STARRED REVIEW
October 01, 2019

Scary funny folktales

STARRED REVIEW

Scary funny folktales

October 01, 2019
STARRED REVIEW
October 01, 2019

Scary funny folktales

October 01, 2019
STARRED REVIEW
October 01, 2019

Scary funny folktales

STARRED REVIEW
October 01, 2019

Scary funny folktales

October 01, 2019

Scary funny folktales

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Folktales may be the bedrock of contemporary horror, but they have seeped into the mainstream. From sparkling vegetarian vampires and werewolves playing basketball to witches and wizards parking their broomsticks in the house on the cul-de-sac, yesterday’s bogeymen are today’s brooding protagonists, even in television shows about vampire slayers. Given this reality, any novelist dealing with the paranormal must confront the new comprehensibility of the monsters under the bed. Are they forces of nature beyond mortal ken? Or are they humankind’s kindred spirits, in the most literal sense possible? T. Kingfisher (Ursula Vernon’s nom de plume) and Vivian Shaw take radically different approaches to answering this question, but both are blessed with an irrepressible sense of humor that makes their books equal parts scary and funny.

In The Twisted Ones, Kingfisher depicts a kind of magical elsewhere filled with strange compulsions and warped conjurations that enchant and ensnare humans led astray. It is a skeptic’s telling of a scary story, in which an editor called Mouse, while cleaning out her late, estranged grandmother’s house in rural North Carolina, is unwittingly drawn into the world of the tall, pale folk who once stalked her step-grandfather. Mouse discovers his journal in the assorted rubbish, and the fact that the terrors he describes within start to happen to her does not prevent her from approaching the text with the eagle eyes and determined skepticism of an editor. Mouse’s narrative is gripping in its uncertainty and her refusal to believe what she sees, but also genuine in her morbid fascination with her unexpectedly paranormal milieu and her unwavering love for her dog. Kingfisher imbues a classic “things-that-go-bump-in-the-night” monster story with hints of modern context without dwelling on the issues that context raises, simply because it is irrelevant to the story she wants to tell. The result is tense, well-crafted Southern horror with a meta twist.

Shaw’s Grave Importance, on the other hand, is the conclusion of an epic trilogy about a doctor to the undead who, with the aid of several vampires, a witch with prehensile (and somewhat fidgety) hair and an old family friend who happens to be a high-ranking bureaucrat in Hell with a gift for mathematics, manages to save her world from an untimely apocalypse. Greta Helsing, scion of the Helsing family of former vampire hunters and current vampire doctors, is called to fill in when the lead physician at a mummy health spa leaves to spend several months on an urgent case in Cairo. Apparently the mummies are having fainting spells and nobody quite knows why. Meanwhile, the fabric of space-time is ripping, and the demons tasked with keeping an eye on it are very concerned. Shaw’s writing is more Pratchett than Lovecraft: There are different species of vampire with different dietary restrictions, mummies make a living as programmers and Dr. Faust runs the finest medical institution in Hell, with cutting-edge imaging technology that can diagnose even the most complex of curses. It is, in short, less horrifying than hilarious, and delightfully so.

What these books share, however, is an interest with how the supernatural is portrayed. Kingfisher has great fun with the tropes of found-manuscript horror stories, while Shaw recasts Dracula’s kin as misunderstood outcasts. Both writers humanize their monsters and rationalize the actions of their human protagonists. Mouse walks into danger out of filial responsibility, then curiosity and finally for the unbreakable bond between a woman and her dog, while Greta is simply following the Hippocratic Oath as applied to the undead. The Twisted Ones and Grave Importance are radically different in tone and scale, but they are equally enjoyable modern folk takes.

The Twisted Ones
By T. Kingfisher
Saga

ISBN 9781534429574

Get the Books

The Twisted Ones

The Twisted Ones

By T. Kingfisher
Saga
ISBN 9781534429574
Grave Importance

Grave Importance

By Vivian Shaw
Orbit
ISBN 9780316434652

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