic horror themes and for me, the werewolf is one of the best, but it is also one which I feel is less explored. Mongrels promises to make up for this, and does so, delivering an authentic werewolf story.

The protagonist and narrator remain unnamed throughout the story, but follows a pre-adolescent boy through to his late teens growing up in a family of werewolves. Although, he has not yet changed into a werewolf himself- we learn early that most werewolves are born human and only become shape-shifters usually around puberty – or sometimes, not at all. Following his grandfather’s death, the boy and his aunt and uncle take to the road, travelling across the Deep South of America, never staying long in most places.

Mongrels changes between the past, the boy’s childhood years and his lessons learned, and the adolescent years as he waits, and wonders – hopes even- that he will change into a werewolf, that the blood he sees as a link to family, to his aunt and uncle, his grandfather, will prove itself. This is an insightful look at family, heritage and the broken aspects of society where those like the werewolves, who long for the freedom are restrained by society and its expectations.

Final Thoughts:

Mongrels is an entirely new exploration of a classic monster from Horror fiction. The style of writing adds a beautiful, literary prose with the occasional bursts of graphic violence that both shock and deliver emphasis to the ‘reality’ of a horror story. Although narrated like a ‘coming of age’ story, Mongrels is much more than that, with the selection of fascinating characters and situations that propel the storyline forward across time and space of the characters’ lives. Combining the ‘bigger than big’ tales of legend with the character’s histories, the sense of reality and fiction blend seamlessly. Skilfully written, and entraining even when the plot feels like it’s drifting, it feels comfortable given the narration style.

Conclusion:

A highly recommended read for those who enjoy contemporary horror and dark fiction. Stephen Graham Jones provides a wonderful literary approach to the werewolf theme, re-making a classic monster into an entirely new and authentic concept. Cannot recommend highly enough!

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Blood of Assassins

From the Publisher:

“In a desperate bid to escape the bounty on his head, assassin Girton Club-Foot has returned to Maniyadoc, but the kingdom he knew no longer exists.

Three kings battle for supremacy in a land ravaged by war-and one of them is his old friend Rufra. With threats inside and outside the war encampment, Girton races to find the traitor behind an assassination plot. But his magic can no longer be contained and Girton may not be able to save even himself.

It’s assassin versus assassin for the life of a king…”


My Review:

I read Blood of Assassins (The Wounded Kingdom, #2) by UK author R.J. Barker after enjoying the first instalment Age of Assassins. This second book does not disappoint.

Blood of Assassins follows from the events of Age of Assassins, Girton Club-foot and his Master, the assassin Merela Karn, have returned to Maniaydoc after years away employed as mercenaries. They return to find the kingdom divided, rightful ruler and Girton’s friend, Rufra, has been waging war against Tomas and Aydor. Brought into Rufra’s war camp, Girton witnesses Manyidoc pushed to breaking point, the people and the land suffering. Determined to find a traitor and murderer in his inner circle of advisors, Rufra asks Girton to find the instigators of a plot against him.

But Girton is haunted by the dark magic he struggles to hold, a powerful magic that has created sorcerers too easily in the past, and one that Rufra cannot abide, not even in his oldest and most trusted friends. In a battle to defeat Tomas and save Maniaydoc from tearing itself apart by war, Rufra finds an unlikely ally in the former heir, Aydor. While for Girton, repressing his magic creates a seething, dangerous power and, despite his intention never to use it, the magic has its own intentions.

My Thoughts:

Blood of Assassins continues the storyline established in Age of Assassins but now delves deeper into the characters, political intrigues and troubles of the kingdom many years later. While this is an epic Fantasy, there is insightful look at the ingrained trauma inflicted on a kingdom and a land ravaged by war.

Conclusion:

Blood of Assassins is great second instalment in the Wounded Kingdom Trilogy with fans of epic fantasy, political intrigue and magic sure to find this though-provoking read worthwhile. Highly Recommended.

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Whispers in the Dark

Publisher’s Description

Two decades into an eternal sentence in the impenetrable Void for daring to rebel against the might of the Empire, and Agent Ivory is ready to give up on life entirely, even if the unseen Warden of the prison won’t ever let him die.

But when a mysterious voice in the darkness visits him in his isolation, the prisoner is determined to see the sun on his face once again, even if the outside world is not what it once was…


Review

I recently read Whispers in the Dark by Australian author K.B. Elijah, a novella blending science-fiction and dark fiction.

The protagonist, Agent Ivory, has been imprisoned in an inescapable cell, his body held in stasis where he cannot die nor have hope of escape nor rescue. From these bleak beginnings, it is the promise of hope that proves the greatest torment to Agent Ivory. Despite the improbable, Agent Ivory escapes the prison known as the Void, aided by the whispering voice only he seems to hear. Guided on his escape, Ivory cannot shake his paranoid thoughts of pursuit, of hope dashed should he fail to escape and seek revenge for his imprisonment. It is this dark offering which the Void failed to crush, the promise of hope that will prove to be Agent Ivory’s greatest weapon or failure.

Final Thoughts

Whispers in the Dark was an intriguing psychological story combining elements of science fiction and dark fiction, exploring the strongest emotion in the darkness, is always hope.

Conclusion

A great novella from a new voice in Australasian speculative fiction. Recommended for those who enjoy a psychological read, literary tale where dark fiction blends into science fiction.

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All the Murmuring Bones


Publisher’s Description

“Long ago Miren O’Malley’s family prospered due to a deal struck with the mer: safety for their ships in return for a child of each generation. But for many years the family have been unable to keep their side of the bargain and have fallen into decline. Miren’s grandmother is determined to restore their glory, even at the price of Miren’s freedom.

A spellbinding tale of dark family secrets, magic and witches, and creatures of myth and the sea; of strong women and the men who seek to control them.”


Review

I recently read All the Murmuring Bones by Australian author A.G. Slatter (Angela Slatter), a gothic folklore novel set in the historical fantasy world, akin to Ireland.

The protagonist is Miren O’Malley, raised by her grandmother Aoife O’Malley after being orphaned by her mother, Isolde O’Malley. Miren has lived her entire life at Hobb’s Hallow, the ancestral house of the O’Malleys, a prominent family, who have a traditionally ruled the oceans as brigands and later merchants, the uncanny wealth gained by the O’Malleys tied to legends of a bargain struck with the Mer, one that has lasted generations but required a female O’Malley to bear the name and offer one child to the sea every generation. However, with the waning of ‘pure blood’ O’Malleys, Miren is now the last bearing the O’Malley name.

After the death of her husband, Aoife O’Malley makes plans to marry Miren to her cousin, and strengthen the O’Malley bloodline and, through Aidan Fitzpatrick’s wealth and ambition, restore the once-prosperous O’Malleys.

But Miren O’Malley is independent and ha no desire to marry Aidan Fitzpatrick, a cruel man determined to restore the tradition of one O’Malley child given in sacrifice to the Mer. Miren learns her mother Isolde never died as she was told by her grandmother, and to avoid marrying Aidan and to find her mother at last, Miren embarks on a journey to the mysterious estate of Blackwater, where the last of the letters from her mother mentioned she was living.

Final Thoughts

All the Murmuring Bones is a wonderful gothic folklore story, weaving the legends of the dark and foreboding water sprites, beings like the the Mer, kelpies and rusalky maidens, which are not the kind beings from Disney movies, but cruel and calculating beings. Beneath the layers of folklore and story, there is a stronger theme of independence, knowing oneself and the power of love, in the context of a historical fantasy world, where love based on need, the supply of stability, sustenance and livelihood versus the power of love based on want, the desire to be with someone irrespective of need. Against the backdrop of the O’Malley tradition and sacrifices to the Mer to retain prosperity, the need to fulfil a bargain, there are many threads to All the Murmuring Bones that make it a complex tapestry of a novel.

Conclusion

All the Murmuring Bones is a great read for fans of gothic folklore, legends of mermaids, kelpies or or water beings, fans of Angela Slatter’s Sourdough tales and those who enjoy a heartfelt historical fantasy. Highly recommended, an absolute must-read!

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The Witch’s Heart

Publisher’s Description:

Angrboda’s story begins where most witches’ tales end: with a burning. A punishment from Odin for refusing to provide him with knowledge of the future, the fire leaves Angrboda injured and powerless, and she flees into the farthest reaches of a remote forest. There she is found by a man who reveals himself to be Loki, and her initial distrust of him transforms into a deep and abiding love.

Their union produces three unusual children, each with a secret destiny, who Angrboda is keen to raise at the edge of the world, safely hidden from Odin’s all-seeing eye. But as Angrboda slowly recovers her prophetic powers, she learns that her blissful life—and possibly all of existence—is in danger.

With help from the fierce huntress Skadi, with whom she shares a growing bond, Angrboda must choose whether she’ll accept the fate that she’s foreseen for her beloved family…or rise to remake their future. From the most ancient of tales this novel forges a story of love, loss, and hope for the modern age.


My Review:

I recently read The Witch’s Heart by US author Genevieve Gornichec, a reimagining of Norse mythology from the perspective of the witch Angraboda.

Angraboda is the name chosen by the witch Gullveig after she is burned three times and pierced through the heart with a spear after meeting with Odin, leader of the Aesir gods. Angraboda refuses to teach Odin sedir, the prophetic form of magic and in retaliation, Odin burns her three times from which she returns to life each time.

After fleeing the Aesir and taking refuge in the Iron Wood, Angraboda has only shadowy memory of her life as Gullveig and names herself Angraboda “the bringer of sorrow” in place of her previous name. She is soon visited by the Trickster Loki, who is also Odin’s brother (by bond but not by blood). Loki recovers Angraboda’s heart and enjoys her company. Keeping their friendship a secret from the gods and giants, it soon becomes much more. Although Loki asks Angraboda to be his wife, their relationship must stay a secret for Loki is later married to an Aesir goddess Sigyn, further binding him to Odin and the Aesir gods.

It is the three children from Angraboda and Loki’s union that proves to be the catalyst for their relationship and for the future of the Nine Worlds. Angraboda has three children with Loki, each more monstrous than the first. Their half-dead daughter Hel, son Frenrir in wolf form and Jorumungand, a sea serpent. But it is not just the strange children born from the union of two unusually powerful giants that causes Odin concern, but the prophecy Angraboda has of her children destroying the Aesir gods and bringing about the end of the Nine Worlds.

Odin desires the knowledge of Angraboda’s prophecy concerning the fate of the Nine Worlds in a hope to prevent the outcome and save himself and his children. Odin’s desire comes at the price of Loki’s freedom and Angraboda’s children who the Aesir cannot allow to fulfil their role in the end of the Nine Worlds, the great battle Ragnarok. So begins Angraboda’s struggle to preserve her family, shield them from the Aesir and survive the bitterest of betrayals. In the end, Angraboda must choose whether she wants vengeance against Odin and the Aesir, or whether she can save at least one of her children.

Final Thoughts:

The Witch’s Heart is a wonderful reimagining of the Norse myths from the perspective of one of the least well-known figures, the witch Angraboda. In many of the myths, Angraboda is mentioned only in passing as the wife of Loki and mother of the giant wolf Fenrir, guardian of the dead, Hel, and the giant serpent, Jorumangand. The mother of three monsters who are prophesied to kill the gods, Angraboda is a mysterious figure, a witch who dwells in the Iron Wood. The Witch’s Heart also examines another female figure in Norse mythology, the witch Gullveig who Odin and the Aesir burn three times and pierce her heart with a spear when she refuses to submit to Odin. A clever story that combines two important and mysterious figures in Norse mythology, Gullveig and Angraboda, giving substance to both in Gornichec’s reimagined Angraboda.

My Conclusion:

A highly recommended read for those who enjoyed the reimagining of the half-Titan witch Circe by Madeline Miller, those who enjoy stories with strong female protagonists or for readers who want a fresh reimagining of Norse mythology.

Short Fiction, Writing

Forthcoming Children’s Fantasy Anthology

I am pleased to announce my flash fiction story “Grace’s Kingdom”, a children’s and early young adult fantasy will feature in Candy Capers to be published by Raven & Drake Publishing in aid the of The Brain Tumour Charity.

You can read more about my research behind my story “Grace’s Kingdom” here.

More details coming soon on the release of Candy Capers in ebook and paperback here.