“Perhaps if Morton had not stopped to mop his brow in that precise spot, he might never have noticed the black-and-white house.”First lin in A Study in Black and White by Bridget Collins (first story in The Haunting Season)
Authors: Bridget Collins, Imogen Hermes Gowar, Natasha Pulley, Jess Kidd, Laura Purcell, Andrew Michael Hurley, Kiran Millwood Hargrave, Elizabeth Macneal
Published: October 12th, 2021
Genre: Horror/historical fiction anthology
The Haunting Season is filled with beautifully dark and atmospheric short stories that all take place in winter and often around Christmas. Every single one of the contributing authors is an award winner or a bestselling author, and that shines through in the quality of the writing that ensures the reader an eerie and chilling reading experience, perfect for the dark months of the year.
You might want to pay attention to this anthology if you’re into gothic vibes. Almost all of the eight stories are set in Victorian times and that combined with the brilliant horror elements makes these stories a treat for gothic fans.
That’s about all I have to say about the anthology as a whole, but down below I’ve written tiny reviews for each story and given each its own rating.
A Study in Black and White by Bridget Collins: 5 stars – This story is The Queen’s Gambit meets the haunted house trope, and it’s brilliant. I’m especially impressed with the level of characterization of the main character in such a short story. I feel that I know everything about him now, and I foresee my thoughts returning to him for a while.
Thwaite’s Tenant by Imogen Hermes Gowar: 4 stars – Here we have a story that isn’t just haunting but also quite serious. It deals with the topic of domestic abuse as we follow a woman and her son as they flee her abusive husband. It’s set in some historical period where you don’t just get a divorce, so it really delves into the emotional struggles of the main character. It was good but could have benefitted from being longer.
The Eel Singers by Natasha Pulley: 5 stars – Possibly, I’m a bit biased here because this is a story about Thaniel and Mori from The Watchmaker of Filigree Street and they own my heart. You do not need to have read Watchmaker to understand the story (there are footnotes with explanations when you need them), but then again, I also think you’re going to enjoy the story much more if you’re familiar with the characters. The story itself is set in Victorian times around Christmas, and it pulls on magical realism elements to create an eerie story about some creepy singers who are also eel fanatics. I wouldn’t have minded this as a full-length novel.
Lily Wilt by Jess Kidd: 5 stars – This story had some humor to the writing that I really enjoyed. It made me think that fans of Neil Gaiman would like this story and maybe the author because the story is still quite grim. It’s about a beautiful dead girl that people come to look at and a photographer who falls in love with her/her ghost.
The Chillingham Chair by Laura Purcell: 4.5 stars – There were a lot of elements squeezed into this story that probably had more plot than any of the others. It worked really well until the ending which struggled to wrap everything up elegantly. The story does feature a nice sibling relationship and a hint of a murder mystery.
The Hanging of the Greens by Andrew Michael Hurley: 3 stars – I thought there was a good idea behind this but I was thrown off by the way it was told. We’re dealing with a narrator that is a witness to something rather than being part of that thing himself, which I think contradicts the way he was introduced so I was a bit confused. I’d also say that this story probably wasn’t as atmospheric as the other ones. This is the only short story in the anthology written by a man, and also the only one set in a contemporary setting.
Confinement by Kiran Millwood Hargrave: 4 stars – I think you need to be a mother to find this story properly scary. Since I’m not, I did feel a bit detached but thought it had a cool twist.
Monster by Elizabeth Macneal: 5 stars – What a story to finish off the anthology! It’s about a man on the hunt for a magnificent creature that’s going to get his name in the history books which is his biggest goal in life. He’s an unlikeable main character in a story called Monster, so when I say there’s a lot of great symbolism in this, you probably have an idea of what I mean.
I only knew two of these authors beforehand (Bridget Collins and Natasha Pulley), but I’m definitely looking into some of the others now too, especially Jess Kidd and Elizabeth Macneal. But I’ve learned that it’s hard to review an anthology so I hope you still got something out of this. Do you plan on reading it? If you’ve read some of the authors’ other works, I’d also love to know what you thought of them.