author definitely assumes you’re up to speed.
Speaking of speed: the narrative moves at a
very brisk pace, leading to a satisfying conclusion that ties up the plot threads of this
multilayered story. A rousing finale to a highly
original trilogy. —David Pitt
A Secret History of Witches.
By Louisa Morgan.
Sept. 2017. 496p. Redhook, $25 (9780316508551).
Epic in scope and heartbreakingly tender
in its portrayal of mothers and daughters
through time, this novel spans five generations of witches. Starting in France in 1821,
a family of misfit gypsies passes down their
magical knowledge through the generations
via a scrying crystal and dreamy, half-forgotten spells. The historical backdrops are well
researched and it’s fascinating to glimpse the
rise of modern Europe up through WWII.
These clever witches play a critical and surprising role in the outcome of that war. Each
chapter feels like a complete short story, and
the tales are woven together with the enduring threads of family, healing, love, and
magic. Each witch has her own prejudices
and tragedies to conquer, and Morgan deftly
characterizes each woman as unique in both
flaws and supernatural gifts. The magic itself is subtle and rarely used, so most of the
book focuses on the deeply held beliefs and
complicated relationships within a family
that values the profound elements of nature
and the enduring power of women versus
a society that demeans and threatens both.
Recommended for fans of Nora Roberts’
O’Dwyer trilogy and readers of feminist fantasy. —Heather McCammond-Watts
The Stone in the Skull.
By Elizabeth Bear.
Oct. 2017. 368p. Tor, $27.99 (9780765380135); e-book
The Gage and the Dead Man bear a message from a wizard of Messaline; neither of
them is entirely sure what it is, but as they
travel, it becomes increasingly clear that they
are intended to fight in the coming war. The
rajni Sayeh contends with the terrible omen
of tainted water; the rajni Mrithuri fights for
her right to rule herself, rather than marrying one of the few politically acceptable but
odious possibilities; Anuraja in the north
and Himadra in the south are girding for
war. When they arrive at the court after an
arduous journey, matters come, quite dramatically, to a head. Readers familiar with
Bear’s work will recognize the city of Messaline and the names of the Lotus Kingdoms,
but this is the farthest she’s delved into this
shattered empire. As usual, the setting is
wonderfully realized; the characters are
possessed of depth, personality, and individuality; the threads of politics that drive the
plot are a fascinating knot to try to unravel.
This is a promising beginning indeed for an
epic; there are many lines of story left to follow, and it will no doubt be a magnificent
journey. —Regina Schroeder
This year’s crop of creepies is heavy on the historic horror—discov- eries of the present revealing traumas of the past. Also: demon
puppets! Everything here was reviewed in Booklist between August
2016 and July 2017. —Daniel Kraus
The Burning World. By Isaac Marion. 2017. Atria/Emily Bestler, $27
This sequel to Warm Bodies (2011) finds R and Julie preparing zombies to rejoin the world, work interrupted by the thought-dominating
Axion corporation. An epic cross-country journey begins, revealing
just what’s left of the world.
The Family Plot. By Cherie Priest. 2016. Tor, $25.99
A failing salvage company gets a chance to change its fortune by
rescuing valuables from a house scheduled for demolition. But it’s
haunted, and the crew members begin experiencing spectral sights
as they expose the house’s secrets.
Haven. By Tom Deady. 2016. Cemetery Dance, $40 (9781587675133).
Seventeen years after Paul Greymore was put into prison for child
murders on shaky evidence, he’s released—only for the murders to
start over. Paul joins a ragtag group on a journey into the town’s forests and caves to find the monstrous thing truly at fault.
Hekla’s Children. By James Brogden. 2017. Titan, $14.95
Brogden presents two chilling mysteries. A school group on a hike
vanishes, save one, who can’t remember a thing. And what does
this have to do with the Un, an ancient people who used this land to
guard the world from a monster? A dreadful, fast-paced thriller.
Little Heaven. By Nick Cutter. 2017. Gallery, $26 (9781501104213).
Cutter’s latest offering of thoughtful pulp involves the abduction of a girl by a monster
with a score to settle. A group of flawed heroes are thrust into a hellish commune called
Little Heaven. Claustrophobic, exciting, and with philosophical undertones.
A Long December. By Richard Chizmar. 2016. Subterranean, $40 (9781596067936).
Chizmar has spent 27 years running Cemetery Dance Publications, and it shows in this
collection of his own work—subtly terrifying tales of normal lives completely upended by
circumstances beyond control. This is unusually poignant horror.
The Motion of Puppets. By Keith Donohue. 2016. Picador, $26 (9781250057181).
Donohue’s masterpiece of psychological horror follows acrobat Kay, who stumbles
across an old toy store, where she’s transformed into a puppet and held prisoner. As her
husband frantically searches for her, she begins to forget her human world.
Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror. Ed. by Ellen Datlow. 2016. Tachyon,
Queen of the horror anthology Datlow follows up Darkness: Two Decades of Modern
Horror (2010) with this 2005–15 compendium, which delightfully showcases the modern
breadth of horror, from psychologically chilling to all-out terrorizing. A perfect discovery tool.
Reanimatrix. By Pete Rawlik. 2016. Night Shade, $15.99 (9781597808804).
In post-WWI Europe, detective Robert Peaslee found doctors creating a serum to be
used to reanimate dead soldiers. Now, back in New England, he’s on a murder case that
may have ties to that discovery. A hard-boiled, Lovecraft-inspired epistolary horror mystery.
Universal Harvester. By John Darnielle. 2017. Farrar, $25 (9780374282103).
Darnielle’s follow-up to Wolf in White Van (2014) is the unsettling tale of Jeremy, whose
go-nowhere video-store job in 1990s Iowa morphs into David Lynch–like terror when
scenes of apparent torture are dubbed onto some VHS tapes.
TOP 10 HORROR