If you’ve been following my reviews, you may recall way back in March, I reviewed Beyond the Cogs: A Steampunk anthology, a collection of three steampunk stories (if you don’t recall, or would like to revisit it, click here to take a look). With my love of that book, and with two of its authors contributing to this anthology, I leapt at the opportunity to review Midnight Tide Publishing’s latest anthology, Emporium of Superstition.
Featuring a compendium of twelve short stories, in addition to a prologue which introduces the concept, Emporium of Superstition, written entirely by women, collects old wives’ tales framed as horror stories and cautionary tales, sometimes with a healthy dose of dark fantasy. However, while it touches upon these genres and the stories are often atmospheric, there is very little material that will actually frighten the reader. If you’re a fan of horror, you might find yourself disappointed by how tame the horror aspects in the book are. The lack of scares isn’t because the book is aimed at younger readers—it is squarely a book for adult audiences, with sex scenes, swearing and bloody violence, and various subject matter that isn’t advisable to hand to anybody under the age of eighteen. While the reader can expect plenty of adult subject matter within the collection, they can’t expect plenty of frights.
As with any anthology, the reader’s mileage will vary from story to story. Each story has a limited amount of space to get everything across to the reader, and invariably, some stories use this space better than others. At 592 pages in paperback (or an estimated 591 pages on your eReader), Emporium of Superstition is a sizeable collection, but with twelve stories to get through, space is limited. Unfortunately, a fair number of the stories in the anthology don’t use the space as well as I’d have liked, resulting in a book that may feature some enjoyable concepts and entertaining stories, doesn’t shine as brightly as I’d have liked.
If you enjoy old wives’ tales, suspenseful stories and cautionary tales, don’t mind adult subject matter, and enjoy horror that isn’t particularly horrific, there’s a fair amount to enjoy within the collection. You’ll find some stories work better than others (which is true of any anthology), but as a complete experience, the collection is unlikely to linger with you.
No author has been attributed to the book’s prologue, which is a shame; it serves as a fun introduction to the book. While I’d ordinarily attribute it to the editor, no editor has been listed; the closest is a credit to one of the book’s authors, Meg Dailey, for proofreading the book.
The prologue sets the scene, with a character called Melissa and her mother finding the book within a book, Emporium of Superstition, which chronicles the old wives’ tales contained within. I enjoyed the manner this introduced the anthology, and would have loved to see the characters pop up in between stories, acting as a framing device. Alas, it’s limited to the book’s first few pages.
By Candace Robinson
Mirror, Mirror tells the story of a man in the late 1800s/early 1900s caring for his sick wife. In a desperate bid to save her, he makes a deal with a demon, which is never a good idea. The demon tasks him with completing various trials to keep his end of the bargain.
This story paints a vivid view of the world in which the characters reside, and brings the Hell dimension the demon lives in, to brutal life. However, while the specifics of the twist ending aren’t easily predictable, the gist of it is. The story uses a clever framing device which I won’t spoil here, however, the story’s insistence on pointing this out at the end sells it short.
An Ax for the Storm
By C. Vonzale Lewis
An Ax for the Storm, written by one of Beyond the Cogs’ authors, C. Vonzale Lewis, is a tale of vengeance following a woman’s loss of a child. Told from different perspectives, it sets the scene beautiful, feeling like it had stepped out of New Orleans.
The darker, supernatural elements in the story work, and the tale is a relatable one for parents. For the story being told, though, it feels a little overlong, with its setting and world building overshadowing the plot and supernatural nature of the tale.
Oh Cruel Darkness
By Christis Christie
One of my favourite stories in the collection, Oh Cruel Darkness tells the story of a woman being pursued by a demon. It’s a dark story, but also sad.
The story unveils itself slowly, getting darker as it continues, before its ending hits the reader. The author’s tone throughout this book is engaging throughout, written in a light-hearted manner that belies the story’s themes.
She’s Come Undone
By Katya Beccera
Telling the story of a woman whose car hits a pothole and her life begins to fall apart. It sets a creepy tone as she discovers someone is impersonating not just her, but is apparently living her life.
This story is a creepy tale, but one I found to be overwritten. While the writing is enjoyable, I found the character’s story got lost within the words.
One Last Breath
By Elle Beaumont
Written by Elle Beaumont, a contributor to Beyond the Cogs, One Last Breath is another winner from the author, and probably my favourite story in the entire anthology. And it’s a creepy tale about demonic cats, of all things.
The prose in the story shines brightly, building the world nicely as it explores its characters. The pacing builds suspense well, keeping the reader glued to the page as it moves towards its conclusion.
Once Upon a Storm Drain
By Jessica Cranberry
Once Upon a Storm Drain tells the story of a young woman returning home after the death of her mother. As she uncovers deep secrets, she learns how dangerous these can be.
The prose in the story is heavy, full of long, detailed paragraphs. Unfortunately, while this is an enjoyable tale, the author’s style interferes with the momentum of the story. This overwriting means that the story’s conclusion doesn’t pack the punch I’d have liked.
By Kristin Jacques
Hair(Suit) is one of the stranger tales in the collection, telling the story of a woman who begins to find hair sprouting from her face. Upon learning why this is happening, she needs to decide what to do about it.
The story is fun and brings a sense of humour to it, but feels like an odd fit for the anthology. It’s a story that will elicit chuckles, but doesn’t have much mystery to it.
By Marlena Frank
Perfection tells the story of an elderly woman who discovers she has a doppleganger. The concept works well, making for an intriguing tale.
Like a few stories in the anthology, Perfection is overwritten. It casts a beautiful setting that the prose conveys in a pleasant manner, but unfortunately, it interferes with the story’s pacing.
Stay With Me
By Meg Dailey
Another favourite, which is In many ways, a classic haunted house story. Stay With Me goes a step further and tells the story of how this impacts the resident’s health.
It’s one of the creepier tales, without aiming for any visceral material. The prose in this story is a casts a haunting image, which lures the reader in, keeping them transfixed while waiting to see how it plays out.
Whistle for Me
By D.M. Siciliano
Like Stay With Me before it, Whistle for Me features another haunting. This time, it’s a haunted apartment, after a woman discovers her husband was having an affair with her sister.
This is an enjoyable morality tale. The prose is strong and conveys a creepy theme, however, I found it to be a little overwritten. Unfortunately, this made the story a little more difficult to get into, with the length of its paragraphs not adding a great deal of value to the information they were conveying.
The Seventh Crow
By Leslie Rush
The penultimate story in the anthology features its protagonist talking to a ghost through a Ouija board. The story builds slowly to a great crescendo.
The story is haunting, and the author makes great use of the prose to convey the haunting nature of the Ouija board. The story builds to a fantastic conclusion; one of the more enjoyable climaxes in the collection.
By Theresa Braun
The collection’s final tale, SleepWalker tells the story of a young man who must look after his sleepwalking father.
It’s probably the most visceral story in the anthology, but moves at a slow pace. While the pace feels very deliberate to build suspense, I found this didn’t entirely work as well as it could have, with its escalation lacking tension.
For once, the train home wasn’t overly crowded, and with her AirPods in, she could almost pretend that she wasn’t seated across from a man wearing a very suspicious trench coat. Closing her eyes to all of it, Nora focused instead on the voice crooning in her ears and worked on relaxing her breathing. Her therapist was constantly telling her she needed to work on her de-stressing methods so that she didn’t fall into an anxious pit of panic attacks and heart murmurs again. She had a tendency to let the stresses of life get to her and drag her down into unimaginable levels of anxiety.
It was not the best condition for a twenty-six-year-old professional to find herself.Emporium of Superstition: An Anthology of Old Wives‘ Tales, Oh Cruel Darkness, Chapter One
Emporium of Superstition: An Anthology of Old Wives Tales was provided by BookSirens for the purpose of an honest review.
Emporium of Supersitition wil available in paperback and eBook from retailers, including—but not limited to—Amazon from 5 October 2022.
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- Amazon – To be added upon the book’s release
Interested in purchasing Emporium of Superstition: A Collection of Old Wives; Tales?
Please find a link below; please note I do not collect any proceeds from the sale.Emporium of Superstition: An Old Wives’ Tale Anthology