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Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant

“The official record says all hands were lost at sea. We believe that something far worse occurred. We believe they were found.” -Mira Grant, Rolling in the Deep.

It started as an expedition from the Imagine Network, a ‘documentary’ set to find proof of the existence of mermaids. The liner was populated with its crew, scientists who signed on for the research opportunities, representatives from the Imagine Network, and a troupe of mermaid performance artists. In the event no mermaids were found, some would be provided to tease the cameras every now and then.

No one anticipated there would actually be mermaids in the deepest part of the ocean, or that somewhere while telling tales of mermaids through the ages we got some very important details wrong.

Rolling in the Deep is a beautiful, lethal story about human dreams and desires. It is a short, but very careful book- characters are all thought out and breathe life into the story, and ultimately contribute to pull of the final horror and while bread crumbs of foreshadowing are laid out well for the readers, the end still hits with stunning impact. It is science all twisted up in a fairy tale, and that fairy tale takes its cues from the old cautionary stories we have mellowed over time and tellings. It is for people who look at the ocean with equal parts captivation and distrust, for those who like their fairy tales with a twist, an edge. Highly recommended. Just not, perhaps, before a trip to the beach.

A Different City by Tanith Lee

‘A Different City’ is a book containing three stories, each connected by their presence within the city of Marcheval. From demons slipping human skins, idols concealed in attics, exquisite monstrosities- Lee weaves a decadently horrifying tapestry.

The first story, ‘Not Stopping at Heaven’, tells of a marriage where both parties had different motives behind their nuptial vows. Sometimes the targets perceived as easy are not the ones you want to tangle with. The second, ‘Idoll’, tells of a discarded child growing up in the vast home of her relatives, and the unfortunate truths often faced by women of no independent substance. When backed into a corner, one will sometimes walk a path not considered before. The final story, ‘The Portrait in Gray’ is built loosely upon the armature of ‘The Portrait of Dorian Gray’. The prettiest of creatures are not always as beautiful as their exterior might suggest, and revenge is not always an overt undertaking.

To read ‘A Different City’ is to plunge into a world that slips so skillfully into your subconscious that it is hard to remember to come up for air. Lee’s prose is, as ever, deft and a pleasure to read. The world she builds within Marcheval’s walls is enthralling, terrifying, and impossible to ignore. Each story within ‘A Different City’ is unique, but works with the others to strengthen the feel, the tale, of the city as a whole. It is a living, breathing, stalking entity. And it is magnificent.

A Different City

Dark Side of the Road by Simon R. Green

Ishmael Jones is the sort of fellow who gets things that need doing done. He worked for the organization Black Heir, chasing down illegal Aliens (of the in from space variety) and covering up any messes they might have caused. The kill first, never get to the questioning part rubbed him the wrong way, considering the fact that Ishmael himself is not quite human. So he left his Black Heir days behind to work for The Colonel and his Organization. And when the Colonel asks Ishmael to come to his familial home for Christmas, Ishmeal starts driving.

But The Colonel is missing when Ishmael arrives, and all is very much not well in the massive, old home, or with its strange and often estranged holiday guests.

Green has written a sinister game of Clue, expertly crafted in his usual way of playing with words to make them do things you are pretty sure they did not want to do. The prose, characters you are not sure you want to like but somehow get maybe attached here and there, and the shadowy world Green has created work to bring what could have been a tired old plot to grim and uncanny life. Recommended for Green fans, mystery fans, or folks who want to leave the hall light on at night. Just in case.

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

The Dragon lives in his tower, defender against the maliciously aware Wood. Every ten years the Dragon takes a girl to his tower. Every ten years a woman is released from his tower, but returns home…changed. It was always going to be Kasia who was taken- everyone knew it. She was beautiful and clever and kind. So it came as a surprise when Agniezka, perpetually dirty Agniezka, was chosen and taken away from everything to live in the Dragon’s tower. She has no idea why she was chosen, what is expected of her, what she will do.

She definitely didn’t expect the story to revolve around her. But Agniezka is skilled in ways baffling to the Dragon, fascinating and infuriating them both as time passes.

While they fumble along and learn from each other, the Wood is moving.

Uprooted is a gorgeous tale, folklore and fairy tale all twisted in and around threads of the story of a young girl coming into her own. Agniezka is a protagonist that seems terribly out of place in a Wizard’s tower, in fancy clothes, pulling the lines of story behind her. her own befuddlement as to how this happened draws the reader to her. She is a protagonist that is easy to relate to, for readers to see bits of themselves in, and that is part of the magic of the story that draws the reader in and refuses to let them go. Taking a break from reading is like coming up from air- you need a moment to reorient and resettle back into the mundane.

It is also a dark book, and will have you wondering just what that was skittering just at the edge of your field of vision as you read at night. It is dark in the way of the best folk tales- a living, breathing sense of danger, a pressing threat, but with a glimmer of a solution, of a way out.

Strange Magic by James A. Hunter

Yancy Lazarus belongs in a blues club- smooth music, smooth liquor, smooth conversation. He fits the rambling gambler stereotype on the nose. There is the pesky part where he is wanted that may encourage his moving from club to club, town to town. And there is the small issue of his being able to tap into the Viz, the energy that runs through all things, that makes him a prime target for people looking for help as well as people looking to get rid of a potential threat. It’s not his fault he leaves a trail of some truly impressive collateral damage- if only people would just leave him alone and his sense of ethics and morals would let him leave other people alone.

Its a bad situation Yancy finds himself in, chased out of a seedy hotel by a determined monster, seemingly to blame for the murder of the families of tight-knit mobsters. It is a pretty good set up, whoever is responsible for it. And he really needs to sort out who is responsible, to stop a demon ripping its way through families, to untangle the he-said, she-said that has him tussling with separate gangs.

Yancy hates that he has gotten stuck with the nickname “the Fixer”, but sometimes that is the role he has no choice but to play.

Strange Magic is a pleasantly rough-around-the-edges urban fantasy with bite. It snaps and snarls and drags you along for the ride. Yancy’s narrative is a strange and fascinating place to find oneself, and will keep you flipping pages. So put a blues album on, pour some of the good stuff, and settle in to read.

The Offering (Sovereign Series) By E.R. Arroyo

Cori is free. She is free of Antius, where she had been raised and keep as a medical oddity and resource. She is free of all the experimentation and oppression. She is free to get to know Dylan. She is free to finally starting sorting out just who she is. If only everything else would stop getting in the way.

The Antius citizens they managed to liberate are suffering from infection and a particular sort of withdrawal, keeping Mercy colony from dispersing before Antius can retaliate. The proposed solution is not something Cori is ready, or willing, to face. So she flees to The City and its efficiently feral inhabitants, seeking her friend Tyce and comfort away from expectation.

Finding out she fits right in, and that The City boys are far from the overall hardened killers everyone assumed might not have been what she expected, but she welcomes it. It is a different sort of freedom in The City, and one she finds herself growing quite comfortable with as she grows a bit more comfortable in her own skin.

But stories rarely end so easily. The threat of Antius and its armies looms large and when Tyce returns to The City he brings with him news of abduction and death. Learning more about herself,her parents and where she came from, and pulling together her City boys and colony allies, Cori will once more shoulder a world’s worth of responsibility and step into the line of fire.

The Offering is the second book in the Sovereign series, and is a book that manages to walk that difficult balance of bleak and wonder with an enviable ease. Settled in the middle of a post-apocalyptic world where those that did not manage to hide were decimated or mutated during the disastrous event, Arroyo finds ways to work in the little things that remind us of what it is to be human, why the struggle is worth it- the smiles and small touches at the end. Little bits of wonder take a bit of the grit away when it is most needed- so while it is never a light book, it is never overwhelmingly oppressive. But most of all the characters will pull you in and keep you reading. Cori goes well beyond being a female protagonist I am proud to cheer for- she is relatable. Every sulk, snarl and snap along with every smile, smirk and sneer is wonderful and they combine into a perfectly imperfect young woman.

I have a personal soft spot for the City Boys. Give The Offering a read and they will rope you in as well.

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Night Calls by Katharine Eliska Kimbriel

Night Calls

It started as a normal evening- farm folk defending life and livestock from a predator- but when Alfreda and her father went out the next morning to recover the precious wolf pelt they found horror in its place. It was not a wolf that hung, ready to be skinned, but a man.

Thus starts a grim sort of waiting as families hope that their loved one is not one of the afflicted. And through it all, Alfreda can hear the wolves calling.

It is a rough and sudden jump into an adulthood far different than Alfreda had ever imagined. Her mother’s bloodline is known to throw Practitioners, individuals knowledgeable in folklore and skilled in folk magic, and she has inherited its gifts.

I have not been so enthralled with a novel since Wrede’s ‘Thirteenth Child’. I have a deep fondness for frontier-type fantasy and ‘Night Calls’ is beautifully executed in that regard. The fantasy aspects are worked into the world, are an integral part of it. The little magics, as well as the grand, are a part of day to day life.

It takes talent to build a world so rich and lush that the reader cannot imagine it ever being differently, but that is exactly what Ms. Kimbriel has done. Readers are invited into Alfreda’s world, and will not want to leave. Alfreda herself is a joy to get to know and to follow as she starts along the path of a Practitioner. Her love of her family, her fascination and dedication to her craft, and the adventure she finds herself in the middle of all make her a magnificent protagonist that will appeal to young and old alike.

The eBook can be found at BookView Cafe