HERE or below.
"Sometimes it’s Karma, sometimes it’s poor luck. When I first picked up this anthology, I had the idea that the theme was obvious: bad people getting their just deserts. I’m a fan of the karma come home to play genre, and so many of these stories really hit that mark for me, and adding in real demonology and lore just makes it all the sweeter… but the anthology actually has a different message and that message is shouted with every single tale: if you mess with dark forces you will always suffer for it.
Good intentions? Too bad. Innocent mistake? So sad. If you play a game with demons, devils, or other dark forces, you’re not going to come out of it on top. This isn’t an anthology of redemption or lessons being learned, except perhaps for the reader. A few stories left me feeling satisfied, others crushed, but not a one of them really leaves you feeling happy—and that’s great, that’s not the theme here!
I don’t want to post tons of spoilers, but I’ll point out my favorite stories."
First, The Devil You Know by Shane Nelson - I love this story because it hits the deal with a devil tropes that I love. This is someone with deep pain and an impossible choice to make. Except it shouldn’t even be a choice, it shouldn’t be something anyone should ever have to choose, and it’s arguably not something he needs to… but temptation is heavy, and this story does well showing that the relief a choice can bring is often short lived and the result can be a weight that’s far worse than anything you’ve ever feared.
Second, Identity Theft by Rachel A. Brune – This one I also love because it hits the demon contract trope but it does so in a far more unique way and I have to give huge credit for how the main character was written! In truth, I wasn’t sure what gender they were and it doesn’t actually distract from the story at all. It was refreshing to see and doesn’t come across as if it were done for a shock feature or even as a way to draw a crowd, it’s simply written as a great story. They are an alcoholic and you learn as you read that they likely have a good reason for being so. I found myself cheering for them despite their flaws, and the world they create, the lore, the depth to the magic… I’d read an entire series with them.
Third, Saddie’s Choices by Ravyn Crescent – Also fits the trope but has more of a romance element to it than the other stories. This girl did a bad thing that’s gory and terrible. She summons Lucifer himself at the cross roads and gives up her soul in exchange for ten years of power and wealth—he throws in knowledge which may have been a mistake. Then she starts meeting demons. I liked that, much like with Identity Theft, real thought went into the demonology aspect. The demons mentioned are ones that you can look up, and it was very nice seeing research done and it made for some interesting scenes.
Fourth, Face It by Carol Gyzander – This one is a bit different! I don’t want to give spoilers for it but it’s hard to do. The premise is there, and since I have family with disabilities I really could feel for the story and it made me furious at times, sad at times, and in the end… I wouldn’t say it’s a total feeling of victory, it’s not a happy ending. This is a man who loved his wife despite the hardships but struggled with her illness. It’s a terrifying thought, because it can happen to any of us. One day you’re living your life, everything is going well enough, or as planned, or even just … going. And then one event, one doctor’s visit, one weird mark can halt everything and then you have to decide how to handle it. How many of us would struggle to manage a new life if we had to drastically change and there was no end to it? This story really does well asking that important question: If you love someone, how far would you go? But it takes it an important step further by asking: what road would you take? Because anyone can say they’d go to the end of the earth with someone, but are you the type who says you’ll help push a friend’s wheelchair or carry them up stairs, or are you the type to argue and fight to get ramps installed so that society is the one that has to adapt?
There are other gems in this anthology. The Resurrection and the Life by Jude Reid is very well written and gripping, making it hard to put down though the imagery did turn my stomach a few times—as intended I imagine!
Genevieve and the owl by Mark Allan Gunnells is a dark fairytale which is, of course, always fun.
Here Comes Mr. Herribone by Tim Jeffreys was also well written and the imagery it gives is exciting and refreshing.
If you enjoy stories about demonic contracts, this anthology is for you. If you want daring, last minute escapes, happy endings, blissful peace… you won’t like this anthology. And not every story is going to leave you feeling the same. Sometimes it’s like being torn from emotion to emotion, sometimes you feel sick to your stomach, sometimes you feel scared. It’s not always sneering at the misfortunes of others who have done wrong, it’s quite often forcing you to realize that these things can happen to anyone, even those who didn’t think they were involved, those who learned their lesson, or those who were simply in the wrong place…"
You can read the full review and more HERE.
Thanks again, Rob.