It’s hard to believe that Halloween has come and gone and we’re already staring down the barrel at an all too quickly approaching Christmas season. It feels like we just put out the jack o’lanterns and it’s already time switch them out for twinkling lights on a tree.
For horror fans, especially, it can be a bit of a culture shock as horror films are quickly replaced with Hallmark Christmas movies, but luckily for us editor Christopher Golden and Blumhouse Books/Anchor Books have something perfect to add to your favorite horror enthusiast’s stocking.
Hark! The Herald Angels Scream is a horror anthology perfectly curated by Golden to rip the wholesome holiday open and spill its blood on the freshly fallen snow.
In fact, the anthology recalls a time when Christmas Eve, rather than Halloween, was the time when families gathered around a fire and told scary stories. It isn’t hard to find horror, after all, when the world is dark and cold.
Much like arranging songs for an album, anthologies rely heavily on the placement of stories much more than most people realize, I think. Each shift in tone must be carefully calculated to create an overall experience that is satisfying to the reader, and Golden proves he’s a master of placement as each of the 18 tales unfold.
Of course, it’s ultimately the stories themselves that make Hark! The Herald Angels Scream a winner.
Take for instance, Kelley Armstrong’s “Absinthe & Angels”, the first tale in the collection. The author leads us into the cold, dark woods on Christmas Eve where a pair of lovers, sipping absinthe and reading Dickens, are confronted by terrifying otherworldly Mummers.
Seanan McGuire, meanwhile, leads the reader through a dark fairy tale world where Snegurochka, the Russian Snow Maiden, reaches out to “help” children in need in “Fresh as the New-Fallen Snow”.
If you prefer your stories with a darker sense of humor, then you’ll love Jeff Strand’s “Good Deeds” which gives that awful “Christmas Shoes” song they play every year during the holiday season the skewering it so richly deserves.
Christopher Golden, himself, contributes the tense and satisfying revenge tale “It’s a Wonderful Knife”, and Angela Slatter’s “Honor Thy Mother” will have you thinking twice about how you treat your parents as they grow older.
And then there’s “The Hangman’s Bride”. In an anthology filled with well-written, terrifying stories, Sarah Pinborough’s tale is truly remarkable.
In an unexpected turn, the author blends life in Victorian England with a tale of the vengeful onryo of Japanese folklore that will stick with you long after it comes to its brutal, heart-breaking end.
Hark! The Herald Angels Scream is available on in bookstores, and via Amazon and other online booksellers.