Epeolatry Book Review: The Headsman by Cristina Mîrzoi


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Title:The Headsman Cristina Mîrzoi
Author:Cristina Mîrzoi
Genre: Horror / Fantasy / Collection
Release date: 14th March, 2022

Synopsis:  Take a glimpse into the world of a headsman, a gloomy village in which each dweller has a secret: an evil witch, a shrewd florist, a naive young man, a foreign merchant, a dreadful husband, a mischievous maid, and a lustful duke. These stories are intertwined, weaving a dark narrative of love, trickery, brutality, and loss.


Under the bleak aesthetic, raw human emotions unravel themselves in a gripping story about moral decay. In a world that belongs to the wicked, how far can one walk this path while keeping a clean conscience?

The Headsman is a collection of short stories that focus on interconnected characters, sometimes looking at the same event from a different perspective. As a genre, it falls somewhere under dark fiction territory.

The magic of serendipitous book reading continues in this latest review installment!


I try not to compare books with each other—I’ll leave that to the blurb writers—but a few days ago I had a yen to reread Angela Carter’s The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories, especially when I start missing departed friends and the atmosphere of the 80s/90s goth scene. Sadly, my copy is currently tucked away in a moving box.


So I was pleased when I received a copy of Cristina Mîrzoi’s The Headsman to review. This wee tome contains multitudes by way of subtly connected fairy tales. Each chapter offers a vignette look into an overarching storyline which, just as expertly, undergoes a slight disconnect. It’s a perfect balance between the familiar and the unfamiliar; both literary tactics serve to hold the reader’s interest throughout the tiny tales, drawing us deeper into Mîrzoi’s slice-of-life world.


But the magic of this serendipitous book reading doesn’t stop at fantasy. It’s lusciously dark and decadent in its Aesop-fable-like undercurrents. Most of the chapters flowed smoothly through the story line—there was only a small part from one tale’s retelling of events that seemed to rattle along like a farmer’s cart rather than glide like a naiad’s stream.


Overall, I loved the pastoral gothic style of the text, making this a writer whose work I’ll continue to follow, for sure.


And I suddenly realized, as a non-book-review aside, that I really should read more short story collections, because my reading time is squeezed into the moments before I fall asleep after another extremely long and busy day. 


Which means I’m also looking forward to Mîrzoi’s dark comedy novella she’s working on (as mentioned in Goodreads profile). I’m curious to see if she’ll use the same artist for her cover design. I liked the art as well—it was not only evocative of the book, it was evocative of the DIY-eseque pencil art that graced the CD/vinyl covers of certain old-school punk bands.


I’d read this again, perhaps with In Gowan Ring’s “Dandelion Wine” playing softly in the background.


Available from Amazon.

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