Hex Life: Wicked New Tales of Witchery edited by Christopher Golden & Rachel Autumn Deering

Oooh, 18 brand new tales of witchcraft from some of the finest female fantasy and horror authors working today? Sign me up!

Now some of these stories are set in certain of said authors’ established universes, which is super great for fans but can seem daunting for newer readers. For the most part, these stories work well as stand-alones. I was actually really pleased with how easily accessible Home, Rachel Caine’s Morganville Vampires story, was for me given that I’ve never read any of her books. Kelley Armstrong’s Black Magic Momma was also a strong addition to her Otherworld universe but honestly, I don’t think she’s ever written a bad thing in that series. I was also a big fan of Theodora Goss’ How To Become A Witch-Queen even as I hesitate to group it with her Victorian-era novels of lady explorers: it’s set in a much earlier Europe but still features accurate period detail with a strong dose of Ms Goss’ trademark female agency in the retelling of familiar tales.

That said, the best stories in this volume were, for me, the ones that fell decidedly on the horror side of the scale rather than the fantasy. Sarah Langan’s Night Nurse is a nightmare of modern motherhood, while Amber Benson’s This Skin gives us a glimpse into the mind of a budding psychopath (I was also glad to remedy my prior lack of Amber Benson reading, and need to look out for more of her stuff in future.) On a lighter, if no less gruesome, note, Hillary Monahan’s Bless Your Heart is a wickedly witchy story of small town Southern motherhood. Parenthood is a prominent theme in this collection, perhaps unsurprisingly given the historical association of witches with midwives and other independent women.

There were certain stories I think I would have enjoyed more were I smart enough to understand the endings, and some where the link to witchcraft seemed rather tenuous, but overall this was an excellent contemporary, popular showcase of women writing specifically on this supernatural theme. And, in keeping with Titan Book’s other productions, it’s a simply gorgeous volume, from the intricate dust jacket to the interior illustrations. Definitely a perfect read for the Halloween season, especially for women with a bent for the fantastic and bizarre.

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