Under Her Black Wings: 2020 Women of Horror Anthology, Vol 1
Jill Girardi (editor)
March 7, 2020
Reviewed by Elaine Pascale
Under Her Black Wings is the first offering from Kandisha Press of horror stories from a global array of women writers. The anthology contains eighteen stories about monsters of the female persuasion, including some of my favorites: pontianak, succubus, sphinx, and (the one I don’t see often enough) the female werewolf. As a fan of mythology, I appreciated the diverse offering of monsters and some unique twists on centuries-old tales.
The cover is eye-catching. Rendered by Corinne Halbert, it features a hybrid creature. She looks like Aisha Kandisha (hence the name of the publisher), who is comparable to a hoofed jinn/seductress. The cover was enough to pique my interest; a few of the familiar names in the table of contents also drew me in.
The book opens with a strong offering by Alys Hobbs, “What You Eat.” This story features a favorite trope: the creepy governess. Children are defenseless to their caretakers, which can lead to creepy situations. In this case, the governess forces food and plumpness on her young ward—never a good sign.
Other favorites included:
Somer Canon’s “The Riddled Path,” which blended humor with horror. As a fan of dad jokes, the riddles posed in the story were good fun and I would love to see this adapted as a creature feature.
Stevie Kopas’ “The Darkness” is a post-apocalyptic tale that begins in the usual way but then went left when I expected it to go right. It is a delight to be able to encounter new twists on a genre that, while not trod bare, has had many miles on its road.
Sharon Frame Gay’s “Road Rage” is a gripping tale of revenge. Again, this is a genre that has been re-trod, but Gay does it justice.
“The Faceless Woman,” by Marie Lanza is a short but engrossing urban legend story. The conversation between the characters, which provides the backstory of the eponymous “monster,” feels natural.
There are two Malaysian mythology stories in the anthology: Jill Girardi’s “Firstborn” and Tina Isaacs’ “Pontianak.” Both incorporate the legends in interesting ways, only the setup for Isaacs’ story (a father relaying his experience to his son) doesn’t ring true: the language and style are not what a parent would use with his child, even an adult son.
Lydia Prime’s “Sadie” was at the top of the list. I don’t want to give too much away, but it ticked all the boxes for me. There are many reasons why you may not want to live or work with Sadie, the main being she is deadly.
Under Her Black Wings contains a strong group of stories. The multi-cultural aspect was much appreciated. In the editor’s notes, Girardi claims that Kandisha is not only a monster, but she represents “the fearlessness of womankind”: a suitable name for the press which is supporting the strong, fearless voices of women authors.