Shadow Bound: A Gothic Quartet
Reviewed By Steve Stred
You may have seen a few of my reviews lately featuring the fantastic Stephanie Ellis or Alyson Faye. Alyson recently re-released her Christmas collection, and both Alyson and Stephanie appeared in the well done charity anthology; Diabolica Britannica.
When I reviewed Alyson Faye’s ‘Darkness Calls: Tales From the Shadows,’ I mentioned my sorrow over one of her stories not appearing. She messaged me and let me know why, and this duology is the reason.
‘Shadow Bound: A Gothic Quartet‘ features two novellas from Ellis and two from Faye.
What I liked: I loved that this quartet starts off with a double forward. Both authors give us a brief intro and it was such a great thing to see, that they both share such a love and passion for the horror genre.
Ellis starts off with her stunning Short Sharp Shocks release ‘Asylum of Shadows.’ which is a brutal and horrific page-turner.
The story opens up giving the reader hints that it is set in London during the time of the plague. After suffering some heartbreaking losses, our main character Marian is invited to come live in the local hospital by one of the Doctor’s. Once she gets there, she’s given her tasks and she feels a sense of comfort knowing she’s found a home, no matter how temporary.
Ellis creates a claustrophobic environment early on, which she continues to work and suffocate the reader more and more. I found it elevated just how creepy the setting was, of living and working in a hospital, surrounded by the ever-mounting numbers of the dead. To think about walking through the hospital morgue, at night, the only light being that of a candle you held – love it.
To wrap the story up, Ellis then injects a new job that Marian is assigned, this one devastatingly amazing. I never saw this bit coming and it was such a great narrative adjustment, working to amplify everything to another level.
This was such a quick, horrific read.
The second story from Ellis is the fantastic ‘The Face Collector.’ What a creepy tale. A simple man with a checkered past is enjoying some beer at the local inn. A stranger begins to converse with him and before long, the two have agreed on the man working for the stranger. Ellie just knocked this one out of the park. From the eerie business card, the stranger’s movements and arrivals, to the housemaid – it just kept pulling me in. Outstanding stuff and when you get to the ending, wow. Gruesome done right.
From here Faye takes over with her two stories. I’ve mentioned before how Faye is a must-read author for me, and these two stories show why. Much like Ellis, the first story is her Short Sharp Shocks release ‘Night of the Rider.’
This is a dark fantasy with horror on the fringes. I don’t read much fantasy, really only sticking to George RR Martin and Patrick Rothfuss, but this has no problem sitting beside those two literary giants.
We follow Barnabas, a man rushing home after racking up gambling debts and then running afoul of a hunchback. He soon realizes he is being chased by the mythical Rider, out to serve justice.
What I really loved about this story was that in a short page count we get a stunning story, but also a fantastic look at the backstory of the Rider. Usually, when something is this short the author will frequently leave the background details a mystery of the antagonist or monster (heavens knows I’ve done this!), but Faye tackles it full on and because of that we get a substantially deeper, richer experience.
The ending of this is superb.
To finish things off is the stunning ‘When Dead Eyes Weep.’ Originally a bonus story in Faye’s ‘Christmas Terrors‘ this was perhaps my favorite story in that collection. To see it get a proper release warms my heart.
Such a haunting and devastating story, we arrive as a boy and his family prepare to take a mortuary portrait with his dead younger brother. As the picture is taken, he spots what he believes is a tear falling from the deceased eyes. Things unravel from there. I loved this story so much. It was morbid, creepy, unsettling and just destroyed me emotionally.
What I didn’t like: Nothing. Truthfully. These are four stories from two amazing authors who are firing on all cylinders at the top of the short fiction game.
Why you should buy it: Faye and Ellis are clearly writing from a place of love and passion. Even when the stories are dark and horrific, the attention to detail and development of story and character show just how much joy these worlds bring them. Faye has long become one of my favorite writers and Ellis has joined that alongside her. To see them team up and deliver this brought a smile to my face. I sure hope more people discover these two.
Shadow Bound – A Gothic Quartet
Here in one place are four gothic horrors from the pens of writers Stephanie Ellis and Alyson Faye.
From the grime and misery of London’s East End in Ellis’ Asylum of Shadows and The Face Collector to the supernatural darkness of rural England in Faye’s Night of the Rider and When Dead Eyes Weep, you will find experience the chill that only this branch of literature can give.
Steve Stred is the author of a number of novels, novellas and collections. He has appeared in anthologies with some of Horror’s heaviest hitters.
He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada with his wife, son and their dog OJ.
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