‘The Vermilion Book of the Macabre’ by Joe Pawlowski – Review

*Disclaimer – I received free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review*


We erect temples and tell tales of golden beyonds to assuage our fears. We hold tight to hopes of spectral reunions in an ever-crowded afterlife. Perhaps the tales are true. Who knows?

The sojourner reads about all this in her Vermilion Book, learns about those who came before and those who are yet to come. The selfless and the needful, the wicked and the kind, those who stagger under life’s burdens, those who offer shoulders to help others lift their loads. In the end, it appears we were made for the passage, not the destination.

Closing the book, she lies still, lost in dreamy thought, awash in the moonlight.

Synopsis –

From the author of The Watchful Dead and Dark House of Dreams, comes this highly anticipated collection of 16 spellbinding tales of supernatural suspense. All of the people involved lived average lives, until one day they found their realities turned upside down, and recorded by a demonic scribe in an ancient tome known as The Vermilion Book of the Macabre.

Thoughts –

The Vermilion Book of the Macabre is a set of dark fantasy stories set in the same world and linked through the prologue of a young girl reading these stories in an ominous book that she has found – The Vermilion Book. Ranging from stories of evil curses, unfortunate circumstances, and harrowing monsters Pawlowski unravels a narrative where the characters are the anchor point, the setting is undisputed, and the darkness of these stories settles uncomfortably in the mind of the reader. From a manual worker who gradual finds his clumsiness to be more and more constricting in ‘Etched in Stone’ to a woman who has her wishes granted by an unsettling painting that finds its way to her house, wishes that she later regrets in ‘Likeness of the Divine’. We are taken on the harrowing and painful journey of a merchant stolen away by ‘The Craftsmen’ and the terror of a lost identity in ‘Who He Wasn’t’. Each of these stories plays on the fears of a reality shattered, our carefully laid plans torn to ribbons by fate, and our own inner monsters.

The dialogue for the collection was very colloquial and comfortable to read – I may have been projecting here, but I was reading a lot of it in an Irish accent with some of the phrasing that was used. This may not have been intentional but it gave the dialogue for the characters a much more natural feel. Pawlowski’s writing is very accessible, it fits the tone and the setting of each story perfectly, and brings you straight in there with the characters and their surroundings – nothing felt out of place. This would indeed be a blood chilling collection to find as the girl in the prologue has.

Pawlowski interweaves a collection of dark fantasy that brings a chill to the bone.

About the Author –

Joe Pawlowski is a retired journalist living in the Twin Cities area with his wife, Debbie, and rescue dog, Lucy. He is a U.S. Army veteran, a secular Buddhist, a major Beatles fan, a vegan, and a lifelong student of classic horror and supernatural literature. Besides reading and writing, he enjoys music, movies and socializing with his many friends.

Read and Review –




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