Shades of Blood and Shadow
Dark Regions Press
Trade Paper, 136 pages, $14.95
Review by Sheila Merritt
“The ghoul crawled over the dead man and hobbled out in a lurching sort of manner. Its stooped, skeletal body seemed nothing more than gray skin stretched over bones. Large, bumpy vertebrae protruded beneath taut skin and wispy white hair blew outward in the wind.” Creepy? Yes. Atmospheric? Yes. Want to read more? Yes!!! In the short story collection Shades of Blood and Shadow, Angeline Hawkes lures, captures and captivates. The thirteen tales in this book travels between different times and locations, allowing the supernatural to enthrall and prevail in varied settings and circumstances.
Some of the stories employ history as a background: The wars between the English and the Scots; The Great Depression in 1930s California; the Spanish Inquisition; the 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. In the tale entitled The Heir, the reign of “Bloody Mary” is evoked. Set in London in 1554, it focuses on Mary’s desperation to produce a successor to the throne. In this fictional tweaking of historical facts, Mary enlists the aid of a witch. The witch demands payment in blood rather than gold for her services. Mary falls back on her politics and religion for a solution: Kill Protestants. This is a fine incorporation of actual events melded with fantasy; a retelling based on astute psychological conjecture. By motivating Mary to react to the demands of the witch, there is a reinforcement of her established prejudices and goals. The killings of Protestants did take place; this is a fictional horror revisionist history of why. When the babe is born, there are consequences to the bargain: “It looked much like a skin-covered mound of blubber, wrinkled and lumpy with a little pink mouth in the center. It had no real shape. It seemed to change like shifting water before their eyes without solid form or mass.”
Shades of Blood and Shadow is intelligent horror, which doesn’t mean it sacrifices emotional punch. Angeline Hawkes knows when to go for the gut, the jugular, or the heart; she does it with restraint and timing. There is a sense of place and purpose in her writing. She strikes the right balance between the blood and the shadow.