ARC Review: An Education In Malice by S.T. Gibson

Today’s review is about AN EDUCATION IN MALICE by S.T. Gibson. It’s a retelling of CARMILLA set in 1960s Massachusetts at a historical women’s college. This dual point of view novel portrays a dark academia environment, vampires, and uneven power dynamics.

Author: S.T. Gibson
Series: None
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Redhook
Publish Date: February 13, 2024
Print Length: 368

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SFINCS Review: Blackcap by Benjamin Aeveryn

Today’s review is about BLACKCAP by Benjamin Aeveryn. Though part of the Rainfallen universe, this novella stands on its own and is easy to follow. It’s a paranormal mystery in which Kade switches from sleuthing out human criminals, and inadvertently sending some to their deaths, to helping solve paranormal cases.

SFINCS logoThis review is brought to you by my participation in the Speculative Fiction Indie Novella Championship (SFINCS). SFINCS, pronounced “sphinx”, is a yearly competition to recognize, honor, and celebrate the talent and creativity present in the indie community. It’s a sister competition to both SPFBO and SPSFC, and it highlights greatness in the novella format in all areas of speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, horror, etc.). I am part of Team Behind the Musings. You can find out more about us here.

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SFINCS Review: Shattered Spirits by Cal Black

Today’s review is about SHATTERED SPIRITS by Cal Black. It’s a standalone novella about a woman thrust into the role of stopping the proliferation of soul-stealing spirits.

SFINCS logoThis review is brought to you by my participation in the Speculative Fiction Indie Novella Championship (SFINCS). SFINCS, pronounced “sphinx”, is a yearly competition to recognize, honor, and celebrate the talent and creativity present in the indie community. It’s a sister competition to both SPFBO and SPSFC, and it highlights greatness in the novella format in all areas of speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, horror, etc.). I am part of Team Behind the Musings. You can find out more about us here.

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SFINCS Review: Dark Heart of Ilmoure by Cara Delaney

Today’s review is about DARK HEART OF ILMOURE by Cara Delaney. It’s a standalone novella in which a young woman returns home to pay respects to her recently-passed nephew. However, something isn’t quite right and when she starts to dig deeper, the townsfolk begin to notice.

SFINCS logoThis review is brought to you by my participation in the Speculative Fiction Indie Novella Championship (SFINCS). SFINCS, pronounced “sphinx”, is a yearly competition to recognize, honor, and celebrate the talent and creativity present in the indie community. It’s a sister competition to both SPFBO and SPSFC, and it highlights greatness in the novella format in all areas of speculative fiction (fantasy, science fiction, horror, etc.). I am part of Team Behind the Musings. You can find out more about us here.

Author: Cara Delaney
Series: None
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Self-Published
Publish Date: December 26, 2022
Print Length: 151
Purchase: Amazon

Official Synopsis

Years ago, all she wanted was to leave. Now, a web of secrets might ensnare her forever.

When Iris Grey returns to her hometown of Ilmoure years after a bitter parting, she hopes for reconciliation in the face of a tragedy. Instead, she arrives to a town changed for the worse, a cold welcome from people she once loved, and a family that seems to be keeping secrets from her at every turn.

When those secrets become too heavy to ignore, Iris starts to dig deeper. What she finds leads her to question her very perception of reality. Faced with old wounds and new revelations, Iris finds herself mired in a plot that threatens to swallow herself, the town, and the people she once loved.

My Review

In DARK HEART OF ILMOURE, Iris returns to her small town home upon learning of her nephew’s passing. She expects tension from those she calls family after she left on bitter terms to broaden her horizons at university. What she doesn’t expect is to find her family keeping secrets from her that build to something ominous.

This novella is an easy read that, family disharmony aside, starts out somewhat normally given the circumstance. But as the reader follows Iris during her stay in Ilmoure, the story morphs into a mix of mystery, religious horror, and science fiction. I certainly didn’t expect that eclectic combination of genres, but it proved to hold my attention.

Iris is a headstrong character, though this trait threatens to buckle when she has to stay in her childhood home with family around her. But through sheer mental determination she holds to her convictions. I found myself wishing that Iris would just bluntly ask her family what exactly is going on. However, let’s just say her hesitance is not entirely misplaced. The secondary characters are mysterious or just as headstrong and serve as plot thickeners or information hubs.

I do feel that this novella needed one more editorial pass. There are paragraph breaks in odd places that, in my opinion, jolt the flow. The writing structure is also a little passive for my preferences. However, personal technical preferences aside, DARK HEART OF ILMOURE will certainly pique the interest of readers who want an inter-genre adventure.

Rating: withheld
Content warnings: language (mild), violence (mild), pregnancy (on-page and mentioned), miscarriage/death of child (implied), forced pregnancy (implied)
Reading format: Kindle e-book

ARC Review: The Kingdom of Sweets by Erika Johansen

Today’s review is about THE KINGDOM OF SWEETS by Erika Johansen. It’s a dark retelling of The Nutcracker, a Western Christmas-time classic. This fresh spin offers fantasy horror elements amidst a backdrop of social unrest in pre-revolutionary Russia.

Author: Erika Johansen
Series: None
Age Category: Adult
Publisher: Dutton
Publish Date: November 28, 2023
Print Length: 368

Want to support local bookstores? Buy a copy of The Kingdom of Sweets on Bookshop.org!*

*These are not affiliate links and I do not make a commission from any purchase made using these links.

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