History is an unusual thing. At first glance, the past seems complete. But when you look a bit closer, it becomes clear that our chronology is filled with secret moments that have yet to be shared. Historical fiction is the storyteller’s way of teasing out those unexplored corners of antiquity. All writers begin their journey by asking “what if.” The historical fiction writer asks a second question: “when?”
The writers behind HOWL Society Press’ new anthology have made history themselves with their new release Howls from the Dark Ages. This 18-story collection is the first-ever anthology of historical horror from the medieval period, and never has an age in time been so well represented. Every flavor of archaic tale can be found within the pages of this book from white knights and weird witches to aging monks and youthful kings.
The collection is framed as a walk through of a mysterious museum filled with ancient objects of interest. Each story is introduced by a nameless curator who directs readers attention to items that will play a key part in the subsequent story. This wry custodian—likely penned by editors P.L. McMillan and Solomon Forse—acts as a cheery rest stop in between the shadowy narratives collected here.
There are no skippable stories in Howls from the Dark Ages, but it’s worth highlighting a few pieces that should not be missed.
If you’re a fan of distorted religious horror like Saint Maude, you’ll love Howls from the Dark Ages standout offering “The Final Book of Sainte Foy’s Miracles.” M.E. Bronstein’s story of a martyred child saint and the man who attempts to pay for her twisted miracles is riveting from start to finish. Written in an effortlessly readable first person, “Sainte Foy” is pure poetry on the page and painful imagery in the mind’s eye.
Howls from the Dark Ages readers are bound to sit up and take notice when they see the name Cody Goodfellow in the Table of Contents, and they won’t be wrong to do so. The tenured author of such novels as Jake’s Wake and Unamerica, has delivered a phantasmagoric tale with “The Mouth of Hell.” Goodfellow is a master of startling imagery, and “The Mouth of Hell” is yet another example of the author’s descriptive skills. Within just a few pages, readers are transported to a desolate waterfall complete with a “goggling visage of a devil.” Jagged teeth lined the yawning maw of a low cave entrance that burrowed into the mountain. But it’s not just the images that will draw in readers, this story is a shocking twist on a classic tale of saints, sinners, and saviors as they struggle to come to terms with hellish realities.
In “The Fourth Scene,” Brian Evanson displays his dexterous narrative abilities with a story about a hapless guard who finds himself trapped in a nightmare when the contents of the king’s tapestry begin to come to life. With a strange foe right out of a Clive Barker short story, “The Fourth Scene” underscores Evanson’s rare talent for truly original storytelling.
Howls from the Dark Ages is the collection of medieval horror you didn’t know you needed. But once you pick up this fantastic release, you’ll soon realize you simply can’t put it down.
Howls from the Dark Ages is out now at all major retailers.
Looking for more howling good reading? Check out HOWL Society’s first release, Howls from Hell.