Epeolatry Book Review: Dark Divinations: A Horror Anthology
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Title: Dark Divinations
Author: ed Naching T. Kassa
Genre: Gothic Horror
Release Date: 1st May, 2020
Synopsis: It’s the height of Queen Victoria’s rule. Fog swirls in the gas-lit streets, while in the parlor, hands are linked. Pale and expectant faces gaze upon a woman, her eyes closed and shoulders slumped. The medium speaks, her tone hollow and inhuman. The séance has begun. Join us as we explore fourteen frightening tales of Victorian horror, each centered around a method of divination. Can the reading of tea leaves influence the future? Can dreams keep a soldier from death in the Crimea? Can a pocket watch foretell a deadly family curse? From entrail reading and fortune-telling machines to prophetic spiders and voodoo spells, sometimes the future is better left unknown. Choose your fate.Choose your DARK DIVINATION.With stories by: Hannah Hulbert, Ash Hartwell, Joe L. Murr, Emerian Rich, Naching T. Kassa, Michael Fassbender, Jon O’Bergh, Stephanie Ellis, H.R.R. Gorman, R.L. Merrill, Rie Sheridan Rose, Daphne Strasert, Alan Fisher, and Jeremy Megargee
This anthology contains fourteen tales all set in Victorian times; each story begins with the location (UK or USA ) and the year it is set. The authors are a mix of Brits and Americans too. The theme of the anthology is hinted at in the title – all manner of divination methods are explored in these tales. We have scrying, (mirrors/bowls), entrail reading, fortune-telling penny slot automata machines, seances, tasseography (reading tea leaves), human seers, animals who can prophesy the future and voodoo spells. The choice of ways in which the characters try to foretell their future or discover hidden secrets is rich and dizzying.
This sort of read is very much up my dark historical alleyway- loving, as I do, all things Victorian, supernatural and gas lit.
The stories are very strong on conjuring the era – some capturing the ‘voice’ of the times more effectively than others; I did read the occasional jarring line of rather modern speech or phrasing but overall I could happily believe I was back in the era of crinolines, tea parties, arranged marriages, horses and carriages, or the American Civil War.
Two of the stories, (one by the editor Kassa) and the other by Jeremy Megargee reference two of the most famous myths of the Victorian era; one fact, the other fictional. I won’t say more due to spoilers. I wasn’t entirely sure about including these in the anthology, as though both were well written, I think the other stories with freer range in material, worked better.
There wasn’t a story I didn’t enjoy in the anthology- a couple did seem to end a little abruptly and didn’t feel fully finalised to this reader. However I do want to mention a few of my favourites, always a personal choice I realise.
Alan Fisher’s “The Moat House Cob” is set in the Tower of London for a start which piqued my interest and is possibly the most unusual and original take on the anthology’s theme and is memorable, especially as I have, (like the main character) intense arachnophobia! The Cob is not what you might think it is by the way.
Hannah Hulbert’s opening story, “Power and Shadow” (set in my home town of Norwich!) – for the depiction of the dominating Mother and the rather nice clever twist in its ending.
Jon O’Bergh’s “The Bell”- don’t want to give too much away here but if you suffer from claustrophobia and/or taphophobia- be warned – this story will not make you feel better.
Stephanie Ellis’ “Romany Rose”- a fully realised world within this story, a lovely depiction of the street urchins and the ending packs a punch.
Shout out to the cover artist, Kladyk, for the stunningly gorgeous image which I’d have as a poster in my study no problem
Quick word about – I did spot a few typos and editing errors; in some of the stories more than others.
I would like to thank the editor for sending me an E-ARC for the purposes of me writing a fair and honest review.
Find out more here https://horroraddicts.wordpress.com/book-11-dark-divinations/
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Alyson lives in the UK; her fiction has been published widely in print anthologies – DeadCades, Women in Horror Annual 2, Trembling with Fear 1 &2, Coffin Bell Journal 1 and Stories from Stone and in ezines, most often on the Horror Tree site, Siren’s Call and The Casket of Fictional Delights. In May 2019 Night of the Rider, was published by Demain, in their Short Sharp Shocks! E book series and reached the amazon kindle top 10 best seller lists. Her work has been read on podcasts (eg Ladies of Horror), shortlisted in competitions and published in charity anthologies. Future work will appear in anthologies from Things in the Well, Mortal Realm and Twisted Wing Publishers.
She performs at open mics, teaches, edits and hangs out with her dog on the moor in all weathers.