edited by Sara Tantlinger ‧ RELEASE DATE: N/A
Extraordinary tales of terror that are as grim as they are delightful.
Awards & Accolades
Colors haunt, unnerve, and kill in this polychromatic horror anthology of stories written by women.
In Sonora Taylor’s “Eat Your Colors,” Eve craves a healthier diet; she decides to follow a seemingly simple plan to eat foods of every color of the rainbow each day.However, she learns the hard way that not following the diet’s strict rules has sickening results. Most of the 25 tales in this collection instill a sense of dread into seemingly innocuous hues. For example, in Red Lagoe’s “Tangerine Sky,” a woman is repulsed by orange, as it’s shown to remind her of her lost sister. Elsewhere, the bright colors of a “radiant sunset” comprise Death’s wings in Nu Yang’s “Elegy,” and a man’s suicide precedes an unexpected “blazing array of blues” on display. Other tales take a more traditional approach by accentuating the glaring redness of blood, which tints many pages. G.G. Silverman turns the gloominess of an overcast day into full-scale horror in “The Gray” as a mist relentlessly terrorizes a town, draining residents of hope. These works make use of numerous familiar genre elements along the way, from ghosts and things with sharp teeth to unhinged murderers and terrible psychological torment. The book’s opening story, Frances Lu-Pai Ippolito’s “Hei Xian (The Black Thread),” is particularly sublime; in it, Taiwanese American Xing-Yun discovers an enigmatic black thread attached to his wrist. A red thread signifies love, but his symbolizes “inescapable death,” and his attempt to save himself leads to something unspeakable—and unforgettable.
Tantlinger, the author of the poetry collection Cradleland of Parasites (2021), has gathered a set of admirable stories featuring delicious twists, eerie creatures, and visceral imagery. They necessarily linger on assorted colors, befitting this anthology’s theme, but the prose throughout is vibrant in other ways. As Bindia Persaud memorably writes in “The Dyer and the Dressmakers,” “I forgot how to breathe for a moment. I wasn’t the only one. Elation, tinged with fear, rendered us immobile.” Throughout, the authors effectively evoke a range of senses, describing the touch of cool water, the loud hum of a passing helicopter, and any number of putrid smells. KC Grifant’s “The Color of Friendship” conjures impressive atmosphere as a woman continually looks for whatever is swimming in a nearby lake during her friends’ weekend getaway. These elements set the mood for stories that deliver shocks and ghastly plot turns. Women are frequently the main characters in these tales; Christa Wojciechowski’s “The Oasis” ably explores a woman’s post-abortion depression, and in Chelsea Pumpkins’ “Toxic Shock,” the protagonist’s “technicolor” menstruation is the start of a harrowing and inexplicable ordeal. In some stories, women initially seem to be passive victims only to be revealed as aggressors. Overall, readers will fly through these works, some of which could have easily been expanded to novel length. It’s a fine sampling of an array of voices in the horror genre that will assuredly garner a bevy of new fans.Extraordinary tales of terror that are as grim as they are delightful.
Pub Date: N/A
Page Count: 268
Publisher: Strangehouse Books
Review Posted Online: June 28, 2022
Review Program: Kirkus Indie
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by Olivie Blake ‧ RELEASE DATE: Aug. 8, 2023
A reasonably charming urban fantasy that could have used a more rigorous edit before primetime.
The latest in a series of rereleases from a prolific fantasist’s previously self-published works is a contemporary spin on the fairytale “Godfather Death.”
Viola Marek is an aswang, a shapeshifting vampire from Filipino folklore. She’s also a Chicago real estate agent trying to sell a mansion even while the ghost of its last owner, Thomas Edward Parker IV, is doing his supernatural best to block the sale. In a desperate attempt to earn her commission, she hires Fox D’Mora, Death’s mortal godson, to use his connection to get the ghost to leave. Unfortunately, Death is unavailable: He’s been kidnapped, and to get him back and prevent a worlds-spanning catastrophe, Fox, Vi, the ghost, and assorted other supernatural creatures will have to enter a high-stakes gambling game that usually only immortals can play…but rarely win. The story begins with an unusual blend of myth, fairy tale, and cosmology and inevitably descends to an almost unbearable level of sentimentality, which is simultaneously a refreshing change from Blake’s usual tableau of self-involved, selfish characters who seem driven toward tragedies of their own making. Blake could definitely do a better job at showing the love between characters rather than merely telling the reader that they’re in love. She also has an unfortunate tendency to skip potentially intriguing bits of backstory if they don’t immediately drive the plot along, which is why readers never learn anything about Fox’s childhood and what it was actually like having Death as a parent. Nor does she explain why only two of the four archangels, Gabriel and Raphael, play outsize roles in determining the order of the cosmos, while Uriel and Michael are nowhere to be seen. Bits of anachronism—like the use of a rubber band as aversion therapy 200 years ago or the presence of a magical wristwatch from a time long before watches were common—might be intended to be Pratchett-style humor or chalked up to magic? It’s hard to tell what’s intentional and what is simply careless. Now that Blake has a traditional publisher, perhaps the editors of her future novels will guide the author to address these issues when they arise.A reasonably charming urban fantasy that could have used a more rigorous edit before primetime.
Pub Date: Aug. 8, 2023
Page Count: 416
Review Posted Online: Aug. 19, 2023
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 2023
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by Leigh Bardugo ‧ RELEASE DATE: Oct. 1, 2019
With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally...
Awards & Accolades
New York Times Bestseller
Yale’s secret societies hide a supernatural secret in this fantasy/murder mystery/school story.
Most Yale students get admitted through some combination of impressive academics, athletics, extracurriculars, family connections, and donations, or perhaps bribing the right coach. Not Galaxy “Alex” Stern. The protagonist of Bardugo’s (King of Scars, 2019, etc.) first novel for adults, a high school dropout and low-level drug dealer, Alex got in because she can see dead people. A Yale dean who's a member of Lethe, one of the college’s famously mysterious secret societies, offers Alex a free ride if she will use her spook-spotting abilities to help Lethe with its mission: overseeing the other secret societies’ occult rituals. In Bardugo’s universe, the “Ancient Eight” secret societies (Lethe is the eponymous Ninth House) are not just old boys’ breeding grounds for the CIA, CEOs, Supreme Court justices, and so on, as they are in ours; they’re wielders of actual magic. Skull and Bones performs prognostications by borrowing patients from the local hospital, cutting them open, and examining their entrails. St. Elmo’s specializes in weather magic, useful for commodities traders; Aurelian, in unbreakable contracts; Manuscript goes in for glamours, or “illusions and lies,” helpful to politicians and movie stars alike. And all these rituals attract ghosts. It’s Alex’s job to keep the supernatural forces from embarrassing the magical elite by releasing chaos into the community (all while trying desperately to keep her grades up). “Dealing with ghosts was like riding the subway: Do not make eye contact. Do not smile. Do not engage. Otherwise, you never know what might follow you home.” A townie’s murder sets in motion a taut plot full of drug deals, drunken assaults, corruption, and cover-ups. Loyalties stretch and snap. Under it all runs the deep, dark river of ambition and anxiety that at once powers and undermines the Yale experience. Alex may have more reason than most to feel like an imposter, but anyone who’s spent time around the golden children of the Ivy League will likely recognize her self-doubt.With an aura of both enchantment and authenticity, Bardugo’s compulsively readable novel leaves a portal ajar for equally dazzling sequels.
Pub Date: Oct. 1, 2019
Page Count: 448
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Review Posted Online: June 30, 2019
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019
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