To calculate the overall star rating and percentage breakdown by star, we don’t use a simple average. Instead, our system considers things like how recent a review is and if the reviewer bought the item on Amazon. It also analyses reviews to verify trustworthiness.
The short novel and three novellas debuting in A Sinister Quartet play a familiar lament: the abuse by those in power of those they deem powerless. But listen closely: there are crescendos of rebellion, adagios of personal loss, secrets revealed sotto voce and bravura, and a trembling bass line of body horror tying it all together. These stories are not happy, but they are hopeful, even if that hope doesn’t come until the coda.
CSE Cooney's story feels like a blend of SF and high (almost Biblical) fantasy. Cooney’s masterful use of language soars into the ethereal and plummets through the earthen – colors and sounds and smells evoked with unexpected turns of phrase and exacting word choice.
High fantasy and portal fantasy are the genres for “An Unkindness,” Jessica P. Wick’s marvelous look at the power of the Fae over the mortal world. The sibling relationship we see at the beginning of the story is so real and touching that the sudden antipathy/distance of Aliver in the second chapter hits the reader as hard as it does Ravenna. Kudos to Wick for establishing that relationship so well in such a short opening space; the rest of the story would not work as well if we didn’t believe in the bond between sister and brother that threatens to be severed.
Amanda J. McGee’s “Viridian” is very much rooted in the “modern Gothic” and “reconstructed fairy tale” traditions. It’s always interesting to me when a writer can make a story feel both laconic and urgent, and McGee shifts seamlessly from one to the other in the same scene. Of the four stories in A Sinister Quartet, this is the one I can most easily see being adapted to film – and in the right hands, I think it would be amazing.
Finally, “The Comforter” by Mike Allen, is the one most firmly rooted in a single genre. This is body horror, straight-up and unadultered, mixed as it may be with classic supernatural thriller elements. Throughout the story, and in increasing detail as the story unfolds, characters are physically altered in horrific ways. The constant shifts in POV keep the reader off-center and always on edge, not sure where the story will go or how much of the truth will be revealed or even if the disparate threads will converge. It’s a masterful mind-screw.
CSE Cooney. Not her best work but a solid work. The world-building got a little confusing in the first third but straightened out. For a very meticulous author, a surprising number of grammatical errors and other issues a copy editor should have caught. Makes the book worth the buy and this story is worth re-reading.
Jessica Wick. This is the most misogynistic take on Girl-Saves-Boy that I have read in umpteen years. If the author was trying for fairies meet grimdark she succeeded. Zero character development, zero redemption, nothing to respect in any of the characters at the end of the story.
Amanda McGee. I actually cannot remember anything about this story despite the fact that I read it this morning.
Mike Allen. Channeling Stephen King but doing it very very very badly, the only thing more incoherent than the story was the ending.
This collection of four stories is the equivalent of a hearty meal. My favorite part of collections is that you get the voices of four different writers in one beautifully bound book.
C.S.E. Cooney's novella "The Twice-Drowned Saint" immerses you in an entire quirky world of humor and dark whimsy with the same ease you might slid into a pool on a hot day. It's effortless. You want to learn more about this mythical angelic city that is strangely familiar (there are movies and popcorn!) and utterly alien (there are also some truly grotesque creatures that do things like eat deaths and manifest food). Cooney is also amazing at building relationships between characters. You just want to give everyone a hug and the entire thing is over far too soon.
Jessica P. Wick's "An Unkindness" takes some familiar ideas about the faerie realm that play backdrop to a story about the love of one sibling for another, grief and depression. Made me cry. She painted a beautiful, haunting realm in my imagination.
"Viridian" by Amanda J McGee also deals with grief set into a Bluebeard horror story that has you cheering on the main character as she struggles to move forward and heal.
Mike Allen's "The Comforter" has one of the most interesting monsters I've ever read about described in such a way that it was pure, disgusting poetry. It's like one of those things you just can't look away from even though it's gross!
The entire collection is typical Mythical Delirium style: beautiful written, novel, engrossing and wonderful put together to take the reader on a journey through the imaginations of four talented writers. I can't really compare these works to anything else out there. Mike Allen, once again, showcases some one-of-a-kind fiction. They aren't stories, they are beautiful confections. It isn't just what is told but the way it is told. Some phenomenal writing is found here. Highly recommend.
"The Twice-Drowned Saint" --like Hieronymus Bosch meets C.S. Lewis "An Unkindness" --It is truth universally acknowledged that a brother palely loitering in fairy realms is in need of a rescue, or he may find himself paying a teind to hell. "Viridian" --reminiscent of DuMaurier's "Rebecca" ... if Maximillan DeWinter was into necromancy. "The Comforter" --full-bore eldritch horror/body horror; terrifying