Epitaphs: 20 Tales of Dark Fantasy and Horror

Edited by Tom Piccirilli & Edward J. McFadden III

Published by: Padwolf

Reviewed by Ismael Manzano

     My past experiences with reading and reviewing horror anthologies have been tedious, at best; so it was with a reluctant heart that I agreed to read Padwolf Publsihing's, Epitaphs: 20 Tales of Dark Fantasy and Horror.  I am grateful to all the writers involved in his anthology for adding a very positive experience to counteract the negative ones Iíve suffered through.

     Although I can not talk about all of the stories in this book, I would like to point out a few that stuck out in my head, the ones that made the best impressionsóthough all were well done and worthwhile. 

     The Oddist by Gerald Daniel Houarner, was well written, entertainingly creepy and imaginative.  A story about a repair company cult, that sucks in its victims with trinkets and forces them into servitude.

     Within the Darkness, Golden Eyes by Michael Laimo, was a grippingly dark tale about a subspecies of humans who force a doctor to heal their sick.  Detailing was good in this one and I enjoyed the narrative voice of the work.

     Dr. Treacherís Asylum by Thomas Wiloch, was a dark satire showing how the thin line between sanity and insanity can be easily blurred.  This was interesting and left me guessing at the end how much of the story was delusion and how much was real.

      Similarly, Skin by Warren Newton Beath, was a wickedly clever social satire warning against the perils of plastic surgery and ego.  This was a personal favorite of mine, because I feel that people have gotten out of hand with plastic surgery and I liked the implied corruption of the soul that comes with rearranging one's face. 

     Our Lady of The Jars, by Gerald Daniel Houarner, was about a woman with power at her fingertips and loneliness in her heart, struggling to fill that void, the only way she knows how.  The author did a good job here of infusing the character with sympathetic qualities, even when her actions were anything but. 

     The Trick Is The Treat, by Adam Meyer, was a cautionary tale about the perils of talking to people who you donít know, especially when they know you and they have a score to settle.  This one was just fun to read, not particularly scary and not entirely unpredictable, but the writing was topnotch and the author seemed to have a firm grip on the character because I felt like I knew her after only a few lines.

     Mother May I? by Edward J McFadden III was especially quirky and creepy.  I could almost see it visually and it gave me a chill.  Itís a story about a controlling mother and her son who could never get her permission to leave her. 

     Pocket Full of Pie, by Sue Storm, was a painfully disturbing, yet poignant tale of two children trapped in a sewer.  This one was hard to read, but only because it was so realistically written and heartbreakingly possible in todayís callous world.

     Well, thatís just eight of the twenty odd stories available in Epitaphs.  And those were just a few of my favorites. Epitaphs is exactly what an anthology should be.  They werenít cookie-cutter zombie stories, vampire stories, werewolf stories, ghost stories, or any other expected recreations.  These stories actually took some imagination to create and no effort at all to read.  They were stories that could happen anywhere and nowhere, stories that usually offered some insight into society and its problems. 

     In conclusion, Iíd like to simply state that there are no bad stories in this anthology, only ones that could not get out from under the shadows of the outstanding ones.  If you can, do yourself a favor, buy Epitaphs and enjoy it; I sure did.

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