Author: Various, edited by Paula Guran
Rating: 4 stars
I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for a fair review.
The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror 2014 is an extremely long compilation. The digital galley weighed in at 536 pages, and there are a whopping 32 stories. That’s a lot, even for someone who reads as many short stories as me.
Fortunately, for the most part, it’s a very, very strong collection.
I worried, for the first few stories. They were alright, but not really my cup of tea. I don’t read a lot of horror, and I wasn’t loving it. But then I hit “The Good Husband,” by Nathan Ballingrud, the first in the collection to get a little star in my notes. And after that, the stars just kept coming.
One of the best things about this collection was how varied it is. There are contemporaries, alternate histories, and fantasies set in secondary worlds. There are werewolves and evil girl scouts and sea monsters and magicians. There is, really, something for everyone, and plenty of stories I never would have considered reading but ended up really enjoying.
In the end, I starred 11 of the 32 stories. That doesn’t mean I disliked all of the rest, just that those 11 particularly resonated with me. They were the stories that disturbed me, enchanted me, stuck out with engaging voices, kept me on the edge of my seat. The aforementioned “The Good Husband,” “The Soul in the Bell Jar,” “Postcards From Abroad,” “Phosphorous,” “The Prayer of Ninety Cats,” “Shadows For Silence in the Forests of Hell,” “Air, Water, and the Grove,” “A Collapse of Horses,” “Rag and Bone,” “The Slipaway Gray,” and “Cuckoo.”
There were a few stories that fell flat, and some elements I disliked in otherwise good stories. And the collection really is so long, I would have been satisfied if it was a hundred or so pages shorter. Of course, then there would have been plenty of stories I missed.
Overall, a great anthology that showcases a lot of great work in the genre.