Shadows and Tall Trees is haunted. Turning a page could bring a new specter, a new mystical voice, lamenting its personal tale of damnation from the murky river Styx. Each story offers its own view of death, dying and the afterlife. Despite the common theme, Shadows and Tall Trees 2014 is a highly eclectic collection.
Shadows and Tall Trees 2014 is the sixth edition of Undertow Publications’ flagship offering. Prior editions have been finalists for the British Fantasy Award for best periodical/magazine. Readers have come to realize they are getting quality writing with this series–2014 being no exception.
A few stories continued to haunt after reading. Kaaron Warren’s Death’s Door Cafe was a loving tribute to the highly balanced pas de deux of terminal illness, as well as the seduction of the possibility of conquering death. There was a subtle financial warning attached to second chances at life that added charm to the tale. V.H. Leslie’s The Quiet Room had a superbly dark mythological connection. The story is teen angst combined with Fall of the House of Usher spliced with Who is Afraid of Virginia Woolfe? Myriam Frey’s The Statue was also mythological–or, perhaps, cryptozoological–but immersed in a realistic family setting that makes the strange common and relatable.
The stories within Shadows and Tall Trees 2014 are unconventional and have a literary quality, making them appealing for horror readers who enjoy the genre but may not be interested in splatter and gore.
The stories and writers are thoughtful and thought provoking. Caveat: I don’t know if it would be considered true irony (or only Alanis Morissette’s loose version of the term) but I was reading this anthology–largely focused on death and dying–while sequestered in a hospital as my husband had open heart surgery. Thoughts of mortality were both very present and very unwanted. Some of the stories that I did not list as favorites may have taken me to places I did not want to go: a sure sign of good horror fiction.