Thanks to NetGalley and Pegasus Books for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Release Date: February 7th, 2017
Synopsis: Birds are usually loved for their beauty and their song. They symbolize freedom, eternal life, the soul.
There’s definitely a dark side to the avian. Birds of prey sometimes kill other birds (the shrike), destroy other birds’ eggs (blue jays) and even have been known to kill small animals ( the kea sometimes eats live lambs). And who isn’t disgusted by birds that eat the dead–vultures awaiting their next meal as the life blood flows from the dying. One of our greatest fears is being eaten by vultures before we’re quite dead.
Is it any wonder that with so many interpretations of the avian, that the contributors herein are eager to be transformed or influenced by them? Included in Black Feathers are those obsessed by birds of one type or another. Do they want to become birds or just take on the “power” of birds? The presence or absence of birds portends the future. A grieving widow takes comfort in her majestic winged neighbors, who enable her to cope with a predatory relative. An isolated society of women relies on a bird to tell their fortunes. A silent young girl and her pet bird might be the only hope a detective has of tracking down a serial killer in a tourist town. A chatty parrot makes illegal deals with the dying. A troubled man lives in isolation with only one friend for company–a jackdaw.
In each of these fictions, you will encounter the dark resonance between the human and avian. You see in yourself the savagery of a predator, the shrewd stalking of a hunter, and you’re lured by birds that speak human language, that make beautiful music, that cypher numbers, and seem to have a moral center. You wade into this feathered nightmare, and brave the horror of death, trading your own safety and sanity for that which we all seek–the power of flight.
As soon as I requested Black Feathers, I thought “What is the matter with you?” First, except for songbirds and hummingbirds, I’ve been totally creeped out by avians since I first watched Hitchcock’s The Birds. And then, is it me or does that cover and synopsis give you the heebie jeebies? And finally, I don’t read many anthologies because the stories tend to be hit or miss for me, which turned out to be the case here. The overwhelming issue I had with this collection, is that but for a few exceptions, I thought these were rather bland and a little too similar. There were some however that were outstanding. My favorites were:
1. The Mathematical Inevitability of Corvids, by Sean McGuire, which tells the story of a teenage girl who’s obsession with numbers and crows, helps her cope with the world which is on the brink of disaster.
2. The Murmurations of Vienna Von Drome, by Jeffrey Ford, which follows a detective tracking a serial killer by watching a victim’s daughter.
3. Something About Birds, by Paul Tremblay, where an interview with a fictional bestselling horror writer, takes a decidedly macabre turn.
4. The Crow Palace, Priya Sharma, which tells the tale of a family and their terrible secret bargains they’ve made. Beware animal lovers! There’s a disturbing scene featuring a pet cat and a group of vengeful birds that is straight out of Hitchcock.
5. The Acid Test, by Livia Llewellyn, which is a classic mind-bending horror story which takes place during the 1960s-1970s, and focuses on a woman who after dropping acid, witnesses a horrible crime…or does she?
So, while not all the stories were for me, in my humble opinion Black Feathers is worth picking up just for these five stories alone. And the good thing about this being a short story collection is that it was quite easy to pick and choose which ones I wanted to fully read. For any readers interested in this, I do advise reading only a couple of stories at a time. I think that I would have liked some of the stories that I found too similar, if I had taken a break in between them.