Tag Archives: Dark Fantasy

Running to Safety: A Review of One Dark Hallow’s Eve

One Dark Hallows Eve by Eldritch BlacI book cover. Image on cover shows a drawing of two sinister glowing jack-o-lanterns sitting at the bottom of a hill on the night of a full moon. A house and a leafless tree sit at the top of the hill. Title: One Dark Hallow’s Eve

Author: Eldritch Black

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 22, 2015

Genres: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror, Contemporary, Historical

Length: 43 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Beware it’s Halloween and the Pumpkin Men are coming.

It’s All Hallow’s Eve and Owen Weeks is not having a good day. Something’s stirring in the lake by his house, the dead leaves beneath this shoes crunch like bones, and even the brambles seem to twitch when he’s not looking.

Nothing’s right.

But things get a lot worse as Owen discovers a terrifying stranger hiding in an abandoned farmhouse. A dark spell is cast. Old magic, magic that raises a terrifying horde of nightmarish creatures.

As the monsters descend upon the village, Owen realizes there’s only one place left to go…across the lake. But can he survive the horror of the legends said to live below its muddy waters?

The clock’s ticking toward midnight, and soon it will be the hour of the Pumpkin Men and ancient terrors from a distant land.

One Dark Hallow’s Eve is a lost tale from Eldritch Black’s The Book of Kindly Deaths. Read it now and slip into a timeless world of dark fantasy and Halloween horror.

Review:

Content Warning: Skeletons and pumpkins who can walk.

Get ready for a gentle scare.

Twelve is an awkward age, especially on Halloween. You’re not a little kid anymore, but you’re not yet old enough for the parties that teenagers or adults sometimes attend that weekend either. I enjoyed the way this short story captured the weirdness of this in-between stage in life and how kids deal with the realization that what worked for them on previous Halloweens maybe isn’t quite what they should be doing this year. It’s not something I’ve seen covered very often in the horror genre, so it was refreshing to find here.

There were times in the plot when certain elements didn’t fit together, and yet the characters accepted all of the twists and turns without a second thought. I wish more time had been spent explaining what the characters were thinking and why no one questioned why their town was suddenly overwhelmed with monsters. Even a simple explanation would have nudged me to bump my rating up half a star or so, and a deeper one would had positively affected my rating even more.

The world building was well done. Obviously, the author didn’t have a lot of space here to go into great detail, but he made good use of every page he did have to work with to ensure that all of his readers knew the basics of what was going on and how this world was different from our own. I was both satisfied with his explanations and curious to know more. That’s a good sign in my opinion, and I will keep an eye out for what the author comes up with next!

This is part of a series, but it can be read as a standalone work.

One Dark Hallow’s Eve was a quick and spooky read.

Cottagecore Horror: A Review of On Sundays She Picked Flowers

On Sundays She Picked Flowers by Yah Yah Scholfield book cover. Image on cover shows a drawing of a black woman’s head surrounded by blue water. She may be swimming and is looking out to the right with a serene expression on her face.Title: On Sundays She Picked Flowers

Author: Yah Yah Scholfield

Publisher: Oni House Press Corp

Publication Date: February 20, 2022

Genres: Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Historical

Length: 142 pages

Source: I borrowed it from my local library.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

“It took Judith thirty-four years to realize that if she wanted to be free of her mother, she was going to have to do the freeing herself.”

On Sundays, She Picks Flowers is about a woman named Judith who finally escapes her mother to the countryside of Georgia. There she makes a home for herself in a cottage given to her by a relatively kind innkeeper. And it’s there she begins her Sunday routine. And it’s there she learns of the beings in the woods. And it’s also there she meets Nemoira, the woman who changes her life in ways Judith never even thought of. This novel is an exploration of transformation, of metamorphosis, closure, retribution, nature, and healing.  In this southern gothic tale, you will see Judith become undone, redone, and become in incredible ways that is human and more than human. It’s a rollercoaster of emotion, dealings of familial trauma, love, and mystery. On Sundays, She Picked Flowers is a fascinating story that will keep you on your toes and make you fall in love.

Review:

Content Warning: Physical abuse, emotional abuse, gore, cannibalism, injury, murder, parent death, death, animal death, self harm.

Healing can be a messy and prolonged process.

Most people would be frightened by the idea of living in the middle of nowhere in a haunted cottage, but Judith was running away from something much worse than that when she moved into this violent little home sweet home. Her reaction to it happened within the first chapter or two, and it solidified my opinion of her as someone I wish I could meet in real life. Simply put, she acknowledged that it was odd for a house to throw furniture around or fiddle with the heating system in an attempt to get rid of its newest inhabitant, but she wasn’t about to let any of that silliness keep her from settling down and trying to make a happy new life for herself.

There were multiple grammatical errors that became more prevalent later on in this work. I’m the sort of reader who can overlook one or two of them, but they happened so regularly that they affected my star rating and made me feel obligated to mention them in my review. Another round of editing would have gone a long way in convincing me to choose a higher rating as there were so many other things I enjoyed about this book.

I’d like to strike a balance between encouraging people to read this novella while also warning you all that it is not for the faint of heart. Judith was painfully honest with the audience about the abuse she experienced in the first chapter or two, and some of those passages were difficult to read. Other disturbing scenes popped up later in the storyline, but nearly all of them served an important purpose for the plot and character development. The fear and suffering helped to explain why Judith was so haunted by her past even well into middle age and how she found a way to slowly move forward with her life.

My second reason for choosing a three star rating had to do with how awkwardly the ending fit into the themes that had been established earlier on. This was especially true when it came to the gorier aspects of the plot. It was never quite clear to me why some of those scenes were necessary when Judith had spent so much time distancing herself from her past and working to create a better future for herself. I would have loved to see some more exposition explaining the characters’ and author’s thought patterns here as there was never quite enough information for me to understand why the storyline veered off into the direction it did. These are things I’m saying as someone who genuinely wanted to choose a  higher rating but who had too many questions to ultimately do so.

One of my favorite themes involved the character arcs of physical objects. I can’t go into much detail about this without giving away spoilers, but the personal development of these objects was almost as satisfying as seeing how Judith rested and healed in a haunted and traumatized plot of land that most folks would probably run away screaming from. I’ve read a lot of horror, but I’ve never seen anything quite like this. The author excelled at digging into the thought processes and emotional lives of objects and other things that are normally not given much attention at all in these genres.

On Sundays She Picked Flowers was thought provoking.

Dreaming of Happily Ever After: A Review of Somewhere in Time

Somewhere in Time by Fizza Younis book cover. Image on cover shows a drawing of a sun and stars superimposed on an actual photo of the night sky that has a few hazy clouds (or maybe galaxies?) floating through it. Title: Somewhere in Time

Author: Fizza Younis

Publisher: Self-Published

Publication Date: October 31, 2020

Genres: Fantasy, Paranormal, Contemporary, Historical

Length: 34 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

It’s a fairy tale retelling of the classic Sleeping Beauty, set between the twentieth and the twenty-first centuries, the story has a darker paranormal twist, and no happily-ever-after within sight. But what the future holds for our beloved characters, Aurora and Prince Phillip, is yet to be determined.

Review:

Content Warning: mafia, murder, suicide, and a brief mention of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Get ready for a wild ride.

This tale was a delightful mixture of topics I’d never think to include in the same storyline like the mafia, the Covid-19 pandemic, and Sleeping Beauty. I admire authors who are willing to take risks like this with their writing. It makes for an exciting reading experience for those of us who are well-versed in the fantasy genre and who can be difficult to surprise. I will definitely be keeping an eye out for what Ms. Younis writes next, although I won’t try to guess where her vivid and playful imagination might wander.

Fairy tales don’t have to explain everything, of course, but I found myself wishing this one had gone into more details about how the magic works in this world. For example, the reason why Aurora fell into her deep sleep never made sense to me. I could accept the magical veil that protected her and her stately home while she slept, but it sure would have been nice to know why this spell existed in the first place and under what conditions she might wake up. There were so many other changes to the classic Sleeping Beauty story in this retelling that I didn’t think I should make any assumptions about who or what might have caused these magical events. If the author had been clearer about this, I would have happily chosen a higher rating.

The ending made me yearn for more. I wanted to know how Aurora adjusted to the world after her long nap and what she was planning to do with the rest of her life. Given that this was a fairy tale, though, it did make sense to stop at that moment. Princesses have nearly always been traditionally been described as living happily ever after, and I’m hoping the same can be said about heiresses who wake up in the modern world. Who knows? Maybe we’ll someday get a sequel and find out for sure.

Somewhere in Time kept me guessing until the final sentence.

 

A Review of Horror Anthology – Wicked Pond Collection

Horror Anthology - Wicked Pond Collection by Jeffrey Legendre book cover. Image on cover shows a purple person with purple hair standing in a pond that’s surrounded by lush green trees. She might be swimming or maybe just standing there?Title: Horror Anthology – Wicked Pond Collection

Author: Jeffrey Legendre

Publisher: Vivid Dreams Books (Self-Published)

Publication Date: March 5, 2021

Genres: Horror, Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary

Length: 37 pages

Source: I received a free copy from the author.

Rating: 3 Stars

Blurb:

Review:

It is well known that the crust of the earth protects us from the molten inter lava beneath it. Within this lava hides the souls of the underworld and hades. But there are portals through the crust. Portals that were opened long ago and then forgotten or abandoned by the people looking to harness the power of the creatures coming out of them. Because the evil that seeps through these portals cannot be contained woe to any man or beast that should encounter such a portal because their days on this earth are numbered. 7 Stories of Horror and Suspense Following the Wicked Pond series.

Content Warning: Death of an animal (not a pet), sexual assault, and murder.

Not every pond is a peaceful one.

This will be a long review because I wanted to discuss all seven stories in this collection. Do be sure to read them in order as events and characters from the beginning were sometimes referenced later on.

“The Pond” was an excellent place to begin. It followed a Native American man who was attempting to hunt a deer so his future wife would have food while they journeyed back home to his tribe. I can’t go into much detail about his experience with the pond when he briefly washed his hands in its water, but I did appreciate his sensible and cautious reaction to bizarre circumstances. That’s the sort of behaviour I always like to see in a protagonist!

Howard was having trouble finding customers for his new business in “The Book” even though he’d grown up in the community and assumed that this would encourage locals to hire him for their bookkeeping and accounting needs. I must admit that his negative attitude and the chip on his shoulder made it difficult for me to like him until I realized that they may have been clues about what was really going on. Then again, maybe he simply wasn’t a very nice guy. Let’s all decide that for ourselves.

Doctor Clarendon first appeared earlier, but he had his heyday in “Fairies” while treating a patient named Walter who insisted he had just seen a nude blue-skinned woman swimming in the pond who made it impossible for him to think of anything else. The ending of this tale disturbed me due to how Walter’s behavior changed after this encounter. I could never tell if his versions of events were genuine or if he was making them up to get out of trouble.

In “The Dogs of Dunncraft,” a monk named Brother Craig was called to a local cottage by a horrified woman who wanted him to dispose of the contents of a basket that was covered in a red cloth. When he found two puppies sleeping there, he decided to try to find a family to adopt them. I’ll leave it up to other readers to discover where the plot goes from there, but I was amused by his determination to do right by these puppies and by how reluctant the folks were around him to have anything to do with them.

I struggled to understand “Like Father…”.  It showed what happened when a young couple named Ron and Jenny hired a local man to build a deck for them that was never completed. Their reaction to this frustrating event defied logic. If only the narrator had given us more clues about what was going on in Ron’s mind when he realized all work on his deck had ceased. This would have been a solid read with more context and character development.

A distracted pilot named Amanda accidentally crashed her plane in “Flying High.” This was something that happened only a few paragraphs into her adventure, so I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to include it here. I found myself wondering why she agreed to fly when her mind was so filled with other troubles, but I’m sure that’s something that happens to pilots just like it can to the rest of us at times. What I did wish was better explained was why she didn’t try to eject herself from the plane once she realized it was going to crash. Yes, it was dangerous, but it sure seemed safer than crashing straight onto the ground!

After reading about the many different ways the pond had harmed other people, ”Fishing” made me shake my head. Who would ever try to go fishing in a magical body of water that seemed to have a grudge against humanity in general? I kept following Chet and Darrel’s story as I tried to figure out the answer to that question. Surely they should have known better! Other readers can decide for themselves what they think, but I was satisfied with what I eventually came up with.

In general, I noticed quite a few grammatical errors, misspellings, and other typos in this collection. With another round of editing and some further plot and character development, I would have been comfortable picking a higher rating than the one I ultimately chose.

Horror Anthology – Wicked Pond Collection was a spooky summer read.