Daughters Of Darkness II: Edited By Stephanie Ellis & Alyson Faye
Reviewed By Ben Walker
It’s always nice to see good stories find a home, which according to the introduction for Daughters of Darkness II was exactly the intention here; a place for stories of a more quiet, psychological kind to gather.
And across 8 pieces from 4 authors, that’s exactly what you get, with stories both short and novella-length. It’s a weighty collection, giving each writer room to breathe and show off their styles to the fullest (as the book’s intro also explains).
Beverley Lee starts things off with 4 short stories, which offer up many spine-chilling moments mostly set in the past. Each is enjoyable in its own way, from the grim, foreboding terror which slowly builds throughout A Whiteness of Swans, to the unsettling love story in Tender is the Heart. Then there’s The Boy Who Wore My Name, which puts an interesting spin on an old classic, and finally the claustrophobic chills of The Secret of Westport Fell. There are a fair few familiar tropes to be found amongst these tales, and a returning theme of secrets either being kept from or haunting the various characters, but it’s all handled in a way that’ll make you bulge your eyes with nervous anticipation, not roll them with impatience.
Lynn Love then gives you A Light in the Darkness, a tale told across three parts, spanning 20 years from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. There’s all the gothic goodness you can imagine in here: plenty of creeping dread, things half-seen in the shadows, whispers & mutterings, chest-tightening terror and tragic inevitability. It goes beyond the haunted house story you might expect into something just as (if not more) sinister, as truths are gradually revealed on the way to a suitably downbeat ending.
Next is Catherine McCarthy’s novella The Spider and the Stag, dealing with loss & grief at a remote wilderness retreat, teasing out its horror alongside character work which hits pretty hard. The themes explored give a lot of emotional weight to a story that perhaps draws things out a little too long, but there are moments of stark horror punctuating the narrative, which along with a decent bit of mystery manage to keep you engaged, through to a moving denouement.
Last but not least is T.C. Parker who pairs a couple of stories together: The Body Tree, and Undeserving. The first veritably drips with unease, from awkward encounters to gut-twisting ones, the narrative constantly tapping at the back of your brain, maintaining an uncomfortable atmosphere right the way through. There’s one moment in particular which not only calls the character’s motivations into question, but also the reader’s own sense of morality when it comes to prejudice. It’s powerful, brilliant stuff, as is Undeserving, which compliments the previous story and pushes you close to some giddily terrifying imagery amid a tale of persecution, homophobia and sinister forces both human & otherwise.
All told, this is a quality anthology which feels like it was curated with great care and respect for each author’s individual styles. If you’re a fan of slow build horror; of stories you can easily get lost in, then this is definitely worth your time.
Daughters Of Darkness II
The Daughters are back! This time, editors Stephanie Ellis and Alyson Faye have chosen a new quartet of women horror writers to thrill and scare you in the latest anthology, Daughters of Darkness II, from the women-run indie horror press, Black Angel.
Within these shadowed pages you will journey into the depths of the myth-rich Scottish countryside, into the horrors of suburban life, where beneath the skin of Hummingbird Academy the truly macabre ferments. You will encounter haunted girls and young men, with dark and deadly secrets, and travel into the Gothic heartlands, culminating in the hell of WW1 and encounter who or what comes home from the trenches.
These are four women horror writers at the top of their game, conjuring stories of quiet, skin-creeping terror.
Ben got a taste for terror after sneaking downstairs to watch The Thing from behind the sofa at age 9. He’s a big fan of extreme & bizarre horror and well as more psychological frights, and most things in between. When he’s not reading, he’s writing, and when he’s not writing he’s on Twitter @BensNotWriting or reviewing books on his YouTube channel, BLURB.