Tag Archives: Black Feathers

Black Feathers edited by Ellen Datlow

Overview
Image result for black feathers ellen datlow book cover

Title: Black Feathers
Author: Ellen Datlow, Sandra Kasturi, Nicholas Royle, Seanan McGuire, Paul Tremblay, Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Bowes, Alison Littlewood, Jeffrey Ford, Mike O’Driscoll, Usman T. Malik, Stephen Graham Jones, A.C. Wise, M. John Harrison, Pat Cadigan, Livia Llewellyn & Priya Sharma
In: Black Feathers (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Horror, Short story collections
Dates read: 23rd January – 27th April 2019
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Pegasus Books Ltd.
Year: 2017
5th sentence, 74th page: A sudden croaking cry, and she turns to see the great blue heron flying overhead.

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Synopsis

A dazzling anthology of avian-themed fiction guaranteed to frighten and delight, edited by one of the most acclaimed horror anthologists in the genre.

Birds are usually loved for their beauty and their song. They symbolize freedom, eternal life, the soul. But there’s certainly a dark side to the avian. Birds of prey sometimes kill other birds, destroy other birds’ eggs, and even have been known to kill small animals. And who isn’t frightened by birds who eat the dead – vultures awaiting their next meal as the life-blood flows from the dying.

In each of these stories, you will encounter the dark resonance between the human and avian. You will see in yourself the savagery of a predator, the shrewd stalking of a hunter, and you will be lured by birds that speak human language, that make beautiful music, that cypher numbers, and seem to have a moral center. You will wade into this feathered nightmare, and brave the horror of death, trading your safety and sanity for that which we all seek – the promise of flight.

Thoughts

This is my first collection of horror stories. Actually, it’s really my first ever horror novel. So reading this has been a very interesting journey. One that I was surprised to enjoy so much. And, although I didn’t really read any of these stories late at night, I also didn’t get any horrifying nightmares from the tales either. Unlike some of the crime, mystery and thriller novels that I’ve read.

Birds have always fascinated me. And I’ve been wanting to get a parrot for a little while. This collection definitely cured me of that desire. Actually, it cured me of really wanting anything much to do with birds for a little while if I’m being honest. This story not only used the symbolism and activities of birds as a catalyst for the tales of horror, but also pulled them out of your worst nightmares.

Pick this book up if you want a great introduction to the horror genre. And if you have a bit of a fascination with the avian community…

 <- The Best Horror of the Year Volume Eleven ReviewO Terrible Bird Review ->
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The Crow Palace by Priya Sharma

Overview
Image result for black feathers ellen datlow book cover

Title: The Crow Palace
Author: Priya Sharma
In: Black Feathers (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Family, Horror
Dates read: 27th April 2019
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Pegasus Books Ltd.
Year: 2017
5th sentence, 74th page: It was when she realised that she didn’t sound like other children.

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Synopsis

Julie has returned home to the Crow Palace after years away. Her father’s loss begins to uncover secrets and horrors from the past, making her question everything she is and knows.

Thoughts

This final story in the Black Feathers collection gave me a very uncomfortable feeling. It was a good story to end on, but it was definitely one that made me seriously uncomfortable. It had that open-ended finale that makes you think that the spawn of crows will continue off into the sunset without anyone to stop them.

One of the creepiest things about birds is their tendency to kill their siblings. The oldest and strongest often kills the smaller, younger sibling. And quickly. It seems so normal in the avian world, but when you graft that onto humanity, it’s just a little too spine tinglingly horrifying. Especially when you create a young, innocent and soulfully beautiful younger sibling to match the older, more detached one.

Family is difficult. Even when you are born into a good family, it’s difficult. But when you have one with some incredibly scary secrets and a haunted history… cue the goose bumps people!

 <- The Acid Test ReviewBlack Heart, Ivory Bones Review ->
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The Acid Test by Livia Llewellyn

Overview
Image result for black feathers ellen datlow book cover

Title: The Acid Test
Author: Livia Llewellyn
In: Black Feathers (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 3.5 (Liked this)
My Bookshelves: Horror, Wordplay
Dates read: 27th April 2019
Pace: Fast
Format: Short story
Publisher: Pegasus Books Ltd.
Year: 2017
5th sentence, 74th page: Outside in the hallway, the telephone rings over and over, crying out like a hungry abandoned bird, while beside me the radio on my headstand cackles with the news, and sometimes in the low afternoon light I think I see a faint movement behind its grooved surface, as if the machine is struggling to free itself from the invisible information pouring in and extruding out of the black plastic and metal of its captive brain.

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Synopsis

A tripped out journey through thoughts, misconceptions and the world around us.

Thoughts

I’ve never done acid. But I imagine that the tripped out experience is a lot like this story. Incredibly confusing, unreal and tangentially jumpy. With lots and lots of long, run on sentences.

I didn’t necessarily love this short story. It was very clever and intriguing. But it was also so convoluted and tripped out that I’m not entirely sure what the point and storyline of this tale was. Actually, I turned the last page and just really didn’t know what I had just read at all. It was all very, very confusing.

 <- A Little Bird Told Me ReviewThe Crow Palace Review ->
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A Little Bird Told Me by Pat Cadigan

Overview
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Title: A Little Bird Told Me
Author: Pat Cadigan
In: Black Feathers (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Death, Horror
Dates read: 22nd April 2019
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Pegasus Books Ltd.
Year: 2017
5th sentence, 74th page: “There’s no actual paper-“

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Synopsis

She’s a pen-pusher for the Reapers and Death. But when the birds decide to get involved, things start to get a little confusing.

Thoughts

I have a bit of an obsession with stories about death. Especially ones which personify the collectors of souls which are ready to pass on. There is just something about them that sits so… right with me. Which meant that from the beginning of this story, I was finding it thoroughly enjoyable. If not a little bit odd – after all, I normally tend towards the urban and paranormal fantasy retellings of death, not the horror ones…

Birds have never seemed especially creepy. After all, they’re kind of intriguing, have an intelligence all of their own and can do the cutest, most engaging things. That is until I read this story. Which kind of has a bird uprising against the current system of death. And one that I think could be of both benefit and horror to the masses. It certainly left me feeling a little confused and not at all comfortable with the birds that like to hang out in my front yard…

 <- Isobel Avens Returns to Stepney in the Spring ReviewThe Acid Test Review ->
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Isobel Avens Returns to Stepney in the Spring by M. John Harrison

Overview
Image result for black feathers ellen datlow book cover

Title: Isobel Avens Returns to Stepney in the Spring
Author: M. John Harrison
In: Black Feathers (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Horror, Mental health
Dates read: 12th April 2019
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Pegasus Books Ltd.
Year: 2017
5th sentence, 74th page: London was as quiet as a nursing home corridor.

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Synopsis

China loves Isobel. But Isobel is aiming for something higher. Something that might end their lives together and create a new world view.

Thoughts

This story made me think of anorexia and other eating disorders. Although the storyline features Isobel Avens trying to turn into a bird, her constant weight loss and wish to be something else has serious echoes of an eating disorder. It made me incredibly uncomfortable reading this too, especially since I know a lot of women who have suffered with such horrible body issues…

Unrequited love is a bitch. And honesty, I think it’s what shifts this story into the horror realm for me. It feels like one of the more terrifying things that anyone can experience… China gives his everything to Isobel. And yet, at the end of the tale, that is not enough and he must find a way to either move on in life or be miserable forever…

 <- The Secret of Flight ReviewA Little Bird Told Me Review ->
Image source: Amazon

The Secret of Flight by A. C. Wise

Overview
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Title: The Secret of Flight
Author: A.C. Wise
In: Black Feathers (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Contemporary, Horror
Dates read: 29th March 2019
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Pegasus Books Ltd.
Year: 2017
5th sentence, 74th page: POLICEMAN startles and falls back.

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Synopsis

The secrets held in a play and its play house continue to haunt the director fifty years after the lead actress disappears. As the letters and the play unfold, so do the secrets that have been kept hidden over the years.

Thoughts

There are some short stories that tell a tale, start at the beginning and end at the end. Then there are short stories like this one. They are so open ended you’re not sure if you’ve missed something. So different and convoluted that no matter how many times I read it, I won’t feel like I have accessed all of the information.

There is something about plays and theatres that inspire a level of horror that you don’t find in many other settings. I’m not entirely sure why, maybe it is the juxtaposition between the light and gaudy front and the dark and twisty back. The level of secrecy that is inspired by having a backstage in which an actors’ transformation can occur. Whatever it is, it manages to situate feelings and tales of horror beautifully. And helps to twist this horror into one of tragedy and loss.

The secrets of the actors’ change echo the secrets of her life. The ways in which the starlings haunt the directors every moment make things vaguer and vaguer, more and more intense.

 <- Pigeon from Hell ReviewIsobel Avens Returns to Stepney in the Spring Review ->
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Pigeon from Hell by Stephen Graham Jones

Overview
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Title: Pigeon from Hell
Author: Stephen Graham Jones
In: Black Feathers (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Crime, Horror
Dates read: 21st March 2019
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Pegasus Books Ltd.
Year: 2017
5th sentence, 74th page: We were trading babysitting jobs, Kara and me.

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Synopsis

Little Ben went missing one day, but his pigeon stayed around… to remind her just what she’d done.

Thoughts

This was a haunting story from the very outset. But, honestly, it wasn’t until the story started to unfold that I truly started to get goosebumps. And feel uncomfortable. This is a very different and… well, haunting tale that I don’t think will be leaving me for a very long time.

Initially I really loved this story. I thought that it was a tale with an observer retelling a tragedy. And a crapped out, musty old pigeon was somehow part of it. But, as it unfolded, I realised more and more that this wasn’t really a bystander telling the story. And that there wasn’t going to be any kind of happily ever after.

This is one of those stories that doesn’t have a happy ending. It doesn’t leave you with happy, glowy feelings. But it does leave you thinking. Which means that while I don’t plan on rereading this tale anytime soon, it certainly was a… not fun, but something like it… kind of read.

 <- The Fortune of Sparrows ReviewThe Secret of Flight Review ->
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The Fortune of Sparrows by Usman T. Malik

Overview
Image result for black feathers ellen datlow book cover

Title: The Fortune of Sparrows
Author: Usman T. Malik
In: Black Feathers (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Horror
Dates read: 12th March 2019
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Pegasus Books Ltd.
Year: 2017
5th sentence, 74th page: Still, I sometimes dreamed.

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Synopsis

A home for young girls is haunted by sparrows, but when one of the sisters gets sent off to become a wife, they slowly disappear.

Thoughts

Like a lot of the short stories in Black Feathers, this tale had a very surreal and uncomfortable quality. It was haunting and kind of beautiful. But there was almost a sense of floating while I was reading this (alright, I can’t think of a better way to describe the experience of reading this short story other than floating…)

I never really thought that there was something scary about sparrows. After all, they’re kind of small and petite. They might be in flocks, but they always look so damn cute. Until you get to know a little more about them, and even when you do, they’re still too cute to imagine them being a little scary! But, this story with the flocks hovering through the courtyard and the movements of them all together, makes them a lot more intimidating. And I really don’t know how I’m going to feel the next time I find a flock of sparrows.

 <- Blyth’s Secret ReviewPigeon from Hell Review ->
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Blyth’s Secret by Mike O’Driscoll

Overview
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Title: Blyth’s Secret
Author: Mike O’Driscoll
In: Black Feathers (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4 (Really good read!)
My Bookshelves: Crime, Horror
Dates read: 7th March 2019
Pace: Slow
Format: Short story
Publisher: Pegasus Books Ltd.
Year: 2017
5th sentence, 74th page: She sighed.

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Synopsis

A man with a horrible past and a weird obsession with corvids is trying to communicate with a crow… but when he finally learns his secret, it is far darker than he ever imagined.

Thoughts

Well. This didn’t end like I expected it to. At all. But it did end in a great way. Well, not for Wil, but for me and my sick, happy little brain… it ended brilliantly.

I always feel sympathy for those who are not quite socially… adequate. There is something kind of vulnerable about them. And this was highlighted throughout this story. Wil isn’t quite capable of working with others, and he just wants to be reclusive and left to his own research. But between a creepy corvid who keeps leading him about, and his own social inadequacies, it just isn’t meant to be.

The actual villain in this story was not remotely who I was expecting. I thought that it would be a hidden secret from Wil’s past, but it was someone completely… surprising. Which makes sense, because people like Ted Bundy were also completely unpredictable.

 <- The Murmurations of Vienna Von Drome ReviewThe Fortune of Sparrows Review ->
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The Murmurations of Vienna Von Drome by Jeffrey Ford

Overview
Image result for black feathers ellen datlow book cover

Title: The Murmurations of Vienna Von Drome
Author: Jeffrey Ford
In: Black Feathers (Ellen Datlow)
Rating Out of 5: 4.5 (Amazing, but not quite perfect)
My Bookshelves: Crime, Horror
Dates read: 7th March 2019
Pace: Medium
Format: Short story
Publisher: Pegasus Books Ltd.
Year: 2017
5th sentence, 74th page: “Good lord,” I said, “by this time he could have eaten a half dozen spleens.”

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Synopsis

The Beast has been preying upon a small American town for years, and the local Sheriff knows that it has something to do with Vienna Von Drome. But even with all of his suspicions, he won’t know who the villain truly is until the end.

Thoughts

I actually found this short story a lot more difficult to put down than the other stories which preceded it in Black Feathers. It still had that slightly dark horror feel to it, but the storyline was a lot more linear than I had expected. Where many other horror stories have an incredibly jumpy and disjointed feel to them, this followed a chronological path and one that made a lot more sense to me. It was a nice change from the more abstract horror short stories I have been reading lately.

I spent the entire story line of this tale trying to figure out who the Beast was. It seemed too easy to be Vienna, but I couldn’t figure out who it would be if it wasn’t her. This sense of mystery and intrigue meant that I kind of walked into a wall when I was reading this (bad habit of mine to get so absorbed into a story that I forget to concentrate on anything around me).

Although this was kind of a straight-laced story of crime and horror, it had the recurring theme of sparrows throughout. Not birds that I have ever associated with horror, but the haunting flight patterns that are shown throughout are quite eerie and intense. They added a feeling of horror to the atmosphere that it would have otherwise lacked.

 <- The Orphan Bird ReviewBlyth’s Secret Review ->
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