Epeolatry Book Review: Winter’s Ghosts by Alyson Faye, Stephanie Ellis, Charlotte Riddell & Edith Wharton
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Title: Winter’s Ghosts
Author: Alyson Faye, Stephanie Ellis, Charlotte Riddell, Edith Wharton
Genre: Ghost Stories, Gothic
Release Date: 29th November, 2023
Synopsis:Winter is traditionally the time for a ghost story. Alyson Faye and Stephanie Ellis continue this custom with their short stories, ‘Chilled to the Bone’ and ‘Dead Man’s Fair’ where, in both gothic mansion and remote hills, blizzards close in and the dead walk. Pairing with these modern day writers are Charlotte Riddell and Edith Wharton, both known for their skill in weaving a ghostly tale but whose stories are in danger of being forgotten. Their inclusion here is intended to help prevent this and honour those female authors who paved the way for the rest of us.
As January rolls along I’m finding myself drawn to icy stories. Is it because climate change is further delaying the start of winter each year, making me nostalgic for snow? I’m not sure, but Winter’s Ghosts, an anthology of chilly ghost stories, was the perfect little collection for my new year nights. There are four stories in this collection—two modern stories: “Chilled to the Bone” by Alyson Faye and “Dead Man’s Fair” by Stephanie Ellis, and two historical tales: “A strange Christmas Game” by Charlotte Riddell and “The Triumph of Night” by Edith Wharton. Normally, when I review an anthology, I focus on my favourites, but since there are only four tales, I’ll do a short review of each one.
Chilled to the Bone by Alyson Faye
What a delightfully dark little ghostly tale to kick off this collection! Edgar Milner has invited his cousin, Jemina but is disappointed to see that her companion, Alexandra shadows Jemina’s every move. As the story progresses, Edgar’s nefarious motives are revealed, as are the secrets that Alexandra and Jemina hold. The ghostly reveal is well done and this story was the scariest and most disturbing of the four.
The intrigue and character development is well crafted, but where this story truly shines is in the descriptions. Faye has an elegant way with words, and I was soon highlighting key phrases. She dives right into these beautiful details right at the beginning with snow-shrouded skeleton trees and roofs that transform into “reams of crystal mushrooms”.
Dead Man’s Fair by Stephanie Ellis
Ellis brings us the tale of young Tom, who has recently lost his father, journeying to the fair to sell sheep. Times are hard and winter is approaching, so Tom must make money to keep himself and his mother fed. As he travels to and from the fair, he must face the harsh winter and the untrustworthiness of other men.
In this time of ever-rising prices, I found the financial struggles relatable, which connected me to Tom, despite the differences in our circumstances. Tom is a kind, loyal, clever young man who is trying to do right. The plot may be simple, but the depth with which Ellis fills this world is not. By the end of the short story, I felt I knew Tom’s character better than a lot of other short story characters I’ve encountered. Although this story is more endearing than scary (but not completely devoid of scares), I enjoyed it a lot.
A Strange Christmas Game by Charlotte Riddell and The Triumph of Night by Edith Wharton
These stories were included to honour past female authors who helped pave the way for so many of us today. These tales were included so they would not be forgotten and to bring them to a new audience. There, they succeeded. Before now, I had not read work by either author, although I had heard of both.
Personally, I find this type of writing a bit harder to get into, and I struggled with them a bit. However, I appreciate their inclusion in the anthology as it would have felt a bit light with only the first two stories. As well, both Ellis’ and Faye’s stories have a gothic feel to them, so it fits the overall aesthetic as well.
Winter’s Ghosts is a small anthology, but it’s full of rich storytelling. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good wintery ghost tale.
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Melody lives in Ontario, Canada and writes short, dark fiction. She has been published in several anthologies and online publications. In university, she studied Ancient Greek and Roman Studies and often infuses her work with elements of Greek mythology. She also loves reading, embroidery, and martial arts. You can follow her homepage at: https://www.blog.melodyemcintyre.com/