Anthology by Angela Boord, Krystle Matar, Clayton W. Snyder, Luke Tarzian, and D.P. Woolliscroft. Foreword by Justine Bergman.
Everything ends. Some go peacefully. Others, less so. A starving thief. Lovers with an impossible choice. A broken-hearted soldier. Demons bound in flesh. A cat from hell. In this collection, the end comes with the encroaching dark…
Whispers & Wonder proudly presents Dark Ends, an anthology of dark fantasy novelettes from the minds of five extraordinary authors.
The Laughing Heart by Stabby Nominee Luke Tarzian
Once marked, always marked.
Tainted by Krystle Matar
We all have our dead, who we carry with us.
Strays by SPFBO 4 Semi-Finalist D.P. Woolliscroft
Old Thief Motto: No matter how much you prepare, there is always a cat ready to f*ck it up.
Dragonmeat by SPFBO 5 Finalist and Stabby Nominee Angela Boord
What does dragon taste like? It tastes like freedom…
Savages by SPFBO 5 Semi-Finalist and Stabby Nominee Clayton Snyder
Fixer Jack Nyx is about to find out some jobs aren’t worth the money…
I’ve not read many anthologies, but when this was recommended on the run up to Self-Published Fantasy Month, I couldn’t resist dropping my current read to dive in because it contained stories from some of my favourite self-published authors in the writing community, as well as new voices I hadn’t yet read. Dark Ends: A Dark Fantasy Anthology by Whispers & Wonder is a collection of short stories based within the pre-established worlds of the following authors: Angela Boord, Krystle Matar, Clayton W. Snyder, Luke Tarzian, and D.P. Woolliscroft. Each focus on an ending or new beginning of sorts, though naturally, being a dark fantasy anthology, some of these stories don’t end in cheerful ways.
I’ll give a quick overview of each story:
Tainted by Krystle Matar
So my confession is that Krystle Matar is the only author I’ve previously read thanks to her romantic gaslamp grimdark fantasy, Legacy of the Brightwash – a review that will be coming to this blog soon! Having already emersed myself in this world, it was easy enough for me to slip back into the grim city of Yaelsmuir. I was pleasantly surprised to see that this short story was told through the eyes of a minor character in Legacy of the Brightwash, and we witness those early interactions through a completely different perspective. As I read on, I wondered just how far the story would take me, as I already knew where it led, and I was again pleasantly surprised to see the story continue and also drop hints as to where Legacy of the Brightwash will be heading in the future! To make a video game comparison, reading this felt like unlocking some secret bonus content, and I was delighted to get the chance to view Legacy of the Brightwash from a different angle, albeit one that doesn’t lead to a happy ending.
The Laughing Heart by Luke Tarzian
I’ve not read Luke Tarzian’s books before, despite them sitting pretty on my TBR, and this is now a mistake I must rectify. Tarzian’s writing style blew me away, and I was instantly pulled into an unknown and somewhat alien world as the main character seeks vengeance against a dangerous and dark angel, only to discover that his reality may not be what it seems. This was a haunting tale which cut to the heart of love and betrayal, and has now firmly bumped Tarzian up my TBR pile!
Dragonmeat by Angela Boord
While both Tainted and The Laughing Heart dealt with heavy themes, Dragonmeat, while grim in places, was a more lighthearted tale of one person’s struggle to survive starvation in an occupied city besieged by dragons. Okay, when I put it like that, it doesn’t sound lighthearted! But what I enjoyed about Dragonmeat was the sense of mystery and adventure as the main character chooses to trust a mysterious stranger who offers a magical solution to her problems instead of stealing food. This is again another story which has put Angela Boord in my sights!
Strays by D.P. Woolliscroft
Another lighthearted story of theft, Strays was a fun and fast-paced tale of a group of thieves planning a heist and watching it all go wrong thanks to a, uh, cat. Yes, cats are the true villains! What I enjoyed about Strays was the RPG-feel of a quest as the main character scouts out his target, and the comaraderie and banter of his team of thieves as they work together to pull it off.
Savages by Clayton Snyder
Savages is an urban fantasy with a main character who can call upon the demons trapped inside of him, quite literally. As he takes on the case of a missing child, we learn more about the wretched state of his life, and naturally, not all is what it seems! As the case takes a turn for the supernatural, our hero relies on the assistance of his witch friend to get the job done and get the demons (again, literally!) off his back. Savages was my personal favourite of these short stories, and the crafted world-building intrigued me enough to want to know more! I’m also massively impressed that Clayton Snyder was able to pack so much story into such a short space.
What I’ll whine about:
While I enjoyed these stories, I think you’d probably get more enjoyment out of them if you’ve already read the author’s works, as these stories come from pre-existing worlds. As I felt when reading Krystle Matar’s Tainted, these are fantastic bonus stories for these worlds! But, on the flip side, this anthology has now introduced me to new authors I may not have otherwise come across, so for that reason, Dark Ends has done its job.
My only real complaint is that I felt this anthology could have been longer, and I hope if Whispers & Wonder ever host another anthology, they’ll be able to invite more authors to take part. I’d certainly love to read another one!
What I’ll gush about:
These short stories truly covered the dark fantasy themes of protagonists daring to seek the light in their otherwise grim worlds. Some of these ends on optimistic notes, and some really made me stop and think. But what this anthology has done is introduce me to some extraordinary authors and their amazing worlds which I must now explore, beginning a dark journey of my own.
A wonderfully dark collection of short stories from talented authors who need to be on your TBR pile.