The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror: Volume 4

PYR. Oct. 2023. 400p. ed. by Paula Guran. ISBN 9781645060673. pap. $23.95. FANTASY
This is a chilling collection of 21 recently published short stories that looms in the murky borderland between fantasy and horror, filled with tales of magic and myth, monsters and legends, and things that go bump in the night and fill the heart with dread. “Red Wet Grin” by Gemma Files offers a disturbing story that combines the classic horrors of possession and body snatching with the newer horrors of COVID and dying alone in a nursing home. “Challawa” by Usman T. Malik is a stand-out story that slides from historical fantasy straight into horror and tells the tale of a woman who returns to her home on the Indian subcontinent to research old stories, only to find herself reenacting a ritual to eject foreign invaders. Two of the most haunting fantasy stories are “The Voice of a Thousand Years” by Fawaz Al Matrouk, about an educated man in an age of religious repression who spends his final energies on a mechanical creature that will carry his legacy, and “The Woman Who Married the Minotaur” by Angela Slatter, featuring the mythic minotaur from the labyrinth.
VERDICT Recommended for readers who love stories guaranteed to send a frisson of wonder or fear, or both, up their spines.
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