Dire Branches: Brian Fatah Steele
Reviewed By Steve Stred
If you’ve been following along with any of my frequent reviews, you’ll know that Brian Fatah Steele is an author that I absolutely love. Each of his releases is an experience for the reader. You know going in that it’ll be massive in scope, full of gore and scares, and that Brian is never, ever afraid to go wherever his mind wants.
When ‘Dire Branches’ was announced, I was so excited, and when I was offered a review copy I was over the moon. I’d heard Brian mention how much research he’d put into this one and so I was really curious to see where this went.
What I liked: ‘Dire Branches’ starts out with a familiar horror book/movie idea. A group of friends head to a house in the woods for a weekend of beer, BBQ and fun times. In this case, unbeknownst to them, the house belongs to Baba Yaga.
From here, Fatah Steele gives us a folklore story that sprints along at breakneck speed. The Slavic folklore characters here are fantastic and writing this review, I’m finding that I can’t even mention some of my own personal highlights, as it’ll fall into spoiler territory. What I can say is that we get to see each of the characters storylines progress and conclude which was fantastic. None of the characters felt tossed in or ‘extra,’ but necessary.
I also really enjoyed Marina’s plotline and finding some cosmic connection between this book and ‘Celestial Seepage’ was a welcome bonus.
What I didn’t like: While it needed to have this number of characters (couples and friends etc) I found at the start it was tough to recall who was who. It went away quick enough but slowed the start a touch for me. Additionally, while the research was great and the Slavic characters were great, I think it could’ve done with half the creatures. You may read this and think it was the perfect amount though!
Why you should buy this: Between Brian Fatah Steele and Joseph Sale, we’ve been blessed to get new releases frequently from such expansive and progressive minds. Fatah Steele wholeheartedly embraces each release and simply goes for it, and the reader is rewarded because of this.
‘Dire Branches’ is Brian’s most solidly formed release that I’ve read where everything clicks and every idea has a beginning, middle and end, making for a truly stunning read.
SLAVIC FOLKLORE MEETS COSMIC HORROR
After a bad breakup, Skye’s friends decide she needs a vacation. They rent Hedwig House in the Appalachian foothills for an extended weekend of partying to get her mind off of things. Just relax with booze, food, and some of her best friends. Best of all, no internet for her to stalk her ex with.
Hedwig House is amazing, the owner even more so, but very quickly things seem off. Shadows lurch among the trees, yellow flowers glaring back at them. The angles of the house tilt unnaturally askew, while the stench of decay blows off the lake. One by one, the friends watch as ancient nightmares come alive.
These are horrors assembled from elsewhere, now traveling with renewed purpose. Legendary abominations devoted to the dread mother and her cause. There are so many choices that could be cursed, failures to be fed upon. Baba Yaga will let you decide your fate, among all these dire branches.
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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