‘Howls from the Dark Ages: A Medieval Horror Anthology – Review

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

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There’s something delicious about medieval images of Hell too, isn’t there? None of this existential Hell is other people hooey. When you come to medieval Hell, you’re in for torture, devils, fire, and seas of the damned that are nauseating in their scope. Medieval Catholicism didn’t fuck around. It was in a fight to the death, not only with Islam, secularism, and much older indigenous religions; it was amputating and burning mutations in the DNA of its own teachings. You would not only go to Hell for murder; you’d go for heresy. You’d go for believing Christ was only spirit and never had a body. You’d go for not believing the bread you at at Mass was Christ’s body.

So Hell had to be really good at being really bad.

It had to be worse than the short, overworked, oppressed, shame-filled, opiate free life of war, famine and plague its underfed population lived from day to day and season to season.

And you know what?

It almost was.

Come and see, come and see.

– Foreword extract by Christopher Buehlman

Synopsis –

HOWL Society Press presents Howls From the Dark Ages, a horror anthology with 18 thrilling tales of medieval macabre and a foreword by Christopher Buehlman, author of Between Two Fires.

Thoughts –

With a range of ideas, cultures, and curiosities, Howls from the Dark Ages takes the reader back through time and puts the real DARK in dark ages. Accompanying each story is an equally curious and intriguing illustration of an object from that story, tying the whole anthology together as a fanciful tour through an ominous museum.

Ranging from the expected medieval age of England where monks find themselves confined to monasteries where devils disguise themselves as angels and forbidden loves are struck down by mysterious glowing mushrooms, to Irish mercenaries accepting a well earned drink at a feast that may lead to even more bloodshed, and an arranged marriage haunted by the ghost of a jilted lover. Each story is more dark and mysterious than the last and there is something for every horror reader, whether you enjoy ghosts, monsters, or just plain murder.

It was also refreshing to see great queer representation in this collection, as well as having a look at the medieval time period in different countries and cultures around the world.

Howls from the Dark Ages is an entertaining and frightening read, and the inclusion of the museum tour guide and the dark illustrations ties everything together beautifully.

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‘Diaries of the Damned’ by Ivan Radev – Review

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

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Foreword (Extract)

This is a book of fears. Manifesting themselves as malicious monsters, my mind’s maladies formed crooked, misshapen phrases. Thus, they merged with reality. This release fully intends to give nightmares, shed tears, carve gentle scars into the soul of the reader. It is evil.

“Diaries of the Damned” is a work of fiction, but the feelings it expresses and evokes are all too real. There’s rampaging existential dread, psychological pain, loneliness, angst, and absolute, abominable horror. It is a hand that grips at the neck with no remorse, no compassion, nothing but the desire to blacken everything it touches.

However, I wish it also brings hope. After all, only light can cast shadows. The splendor of the stars, the magnificence of the mountains, the vastness of the universe are all beautiful things that make our existence seem small and meaningless. We are all too human: our lives are short, and death is the great validation that we ever lived.

Synopsis –

This anthology is not for the faint of heart and easily disturbed. All eleven narrators suffer from mental affliction, excruciating existential dread, or terminal despair. This book is evil. It is absolutely capable of inducing nightmares and scarring the mind. The characters within are ruthlessly relatable; they are normal people who drew the short straw. They got sick or old or just lost it all.

Beware the Damned! They are trapped inside wailing, waiting for a willing victim, a witness to their tales and tears.

Thoughts –

Diaries of the Damned from Ivan Radev is a collection of eleven stories told in some form by a narrator. Whether through diary style entries, interview transcripts, or online blog posts, the stories in this collection are all linked by one common thread – each narrator has an overwhelming and universal fear that is exposed through the telling of their story. This was a five star collection for me because not a single one of these stories was a miss, every single one was a hit. From the slow building tension and Lovecraftian horror of ‘The Transcript of Timothy Parker’s Interrogation, Deep Dive (Unsaved)’, to the dark and modern humour of ‘The Incident At the Toilet Paper Aisle’, Radev shows his considerable scope with pacing, language, voice, and strong and relatable characters.

Among some of the themes and fears explored in this collection are the fear of loneliness, of losing the person that you love the most, as well as the inevitability of time marching inexorably forward, and death itself. On the other hand, there are some narrators that embody the thing that is to be feared. Each story is told from a first person perspective in some way, thus the ‘diaries’ theme, but this never felt repetitive or overplayed, he did well in bringing variety into the collection.

I thoroughly enjoyed this collection and will definitely be perusing these stories again at some point.

About the Author –

Ivan Radev is a literary horror writer with an obsession for the arts, the absurd, the existential, the eclectic. His stories range from the naively romantic to the dreadfully deranged. One can find equal measures psychological pain and philosophical peace in his content. His writing might appeal to readers of Albert Camus, Edgar Allan Poe, and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

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‘Grim Fate’ by Nicho Young – Review

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

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The autumn leaves slowly tumbled to the ground in a graceful dance that reminded the man of a dream he had once upon a time. In the dream there were men and women whirling in ceremonial dress around a child who was lying on the ground, completely silent. Everything was in slow motion, and while it could have been a peaceful scene, there was something wrong about it. It struck the man as more of a warning and less of a dream; almost as if there were clues he was supposed to follow in order to understand the basic nature of the scene playing out before him.

The child, an infant, was watching the procession with understanding in its eyes, as if it already knew what the dance was for, and why it was being performed. There was something ritualistic to the movements; an appeasement dance perhaps, or a dance to ward off some unseen evil spirit. An itch at the back of the man’s head told him there was something familiar with the scene, something more than simply a dream, but then he had awakened. It had happened as soon as he was noticed as a bystander of the dance. And, as dreams most often do, the details had begun to fade the moment the man’s eyes adjusted to the darkness in his room. Most dreams of this nature drifted out of the head completely, and this one was no exception, until the man watched the swirling autumn leaves gracefully descend to the earth below.

Synopsis –

Marcus Grimm is a paranormal investigator who has made a living determining if supernatural events are occurring. Although he has a special intuition and connection to the Otherworld, he remains a skeptic, which allows him to figure out if there is a genuine event or if a family is trying to get their fifteen minutes of fame.

When Marcus meets John Billings and his children at their house, he has a sense that the events John describes are very real. As Marcus explores the house for signs of supernatural activity he not only learns more about himself, but uncovers truths that will change his life forever.

And he discovers that sometimes accepting invitations can have dire consequences.

Thoughts –

Grim Fate follows a paranormal investigator called to a house by the father of two young children. His wife has just died and he is concerned about some strange activities that are happening in the home that may be affecting his children. Our protagonist, Marcus, has been in a situation before where it was the parent harming the children so he is wary of any red flags when investigating the house, but little does he know, there’s a lot more going on here than even that.

Soon he is interviewing the children and discovering that there certainly are otherworldly forces at play in this house, both manipulative, both relentless, and both set to change the course of Marcus’s life forever. Through his supernatural abilities, the reader gets to know more about Marcus’s own life as well as the life of the family and the children he is trying to protect from this dark and dangerous entity in their home. And it is not clear which side the children’s father is really on.

While there is an interesting premise and good writing in Grim Fate, you are thrown in very much at the deep end. I would have liked to have spent a little more time with the family and the children in the ‘here and now’, instead of immediately delving into past experiences and memories. It gave the story a bit of an unstable feeling and made the climax in the real shared reality feel brittle to the touch. In saying that though, the story itself has its own unique layers and will interest any reader who is into ghosts, demons, and paranormal horror.

About the Author –

Nicho Young grew up in the Pacific Northwest and currently resides in the state of Washington with his wife and 3 (soon-to-be 4) children. When he is not writing he can be found playing with his kids, live streaming online, and watching shows and movies with his wife.

Writing has always been a passion of his and he is excited to be able to share his storytelling with the world. Grim Fate is his debut novel, and he plans on continuing to write and bring stories to everyone for decades to come.

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