Review: Dark Stars: New Tales of Darkest Horror

Editor: John F.D. Taff
Authors: Josh Malerman, Stephen Graham Jones, Priya Sharma, Alma Katsu, John Langan, Caroline Kepnes, Usman T. Malik, Chelsya Burke, Livia Llewellyn, Gemma Files, Ramsey Campbell
Publisher: Tor Nightfire
Released: March 22, 2022
Received: Arc
Warnings: Stalking, bullying, mental abuse, infant death, rape

4 kitties

There’s nothing better than a dark anthology, at least in my opinion. So you can imagine my excitement when I heard about Dark Stars: New Tales of Darkest Horror. Working together for this anthology, you’ll find John F.D. Taff, Josh Malerman, Stephen Graham Jones, Priya Sharma, Alma Katsu, John Langan, Caroline Kepnes, Usman T. Malik, Chelsya Burke, Livia Llewellyn, Gemma Files, and Ramsey Campbell.

Overall, I found this to be a really strong collection. I love the way they all tied together, as well as the overall theme and atmosphere. I was pleasantly surprised by some of the names that appeared here, including a few of my favorite horror authors (Josh Malerman, Stephen Graham Jones). As with every anthology, there are some short stories that I loved and others that I felt fell flat. Out of all the stories in this collection, I think the last one was my favorite: Enough for Hunger and Enough for Hate by John Langan.

The Attentionist by Caroline Kepnes

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Warnings: Stalker, verbal abuse, gaslighting

“The first time he calls, I’m not there. I’m not home to answer.”

Yikes. The Attentionist is very much a terrifying read. What makes this story so scary is that it is too real. There’s no magic, no larger-than-life monster. Instead, we have a very human monster and too real family drama.

A Life in Nightmares by Ramsey Campbell

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

“He often reads in his room, but never in the dark.”

This title ended up being more literal than I expected, as A Life in Nightmares reads as a string of nightmares. Unfortunately, they all happen to the same young boy, adding in terror with each arrival. It made it difficult to tell what was real and what was a dream (nightmare) by the end.

Papa Eye by Priya Sharma

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

“What makes you think anything’s wrong with you?”

Papa Eye is an atmospheric and creepy read, which is probably why I loved it. I loved the way Priya Sharma played with preconceived notions and assumptions in this story. Honestly, I would have loved to see it go just a little bit longer.

Volcano by Livia Llewellyn

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

“Have you ever been in danger?”

Volcano is another compelling addition to this anthology, one that had me questioning things at first. But once the truth is out, it’s impossible to look away. I would love to see a bit more added to this one – not just length, but perhaps just a touch more depth?

All the Things He Called Memories by Stephen Graham Jones

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

“It was about that actual dark kernel festering inside each of them, and its composition, its origin.”

As a huge fan of Stephen Graham Jones, I knew I was going to love All the Things He Called Memories. And wow, did I! It’s a haunting story, one that delves into the psychology of nightmares – and then takes it ten steps further. Don’t read this one if you want to get a good night’s sleep anytime soon.

Trinity River’s Blues by Chesya Burke

Rating: ★ ★ ★

“Trini saw dead people. It was somewhat of a cliché, but she was the real thing.”

I went into Trinity River’s Blues with high expectations. With an opening sentence like the one above, how could I not? It took a while for the story to pick up, taking the time to set the tone and scene for things got…dark.

The Familiar’s Assistant by Alma Katsu

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

“I’m standing on the doorstep to the vampire’s house.”

Ouch. The Familiar’s Assistant is every bit the dark vampire tale this anthology needed. Yet it still hits hard. There’s something very chilling about the way the scene is set, and that conclusion…wow.

Swim in the Blood of a Curious Dream by John F.D. Taff

Rating: ★ ★ ★

“Because, as I’ve learned, separation doesn’t diminish the love a child has for their parent.”

Swim in the Blood of a Curious Dream is an interesting and emotional read, one that relies heavily on character-based storytelling methods. Despite all of this, I did find myself losing a connection here and there.

The Sanguintalist by Gemma Files

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

“And the Name said unto Cain, Thy brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.”

I really love the core concept of The Sanguintalist – a forensic necromancer for higher. It sounds exactly like the sort of urban fantasy series I would dive into, given half the chance. Of course, this is a horror anthology, so things get pretty dark very quickly.

Mrs. Addison’s Nest by Josh Malerman

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

“REMEMBER WHERE YOU ARE”

Like many short stories I’ve read in the past, Mrs. Addison’s Nest feels as though it starts (and ends) in the middle. The action has already started, leaving readers running to catch up with the plot. It’s an interesting choice for a horror tale, but it is effective here. Though I do wish we had a bit more time to know and appreciate the characters – it would have added to the impact.

Challawa by Usman T. Malik

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

“There’s a ghost in the hut,” said the guide, smiling. “Better watch your back in there.”

If you’re looking for a well-written and heavy-hitting plot, look no further, Challawa is here. This is probably the strongest written short in the anthology, which is saying something. I adored the set-up and building tension.

Enough for Hunger and Enough for Hate by John Langan

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

“Walter Ivorsson: the name she had said so often these past weeks its meaning had ebbed and flowed, sometimes reducing to a series of syllables, consonants, and vowels yielding sounds of no more significance than the cough of a deer, the scream of a fox, other times expanding to contain all the pain for which this man had been responsible.”

Wow. Wow. Wow. I loved this whole anthology, but Enough for Hunger and Enough for Hateis by and far my favorite from the collection. It’s dark, it’s twisted, and that ending! Chef’s kiss! It’s perfect. Exactly the sort of conclusion this whole anthology deserved.

Thanks to Tor Nightfire and #NetGalley for making this book available for review. All opinions expressed are my own.

About Liz (AKA Cat)

I am an avid animal lover, photographer, reader, and much more. While my photography blog is feeling a bit neglected at the moment, the other sites I'm involved in are going strong. ✧I review books, comics, and basically anything else in the literary world over at Quirky Cat's Fat Stacks (of Books). ✧I review comics and books, as well as write content for Word of the Nerd. ✧I review comics for Monkeys Fighting Robots. ✧I write content for Screen Rant and CBR. ✧I write book reviews for The Review Crew.
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2 Responses to Review: Dark Stars: New Tales of Darkest Horror

  1. Nancy says:

    I love horror short stories, so I will definitely look for this collection!

    Liked by 1 person

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