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Horseman

Publisher’s Description

Everyone in Sleepy Hollow knows about the Horseman, but no one really believes in him. Not even Ben Van Brunt’s grandfather, Brom Bones, who was there when it was said the Horseman chased the upstart Crane out of town. Brom says that’s just legend, the village gossips talking.

More than thirty years after those storied events, the village is a quiet place. Fourteen-year-old Ben loves to play “Sleepy Hollow boys,” reenacting the events Brom once lived through. But then Ben and a friend stumble across the headless body of a child in the woods near the village, and the discovery makes Ben question everything the adults in Sleepy Hollow have ever said. Could the Horseman be real after all? Or does something even more sinister stalk the woods?


Review

I recently read Horseman by US folklore and horror author Christina Henry.

Horseman is set several generations after Ichabod Crane, Brom Bones and the infamous headless horseman of Sleepy Hollow. The protagonist is Ben, the grandchild of Brom Bones. While playing deep in the woods near Sleepy Hollow, Ben overhears the discovery of a deceased child, head and hands missing. Soon, Ben becomes aware of a malevolent presence in the woods around Sleepy Hollow.

Although determined to uncover the truth behind the murders of children in Sleepy Hollow but all the while, the dark being from the woods is hunting Ben. Tangled deep within the mystery of murdered children, headless horseman and a malevolent force, Ben discovers a terrible family mystery.

Final Thoughts

Horseman is a dark delight of folk horror and literary reimagining. Christina Henry has created a new legend for the tales surrounding Sleepy Hollow and its folklore.

Conclusion

Horseman is a great read for those who enjoy folk horror. An intriguing blend of the Sleepy Hollow story, a family mystery and dark folklore. Highly recommended!

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The Girl in the Corn

Publisher’s Description

“Beware of what lurks in the corn.
Fairies don’t exist. At least that’s what Thomas Cavanaugh’s parents say. But the events of that one night, when he follows a fairy into the cornfield on his parents’ farm, prove them wrong. What seems like a destructive explosion was, Thomas knows, an encounter with Dauðr, a force that threatens to destroy the fairy’s world and his sanity.
Years later, after a troubled childhood and a series of dead-end jobs, he is still haunted by what he saw that night. One day he crosses paths with a beautiful young woman and a troubled young man, soon realizing that he first met them as a kid while under psychiatric care after his encounters in the cornfield. Has fate brought them together? Are they meant to join forces to save the fairy’s world and their own?
Or is one of them not who they claim to be?”


*** I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review ***

Review

The Girl in the Corn is a horror and dark fiction novel by US author Jason Offutt.

The protagonist is Thomas, a young boy when first introduced to the to reader who meets what he assumes is a fairy between the garden and the corn field. Thomas soon discovers there’s something frightening about the fairy girl who taunts and teases him. As Thomas grows older, his acquaintance with the fairy becomes more dangerous until he learns that Dauðr,, all-encompassing Death and destroyer of all life has Thomas’s world within its sights. At age eleven, Thomas tries to destroy Dauðr, with the fairy’s help but nearly dies in the effort. The mortal world is saved, but Thomas has no memory of that night which still wakes him screaming from his sleep. In the bleak confines of a mental institution, Thomas finds connections with his first love and a dangerous boy he half-recalls.

Years pass and Thomas reunites with Jillian from their shared days in group therapy. But something about Jillian is familiar to Thomas and it’s not until later he discovers she’s the fairy from his childhood. One of the Alfar, the elves. In desperation to flee Dauðr,, Jillian takes Thomas to Alfarheim, the world of the elves that’s been made desolate by Dauðr,. Resolute to save his world from similar destruction, Thomas and Jillian must combat Dauðr, for the final, desperate time.

Final Thoughts

The Girl in the Corn is a horror and dark fantasy novel that uniquely combines the typical American corn fields and Missouri farming communities with the Scandinavian folklore of the alfar, the elves and the destructive force of Dauðr,. Although more explanation of the dimensional existence of Alfarheim is needed and more detail on the folklore of the alfar, The Girl in the Corn was a interesting read.

Conclusion

The Girl in the Corn is a horror and folklore-inspired dark fiction. Recommended for readers who enjoy gothic-style American horror, and horror infused with some Scandinavian folklore. An unusual combination and a recommended read.

Short Fiction, stories

Year Three Release

Year Three, an anthology of dark drabbles was published on January 29th by Black Hare Press. Three of my dark folklore drabbles are featured!

If you’re interested in purchasing an ebook, paperback copy of Year Three, more details are available here

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Melmoth


Publisher’s Description

Oh friend, take my hand – I’ve been so lonely!

One winter night in Prague, Helen Franklin encounters her friend Karel, half-mad with fear.

He has come into possession of a mysterious old manuscript, filled with testimonies that speak to Helen from 17th-century England, wartime Czechoslovakia, the sweat-soaked streets of Manila and 1920’s Turkey. All of them tell of being followed by a tall, silent woman in black, bearing a terrible message.

Helen reads its contents with intrigue, but everything in her life is about to change.


Review

I recently read the supernatural dark fiction Melmoth by UK author Sarah Perry.

Melmoth introduces Helen, the protagonist, a translator working in Prague. Helen has a dark past, inflicting harsh self-punishment upon herself. It is the uncharacteristic behaviour of her friend Karel that begins Helen’s dark journey with the haunting spectre, Melmoth the Witness.

Helen’s closest companions in Prague are Thea and Karel, but Karel becomes obsessed with a document given to him about Melmoth. Karel spirals into madness, determined that Melmoth is following him and Helen takes the documents Karel has accumulated. The sudden disappearance of Karel coincides with Helen’s increased preoccupation with Melmoth. As Helen reads more of the history of Melmoth, a woman in black, unadmitted to heaven walks the earth alone with bloody feet finding those who would join her wandering. As Helen questions her sanity, Melmoth invades her life and Melmoth reaches a dark resolution.

Final Thoughts

Melmoth is a fascinating exploration of identity, redemption and guilt. While discovers more about the history of Melmoth, threads of self-doubt are woven throughout to the extent where Helen’s sanity is as questionable as Karel and others who have come into contact with Melmoth. The real and unreal become intricately tied, strengthening the dark psychological horror of Melmoth.

Conclusion

Melmoth is for readers who enjoy atmospheric dark fiction, supernatural and psychological horror. Strong folklore and traditions are well integrated into this dark, suspenseful tale. A highly recommended read!

research, Short Fiction, Writing

Reimagining Alice in Wonderland


I was invited to write a story for a dark speculative fiction anthology inspired by Alice in Wonderland and reimagined for an adult audience. One of the most influential characters for me was the Cheshire Cat and his luring of Alice through Wonderland, and not necessarily for the better. In writing a dark version of my own Alice story, I wanted to incorporate a Cheshire Cat-like character while delving into the social inequalities and injustices many women faced in Victorian times.

In reimagining a darker atmosphere for the Cheshire Cat, I became fascinated by Celtic folklore of the Cat Si, a fairy cat capable of shapeshifting between cat and human form. As a cat, they are described as being a back wild mountain cats with a white star-like pattern marked on the chest.

A gaslamp fantasy, where the Victorian era exists alongside magic, seemed the suitable to incorporate fey shapeshifting cats and Victorian social issues. The dark undercurrents of the story developed through the restrictions of freedoms for women where I focused on the ability to choose whether to marry and whom. In keeping with the nature of Alice’s curiosity in the original Alice in Wonderland, this took a dark path into a romantic relationship based on inequality and injustice. Here, it is the Cat Si who leads adult Alice astray through a darker wonderland than she could have imagined.

Short Fiction, stories

13 Lives of Alice Release


I’m thrilled to announce that 13 Lives of Alice, a dark anthology of Alice in Wonderland inspired tales for adults, was published by Black Hare Press on 7th December 2021.

13 Lives of Alice features my dark gaslamp fantasy “The House of the Cat Si” inspired by the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland, folklore of the Cat Si, shapeshifting cat fey, and the historical inequalities and special expectations affecting women in Victorian society. “The House of the Cat Si” may contain themes and elements which may make some readers uncomfortable. If you’re interested in the research behind “The House of the Cat Si”, you can read more here.

If you’re interested in purchasing a copy in ebook, paperback or hardback of 13 Lives of Alice, you can find more details here.

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Cold as Hell

Publisher’s Description:

The town of OpenFields is cold as hell…

Magic exists in OpenFields, and everyone but Adie plays their part. So what happens when murder and strangers visit the secret town?

Adie’s normal isn’t “normal.” Cameras watch her sleep, the eyes of the townsfolk narrow at her sight, and when she discovers her bosses’ office in disarray, and a stranger who makes her heart thunder, her world changes forever.

Author Neen Cohen’s Cold as Hell is an Urban Dark Fantasy like no other.

What secrets do OpenFields hold?

Adie’s journey will rock the town to its foundation.


Review:

I recently read Cold as Hell by Australian author Neen Cohen.

Cold as Hell focuses on the town of OpenFields, an isolated rural town where magic blossoms only within the town limits and none stray beyond the boundaries. But there is a dark undercurrent to OpenFields that is immediately apparent when a series of murders brings detective into the town. For protagonist, Adie the deaths in the town and the disappearance of her lover Lisa, and the stirring of her own supposedly dampened magic, has her on edge. The arrival of Tala, an alluring detective with connections to Adie’s own terrifying nightmares draws the two closer to the truth of OpenFields.

Soon, Adie and Tala confront the leader of OpenFields and expose the cult for what it is. But their plans go awry when they’re drawn deep underground to the source of the magic for OpenFields and the many deaths that have provided it. In the darkness beneath the town, Adie is forced to confront the truth about herself and the knowledge that Old Gods are imprisoned not just in OpenFields. She and Tala must chose a path to follow into the future.

Final Thoughts:

Cold as Hell was a murder mystery, urban fantasy and complex folklore woven together into its sinister cult-like town of OpenFields. Unfortunately, these threads often seemed to tangle leaving some questions unanswered and underdeveloped characters led to confusing decisions. Despite this, Cold as Hell was a unique novella exploring complex social issues of cult behaviour, pressures for those identifying as LGBTQI and all the while, exploring unusual folklore. A promising debut in urban fantasy.

Conclusion:

Recommended read for those who enjoy Australian urban fantasy, LGBTQI characters and an unusual folklore inspiration.

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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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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.