The Indian Lake Trilogy #2: Don’t Fear the Reaper – Stephen Graham Jones

“You don’t get to pick your genre”

I love Jade Daniels! Not to bits and pieces, as would be Dark Mill South’s preference, but enough. As far as I’m concerned, she was final girl material long before the events of My Heart is a Chainsaw. You don’t survive what she has without being able to think on your feet, trust what your gut is telling you and learning how to outmanoeuvre whoever’s playing the role of Big Bad today.

Jade’s love and extensive knowledge of horror movies helped her make it to the sequel with a heartbeat. While Jade spent her life prior to Jaws Night praying for a slasher to bloody up Proofrock, she’s not actively trying to conjure up a sequel. Having now lived through a reddening, Jade is only too aware of how it feels when fiction becomes reality.

The girl she used to be would have been thrilled about all this, would have had her black pompoms out, to cheer it on.

She’s different now, though. This isn’t exciting to her anymore. It’s exactly as terrifying as it should be.

Despite the absolute kickassness she displayed in her first Proofrock massacre, Jade still doesn’t see herself as a final girl. She probably never will. But I see you, Jade, even when you’re calling yourself Jennifer.

“But you’re still you. Different name, same girl.”

While I really liked Letha in the first book, she ramped up her badassness in this one. I would distract Dark Mill South to give this woman a better chance of surviving the slaughter.

Initially, I only wanted to hear from Jade. And maybe Letha. It wasn’t long, though, before the multiple perspectives won me over.

I missed Jade’s history essays so much! They were entertaining, insightful and obviously well researched. I need every horror movie to come with a Stephen Graham Jones commentary.

I attended some of the most difficult appointments of my life last year and, in preparation, someone suggested I choose a book character I could channel to get me through them. I chose Jade Daniels. Before every appointment I’d reread all of the sentences I highlighted in My Heart is a Chainsaw. I’d think about Jade’s strength as I walked into every appointment and would borrow what I needed.

When I love a book the way I loved My Heart is a Chainsaw, the prospect of a sequel both thrills and terrifies me. I can’t wait to spend more time with the strangers turned kindred spirits I met in the first book. At the same time, I worry that a sequel won’t be able to replicate the magic I found there. Don’t Fear the Reaper exceeded my expectations.

Now I’m worried about the third book, but only because it’s the final book in the series. I never want to say goodbye to Jade Daniels. She’ll always be my final girl.

Quote that hit me the hardest:

“I was a scared little girl, I thought – I thought if I knew all the rules, if I knew all the rules, then that would mean – that would mean nothing would happen to me!”

Come to Proofrock, the town that’s gonna need a bigger morgue. The snow is red this year, the movie references are prolific and your insides can become your outsides, even though it’s slasher off season.

“They’re-they’re all dead, I think. Including … me.”

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Titan Books for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Four years after her tumultuous senior year, Jade Daniels is released from prison right before Christmas when her conviction is overturned. But life beyond bars takes a dangerous turn as soon as she returns to Proofrock. Convicted Serial Killer, Dark Mill South, seeking revenge for thirty-eight Dakota men hanged in 1862, escapes from his prison transfer due to a blizzard, just outside of Proofrock, Idaho.

Dark Mill South’s Reunion Tour began on December 12th, 2019, a Thursday.

Thirty-six hours and twenty bodies later, on Friday the 13th, it would be over.

The Fervor – Alma Katsu

Two words: spider demon!

Meiko and her twelve year old daughter, Aiko, have been at Camp Minidoka, an internment camp in Idaho, for two years when an unidentified illness begins to spread through the camp.

Archie is a preacher with a past that haunts him.

He’d thought he’d outrun it, but all this time Hell had been waiting for him with its mouth wide open.

Fran is a journalist who’s on the verge of uncovering the story of her career.

You’d think the spider demon would be the scariest thing about this book, but it’s not. The real monster in this story is fear of the other and the hatred it spawns.

This story is mostly set in the 1940’s and, although I’d love to be able to say otherwise, it could easily have been written about today. The racism and xenophobia are incredibly difficult to read about because, although this book is fiction, the interactions between the characters are all too real, and that’s terrifying.

I loved Aiko, an outcast wherever she goes because her mother is Japanese and her father is white. She’s resilient, she’s resourceful and she spends her free time drawing demons.

The demons, Aiko said, knew everything.

I wish more time had been spent with the jorogumo but Google has answered my outstanding questions and shown me some decidedly creepy artwork so I’m all good. For now. I need more Japanese mythology in my life.

The world is rarely what it shows you.

I definitely want to read more books by this author.

Content warnings include death by suicide, miscarriage, physical abuse, racism and xenophobia.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

As World War II rages, Meiko shares eerie childhood stories, of yokai and malevolent demons, with her daughter, Aiko. These stories hold them together as they must confront the horror of being shipped to an internment camp in the Midwest. Never mind that Aiko is American, that her father is in the US Navy. They are Japanese. 

As Meiko and Aiko learn to live in captivity, a contagion begins to spread in the camp. What starts as a cold quickly becomes fits of violence and aggression, even death, and soon a government medical team arrive, more sinister than the illness itself. 

Meanwhile strange things are happening outside the camp. Wrecked weather balloons and tragic explosions draw Fran, a German expat journalist, and Archie, a widowed minister, into a world of conspiracy and creatures in the shadows. 

As the world tears itself apart, it falls to Meiko, Fran and Archie to lay their country’s demons to rest.

Wayward Children #8: Lost in the Moment and Found – Seanan McGuire

Illustrations – Rovina Cai

Every Heart a Doorway remains my favourite book of all time and I can’t imagine a day when Wayward Children won’t be my favourite series. I look forward to January every year so I can renew the search for my own door.

But … a little piece of my heart breaks every time I’m introduced to a wayward child. I can never forget that childhood trauma connects every wayward. After all, if everything in their lives was unicorns and rainbows, they wouldn’t need a door.

“Some children need to escape from places that will only hurt them, or grind them away until they’re nothing. And some children need to go somewhere else if they’re ever going to grow into the people they were meant to be. The Doors choose carefully.”

It’s safe to say that I hurt for every wayward but Antsy’s story broke me in a way that no other has.

That was the fourth thing she lost: the belief that if something made her unhappy or uncomfortable, she could tell an adult who loved her and they would make everything better.

I didn’t run soon enough. I don’t have words to explain how relieved I am that Antsy did. Not that there wasn’t a cost.

Doors always comes with a cost. Maybe you age out of the world where you belong or you accidentally break a rule and it kicks you out. Antsy’s experience with doors is unlike any we’ve been granted access to before and the cost is similarly unique.

When you consider the reason Antsy found her door in the first place, you’ll realise how appropriate the cost is. People who have experienced trauma that’s a similar shape to Antsy’s will likely have seen this cost play out in their own lives. Maybe not as visibly as in Antsy’s story but it’s still recognisable on the inside.

I doubt we’ll ever walk through Seanan’s door and I don’t think we should ever ask that of her because doors and the worlds that lie behind them are personal. However, between the dedication and the existence of cat-people, I’m pretty sure we’ve never been closer to it.

I would never expect anything different from Rovina Cai but I need to say that the illustrations in this book were practically perfect in every way.

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I was absolutely delighted to discover that a couple of my favourite Door-touched people had cameos in this book.

Favourite quote:

“If an adult hurt you, that’s on them, not on you. Being bruised doesn’t make you bad, unless you’re a peach, and even a bruised peach is good for making jam.”

I’m thinking of starting a petition to name every month January so I don’t have to wait so long to go on my next not a quest with a wayward.

Content warnings include emotional abuse, gaslighting, grief, grooming and physical abuse.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Welcome to the Shop Where the Lost Things Go.

If you ever lost a sock, you’ll find it here.
If you ever wondered about favourite toy from childhood… it’s probably sitting on a shelf in the back.
And the headphones that you swore that this time you’d keep safe? You guessed it…

Antoinette has lost her father. Metaphorically. He’s not in the shop, and she’ll never see him again. But when Antsy finds herself lost (literally, this time), she finds that however many doors open for her, leaving the Shop for good might not be as simple as it sounds.

And stepping through those doors exacts a price.

Lost in the Moment and Found tells us that childhood and innocence, once lost, can never be found.

Mort the Meek #3: Mort the Meek and the Perilous Prophecy – Rachel Delahaye

Illustrations – George Ermos

Welcome to Brutalia, where the smell hits you before the locals do. I’m proud to say that my visits thus far have not resulted in ravens eating my eyes. I’ve also somehow managed to avoid being mauled or hugged to death by a Grot Bear.

So why would I want to brave the dangers of Crashbang Cove to return to a decidedly unwelcoming, rat infested island where the locals extend “fists of ferocity”? 

Well, it might have something to do with a trio of locals whose ethos doesn’t quite line up with that of their fellow Brutalians.

“Fighting for what’s right without fighting is always a bit of a struggle,” Mort said. “But, if we surrender, the war on violence will be over.”

Mort, his best friend Weed and tone deaf Punky comprise three quarters of the Pacifist Society of Brutalia. When I tell you Mort and Weed are about to go to war, you’ll understand they’re not exactly thrilled about it.

In this book we meet the locals of Bonrock, who may seem friendly but are they really more interested in torture? We also encounter war toucans, watch poor Doris get demoted and are introduced to Brutalia’s new soup sayer!

I always look forward to the quips at the beginning of each chapter in this series. In the first book, these were made by a couple of chatty, eye hungry ravens. In the second book, we met lobsters Larry and Bruce. This time, we’re introduced to Ratto and Ratty.

Brutalia has long been a place where a misunderstood homonym can result in grievous bodily harm. When you read the author’s bio and discover they studied linguistics, it makes sense how much fun words get to have in this series. It’s easy to imagine the homonyms hanging out with the homophones and the synonyms playing hide and seek with the similes. 

George Ermos’ cover image was what interrupted my scrolling long enough for me to read the blurb of the first book. The illustrations in this book add to the humour. The characters are expressive and there are plenty of fighty, ratty and soupy moments.

Come to Brutalia, where the locals “live like cockroaches and smell like a thousand demon farts”. You won’t be disappointed, although you may need a long, hot shower when you get home.

Favourite no context quote:

“I listen only to the soup.”

Readers with emetophobia may have trouble with some scenes.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Stripes Publishing, an imprint of Little Tiger Group, for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

When Brutalia’s ever suspicious Queen is forewarned of a new enemy – a nearby island called Bonrock – Mort is worried. As a pacifist, he’s a firm believer that strangers are just friends they haven’t met yet. Then he and his best friend and fellow pacifist Weed are sent to the island to investigate.

But Bonrock is a warm and welcoming place, with luscious landscapes and tropical waters. Mort’s relieved – there’s no need to fight! Until they stumble upon something terrifying… Perhaps there really is trouble in paradise?

Arc of a Scythe #3.5: Gleanings – Neal Shusterman

I love the scythedom and couldn’t wait to spend more time in Citra and Rowan’s world. This anthology contains twelve short stories and one poem. There’s a bonus story in the Barnes & Noble Exclusive Edition, which I’ll be reading as soon as it finishes its journey across the ocean to meet me.

There are backstories and glimpses of what happened after The Toll for some characters we already know, as well as introductions to some robes whose colours we haven’t seen before. Some stories are written by Neal Shusterman, while others are collaborations with other authors. The poem is written by Neal’s daughter, Joelle.

After a bit of a shaky start, I began to find stories that enriched what I already know of this world. Of the thirteen gleanings in this collection, I found six favourites, one short of an octave.

In Formidable, Scythe Curie has recently finished her apprenticeship and has not yet become the self assured legend she is when Citra gets to know her after her own apprenticeship.

“The future is unfettered. Long live us all!”

A Death of Many Colours sees scythe deniers being confronted with a little bit too much reality.

“Let’s give you a new perspective.”

Kohl Whitlock’s sister’s reaction to his gleaning takes us to Unsavory Row.

But giving an unsavory parameters was just a dare to break them.

In A Martian Minute, we learn Carson Lusk’s backstory.

Sometimes, when your life is wheels within wheels, you can take a wrong step and get ground up in the slow churn of the gears.

The Mortal Canvas (co-authored by David Yoon) introduces four students who create art under exceptional circumstances.

“From this moment on, no one will ever know what it feels like to be complete.”

I loved learning what became of Citra’s brother, Ben, in Anastasia’s Shadow.

It was hard enough being the brother of Scythe Anastasia. He was constantly being compared to her, and constantly being reminded that he did not compare.

I will always welcome new stories from the scythedom.

Thank you so much to Walker Books Australia for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

There are still countless tales of the Scythedom to tell. Centuries passed between the Thunderhead cradling humanity and Scythe Goddard trying to turn it upside down. For years humans lived in a world without hunger, disease, or death with Scythes as the living instruments of population control.

Neal Shusterman – along with collaborators David Yoon, Jarrod Shusterman, Sofía Lapuente, Michael H. Payne, Michelle Knowlden, and Joelle Shusterman – returns to the world throughout the timeline of the Arc of a Scythe series. Discover secrets and histories of characters you’ve followed for three volumes and meet new heroes, new foes, and some figures in between.

Gleanings shows just how expansive, terrifying, and thrilling the world that began with the Printz Honor–winning Scythe truly is.

Arc of a Scythe #3: The Toll – Neal Shusterman

“Can we … do that?” Nietzsche asked.

“We’re scythes; we can do anything we please.”

Scythe is one of my favourite books of all time and I was hooked for the entire series. I love the characters. I can’t get enough of the history, mythology and practices of all of the scythes, both those I love and those I love to hate. I’ve probably spent too much time deliberating about what colour my robe would be, who I’d choose as my Patron Historic and what my gleaning MO would be.

I had so many questions going into this book and I got answers, even when they didn’t look anything like I’d expected them to. I’m satisfied with most of them, with the exception of probably the biggest of them all, where we left Rowan and Citra.

This book was well written, like the rest of the series, and I couldn’t put it down. So why aren’t I absolutely thrilled right now?

I think part of it was that for much of the book I like like I was treading water, waiting for the big finish. Characters who I absolutely adore barely spent any time together when I’d looked forward to them bantering their way through the pages.

I hurt for Faraday and, like Munira, I couldn’t make it better; the Faraday in this book didn’t feel like the Faraday that made me fall in love with the scythedom. I couldn’t spend time with one of my favourite scythes because of the events of the second book.

Greyson, who wowed me in the second book, seemed more like a puppet going through the motions for most of this one and I missed the Greyson I thought I was going to hang out with here. I desperately wanted a huge showdown with the Big Bad.

Okay, so it’s starting to sound like I hated this book, but I didn’t. It was still a four star read for me, so pretty impressive. I think it’s just a case of my expectations being so unreasonably high and, as a result, reality had no hope of growing tall enough to reach them. Even though I’ve only recently reread it, I want to read Scythe again to renew my first love.

Yes, of course I sent a test email to Loriana’s email address. No, it didn’t work.

Favourite no context quote:

And what was that old mortal-age saying? Curiosity was a cat killer?

Content warnings include death by suicide and mention of self harm.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In a world that’s conquered death, will humanity finally be torn asunder by the immortal beings it created?

Citra and Rowan have disappeared. Endura is gone. It seems like nothing stands between Scythe Goddard and absolute dominion over the world scythedom. With the silence of the Thunderhead and the reverberations of the Great Resonance still shaking the earth to its core, the question remains: Is there anyone left who can stop him?

The answer lies in the Tone, the Toll, and the Thunder.

Arc of a Scythe #2: Thunderhead – Neal Shusterman

“Well, then,” said Supreme Blade Kahlo, raising her hand in a grand dramatic gesture, “let the wild rumpus start!”

I tend to be one of those people who read the next book in a series I’m following as soon as it’s published (earlier if I can get my hands on an advanced copy) and then spend the next year hanging precariously over a cliff while I wait to find out what’s going to happen next. All I can think after finishing this book is how grateful I am that this time, I’m late to the party.

I read Scythe for the first time shortly after it was released and began this book soon after it was published. Then something happened, which I can’t even remember now, that took me away from it before I finished and unfinished it’s remained. Until now. I don’t know how I would have managed if I’d had to wait a year to see how everything unfolds from here but it wouldn’t have been pretty. This is a series you definitely need to binge.

I love vigilante Rowan, AKA, Scythe Lucifer. He’s not just making corrupt scythes deadish; he’s making sure they don’t come back. As he researched his potential targets and stalked them prior to taking their lives, he reminded me of the Green Arrow. I wanted his kills to come with a catchphrase … You have failed this Scythedom.

Meanwhile, Citra (now Scythe Anastasia) did me proud as a junior scythe. Taking on the best of what both of her mentors taught her but making it her own, Citra’s scythe MO was compassionate and thoughtful, and everything I expected from her.

“She is a fresh voice of reason and responsibility. She can make the old ways new again. Which is why they fear her.”

However, it was her strength, tenacity and courage that really captivated me. It’s one thing to do the right thing but it’s another thing entirely when the right thing isn’t the easy thing and your decisions come with consequences you can’t necessarily predict and aren’t always in your favour.

The big surprise for me, though, was Greyson. I didn’t expect much from him, even though it was clear from the beginning that his role in this series was going to be significant. I enjoyed watching as he began to transform into Slayd. His journey introduced me to unsavouries, whose particular brand of rebellion I found fascinating.

I need to live in the restored Great Library of Alexandria. It contains 3.5 million volumes of scythe journals!

Favourite no context quotes:

Permission is the bloated corpse of freedom.

“We are forever impaled upon our own wisdom.”

“Deadish men tell no tales for a while.”

To borrow a new favourite phrase, this book was “fun-and-a-half”. I’m starting The Toll immediately.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Humans learn from their mistakes. I cannot. I make no mistakes.

The Thunderhead is the perfect ruler of a perfect world, but it has no control over the scythedom. A year has passed since Rowan had gone off grid. Since then, he has become an urban legend, a vigilante snuffing out corrupt scythes in a trial by fire. His story is told in whispers across the continent.

As Scythe Anastasia, Citra gleans with compassion and openly challenges the ideals of the “new order.” But when her life is threatened and her methods questioned, it becomes clear that not everyone is open to the change.

Old foes and new enemies converge, and as corruption within the Scythedom spreads, Rowan and Citra begin to lose hope. Will the Thunderhead intervene?

Or will it simply watch as this perfect world begins to unravel?

Arc of a Scythe #1: Scythe – Neal Shusterman

Hope in the shadow of fear is the world’s most powerful motivator.

This book became one of my favourite reads of all time when I met Citra and Rowan five years ago. Since then I’ve wanted to visit them again but, like all of the books I’ve fallen in love with as an adult, I’ve procrastinated my reread. I wanted to hold onto the love at first read that I experienced. I was concerned that the shine wouldn’t be there the second time around.

I needn’t have worried. I didn’t think it possible but the reread shone even brighter for me. The characters I knew and loved, and those I loved to hate, came to me fully formed; I didn’t need to reacquaint myself with them, even after all of this time.

Citra and Rowan have been selected to undertake an apprenticeship. They will be spending the next year competing against one another for a job neither of them want. Ironically, this makes them the perfect candidates. Although they are both going to be trained by Scythe Faraday, their apprenticeships will be vastly different.

Theirs is a world of splats and revival centres, where nanites can dull your pain but also limit the spectrum of your emotions. It’s also a world where serial killers are not only sanctioned but revered. Here they’re called scythes and their kills aren’t murder; they’re gleanings.

Scythes have a quota of 260 gleanings per year. While this sounds like death is around every corner, your odds of being gleaned in the next 100 years are only 1 in 100.

On the one hand, I have trouble imagining living in a world where we know everything there is to know and have conquered disease and mortality itself. On the other hand, I was fully immersed in Citra and Rowan’s world. I believed.

I imagined the joy of having time to learn everything I wanted to learn, read all of the books on my TBR list and experience everything I’ve ever dreamed of. But because time’s no longer finite, the urgency of our world doesn’t exist in Citra and Rowan’s. There’s nothing left to strive towards, nothing new to discover.

With nothing to really aspire to, life has become about maintenance. Eternal maintenance.

I adored Scythe Faraday, with his thoughtful, compassionate approach. I loved the excerpts from scythes’ journals that caused me to think more deeply about their world as well as our own. I’m still chewing on the philosophical and moral issues raised in this book.

Favourite no context quote:

Well, she could learn self-control tomorrow. Today she wanted pizza.

This remains one of my favourite books of all time. I can’t wait to binge the rest of the series.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Thou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life – and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe – a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.

When Women Were Dragons – Kelly Barnhill

“All women are magic. Literally all of us. It’s in our nature. It’s best you learn that now.”

Sometimes a cover image is enough to reel me in. Sometimes I only need to read the blurb to know for sure that a book is destined to become a favourite. Sometimes, just sometimes, I’ll only make it to the third page before I buy the ebook so I can highlight passages to my heart’s content. This is that book.

Marya Tilman’s transformation on 18 September 1898 was the “earliest scientifically confirmed case of spontaneous dragoning within the United States” but there were records of dragoning occurring centuries prior. You might believe that it was all over after the Mass Dragoning of 1955 but you’d be wrong. So very wrong.

For those whose feet remained firmly on the ground on 25 April 1955, life went on. People still went to work. Children still went to school. It was business as usual. But this new normal came at a cost.

Dragoning is unmentionable. Don’t talk about what happened.

Forget those who dragoned. They never existed in the first place.

Keep your eyes on the ground. You don’t want any dangerous ideas.

Perhaps this is how we learn silence – an absence of words, an absence of context, a hole in the universe where the truth should be.

This is Alex’s memoir (of sorts). Alex saw her first dragon when she was four. She was still a child when the Mass Dragoning happened. Through her eyes, we not only see how the Mass Dragoning changed society as a whole but also how it impacted upon Alex’s own family.

Through dragoning, this book explores trauma and the silencing that often takes place in its aftermath. It’s about how women diminish themselves to fit into the shape that society prescribes and the toxicity of secrets. It’s the power of women taking up space and refusing to be gaslit anymore.

When I started this book I thought it was going to be about an alternate 1950’s, one where women got pissed off with the patriarchy and turned into dragons. And it is. Sort of. But it’s so much more. There’s rage in this book but there’s also joy.

It is joy that burns me now, and joy that makes my back ache for wings, and it is joy that makes me long to be more than myself.

I fell in love with auntie Marla and Beatrice. I met the best librarian ever. I felt rage and helplessness alongside determination and hope and love. I ugly cried. Oh, did I ugly cry.

I felt a kinship with the characters who dragoned and a fire inside that I fully expected to result in my own dragoning. I love this book so much!

“Today’s the day!”

Content warnings include mention of alcoholism, death of animals, domestic abuse, racism and sexual assault.

Thank you so much to Allen & Unwin for the opportunity to read this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

In a world where girls and women are taught to be quiet, the dragons inside them are about to be set free …

In this timely and timeless speculative novel, set in 1950’s America, Kelly Barnhill exposes a world that wants to keep girls and women small – and examines what happens when they rise up. 

Alex Green is four years old when she first sees a dragon. In her next-door neighbour’s garden, in the spot where the old lady usually sits, is a huge dragon, an astonished expression on its face before it opens its wings and soars away across the rooftops.

And Alex doesn’t see the little old lady after that. No one mentions her. It’s as if she’s never existed.

Then Alex’s mother disappears, and reappears a week later, one quiet Tuesday, with no explanation whatsoever as to where she has been. But she is a ghostly shadow of her former self, and with scars across her body – wide, deep burns, as though she had been attacked by a monster who breathed fire.

Alex, growing from young girl to fiercely independent teenager, is desperate for answers, but doesn’t get any.

Whether anyone likes it or not, the Mass Dragoning is coming. And nothing will be the same after that. Everything is about to change, forever.

And when it does, this, too, will be unmentionable…

Classic Monsters Unleashed – James Aquilone (editor)

It’s a given that whenever Seanan McGuire contributes a story to an anthology I’ll be reading it but, in my experience, anthologies themselves can be a bit hit or miss. This anthology promises stories that “reanimate, reimagine, subvert, and pay homage” to monsters you already know and love.

Classic Monsters Unleashed includes twenty nine (!) stories and one poem, featuring Dracula, the Mummy, the Invisible Man and so many other favourites. Basically, it was destined to wind up on my TBR pile.

If I can say I liked half of the contributions in an anthology I usually call that a win. Having thoroughly enjoyed over three quarters of the monstrous fun on offer here, it’s safe to say this is one of my favourite anthologies to date.

I tried to come up with a list of my top five reads but am happy to report that I failed. So, the six I loved the most, listed in the order I read them because it sounds too much like hard work to rank them, are:

Höllenlegion by Jonathan Maberry

Unleashes Dr. Moreau

“What you are planning is madness”

Old Monsters Never Die by Tim Waggoner

Unleashes a character inspired by the Wolfman

“I’ve come to do something much worse.”

The Viscount and the Phantom by Lucy A. Snyder

Unleashes Phantom of the Opera

“The Palais Garnier presents a unique opportunity for a young gentleman of your tastes.”

Modern Monsters by Monique Snyman

Unleashes a character inspired by The Fly

“I hope you’re ready to see something spectacular”

Hacking the Horseman’s Code by Lisa Morton

Unleashes Headless Horseman

What? It isn’t supposed to do that.

“Can” Doesn’t Mean “Should” by Seanan McGuire

Unleashes Mad Scientist

We’re the children of the laughter and the lightning, and we exist in the pause between “can” and “should”.

Because I read an advanced copy I haven’t seen all of the illustrations that will be included in the final version yet. What I have seen, though, are absolutely incredible! I want framed copies of all of them, but none more than Mister Sam Shearon’s Frankenstein’s Monster.

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My aimless wandering has resulted in me accidentally discovering there’s going to be another Unleashed anthology. There’s currently a Kickstarter for … wait for it … Shakespeare Unleashed! I definitely need this in my life.

Thank you so much to NetGalley, Crystal Lake Publishing and Black Spot Books for the opportunity to read this anthology.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Once Upon a Blurb

Stories of famous monsters in a new horror anthology edited by James Aquilone and featuring Joe R. Lansdale, F. Paul Wilson, Jonathan Maberry, Ramsey Campbell, and many others.

Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, the Bride of Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Moreau, the Headless Horseman, the Invisible Man, the Phantom of the Opera, the Wicked Witch of the West – they’re all here, in this collection of horror short stories that reimagine, subvert, and pay homage to our favourite monsters and creatures.

Written by the biggest names in the genre – including Joe R. Lansdale, F. Paul Wilson, Jonathan Maberry, Ramsey Campbell, Lisa Morton, Owl Goingback, Richard Christian Matheson, Seanan McGuire, Maurice Broaddus, Dacre Stoker, Linda D. Addison, Alessandro Manzetti, Tim Waggoner, John Palisano, Mercedes M. Yardley, Lucy A. Snyder, Gary A. Braunbeck, Rena Mason, and Monique Snyman.

And monstrously illustrated by Colton Worley and Mister Sam Shearon.