Thirty Scary Tails… oops… I mean Tales. (Although thirty scary tails would be exciting too, I imagine.)
Mature-Content Rating: PG-13 (disturbing images and sexually mature scenarios)
There are a few numbers that can cause fear or trepidation. A common number is “13,” being avoided because it is “evil” or “unlucky” to the point where, in some countries, floor 13 is omitted when building high-rises. Some people are afraid of the number “4” because of similar reasons, and it is equally omitted from elevator buttons and staircase labels. My favourite number fear is “666.” All three of these fears have specific terms to go along with them, which I will not bore you with, but the word for “fear of the number 666” is so incredible, I must share it. Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia – and don’t ask me to pronounce it!
Rayne Hall has written a collection of scary tales. Not 4. Not 13. Not 666 (maybe she has a mild case of Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia just thinking about writing that many…). The number to be scared of here is 30. Thirty Scary Tales is a wonderful title that tells the reader exactly what is lying beneath that cover. Hall brings a great variety of horror styles to the eyes and hearts of any who dare pick up this collection. Hidden in the darkened depths is everything from a foreboding realism of the things that go bump in the night to the grotesque, macabre style of Victorian horror. If you can name it, think of it, be scared of it, its here: ghosts, zombies, psychological thrills and chills – some modern day, some Victorian age, and some in fantasy worlds. Some of the stories are based on real events, others are retellings of children’s stories or fairy tales, and still others are completely fresh ideas sprung from the creative juices flowing in the darkness of Rayne Hall’s imagination. Each story is accompanied with a brief note from the author concerning the inspiration for the writing and telling, which adds a unique and delightful touch.
Before reading this book, I had heard of Rayne Hall, but never sat down and cracked open a cover with her name embossed (digitally or otherwise) thereon. It may be some time before I may that mistake again. As the cover is lifted, those words bleed out, and the beginning of a story unfolds, I was immediately drawn in with wonder. Though it is hard to do each story justice through a simple review, I will try to reach across the pages with ever-broadening strokes. The best way to discover the magic behind each story, each page, and each sentence is to read the book.
Hall uses an interesting stylistic descriptive format that helps build suspense while, at the same time, painting scenery around the story and characters. The action builds, fear is swelling, and Hall fires off punctuated descriptions in the midst of it all, striking the reader like a bullet from an unseen gun. The world is empty, the unknown darkness filling readers and characters alike with mounting trepidation, until pieces of scenery begin to fall like a driving rain, locking into place from some unknown realm beyond. Often slow and drawn-out descriptions can be masterfully done, but their use is more suited for tortoise pacing than the sprint of a rabbit through shrubs, running away from the fear rising like a cloud behind it (or is that just the dust kicked up by its quick escape? 😉 ). Punctuated descriptions fit the mood, describing scenes with wonder-filled emotion, making every scene come alive with fear.
A lot of the stories have well thought-out back stories for the characters therein. The stories are not bogged down with too much information of the past, but just enough to build the scene, informing the reader of why they are where they are, and why they are so afraid. This is coupled seamlessly with a delightfully rich use of internal monologue often forgone is shorter stories. Hall builds fear by letting the reader process through each moment, the characters and their emotions coming alive as fears become reality in their minds.
It is hard to be picky with such a vast collection of stories. Some of them fell short of my expectations/preferences, but others were engaging and well-developed. The collection (as a whole) has a lack of focus, just being a bunch of stories lumped together with a cover on top. Some potential magic, through more integrated connections between the stories, was lost because of this choice of formatting.
Some of the stories weren’t as satisfying as others. This is a point concerning personal preference, and not necessarily the writing style or quality as a whole. Every reader will experience this collection differently, each story speaking individually to personal fears, being seen through different eyes.
For the most part, the stories did not scare me because I saw what was coming. Though the internal monologue was great, a lot of the time it was easy to tell what was going to happen and how it would effect the character(s) is question because the reader is so invested in their thought processes. The ability to discern what is going to happen through reveals in the writing takes away some of the edge-of-your-seat thrills that are often prevalent in the horror genre. Sometimes the internal monologues were so blatantly pointing the reading toward the obvious conclusion that it almost felt silly.
This collection of short stories is worth a read no matter who you are. There is something in here for every flavour of reader. The scenes are punctuated and fresh, stories coming alive with character motivations and the fears lying beneath their skin. Many of the fears are predictable, but satisfying none-the-less. Maybe four of the stories will really scare you, maybe thirteen, maybe all thirty. Find out by cracking open the cover, and let the words bleed into your imagination, filling in those cracks of horrific desire. If you like horror of any flavour, this book is for you.
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