Book Reviews

Tales of Monstrosity: Monsters, Myths and Miscreants

Part of The Crossing Genres Anthology Collection Dive into the world of the unknown and explore the monsters lurking in the shadows with Tales of Monstrosity: Monsters, Myths, and Miscreants. This anthology features a diverse group of award-winning veteran and emerging authors challenged to break away from the usual vampire and werewolf tales and bring to light lesser known myths and legends. From gnomes to gorgons, gargoyles to El Cucuy, these stories run the gamut of genres, from urban fantasy to horror and beyond. As a bonus, enjoy the behind-the-scenes peek at the creative process through personal author articles. Don't miss this monstrously fun collection of unique and twisted tales.

For the record, I didn’t decide to review Tales of Monstrosity because my review of Dragons of a Different Tail is quoted in the back of the book. I was unaware of this citation until I reached the end of the anthology. I assume the editors included it because of my love of that anthology, a love that just so happens to be the reason I jumped at the opportunity to review Tales of Monstrosity, an anthology from the same small publisher (Cabbit Crossing), edited by the same team of Marx Pyle, J.C. Mastro, Victoria L. Scott and Anne C. Lynch, and featuring many of the same authors. And besides, the subtitle Monsters, Myths and Miscreants is too enticing to pass up.

Like Dragons of a Different Tail before it, this is an exceedingly positive review, so I should probably also note that the quote has in no way influenced it. These guys just release wonderful anthologies.

As with Dragons of a Different Tai, Tales of Monstrosity is broken up into segments. There are three of them, each one named in the subtitle.

  • Monsters broadly features the darker stories from this collection, those that are all about the horror, except when they’re whimsical.
  • Myths lightens the mood with a little more humour and a little less outright horror, while also providing a varied set of stories.
  • Miscreants shifts the book’s focus to urban fantasy—and sometimes, high fantasy—exploring the fiends that populate the genre, some more often than others.

A wonderful foreword by Tim Waggoner—responsible for a number of science fiction, fantasy and, yes, horror stories; and winner of almost as many awards—sets the scene. Here, Waggoner discusses horror, monsters, and humanity’s obsession with them. Editor (and author of “Rebel with a Cause”) Pyle, provides an introduction, teasing what’s to come through these stories. 

At 532 pages in paperback (or an estimated 482 pages on your favourite eReader), Tales of Monstrosity is a couple of hundred pages longer than its predecessor, and includes two additional stories for your reading pleasure, for a total of nineteen. Also for your reading pleasure, is some additional information about the stories, which is great for anyone—like me—who loves that little bit of extra content about the stories you have just read. And for your listening pleasure, they have put together a list of songs for you to listen to.

Throughout the nineteen stories contained within its pages, Tales of Monstrosity tells a unique blend of tales, touching upon a variety of genres. While horror and fantasy are to be expected, and humour can often play a role in anthologies, the book also touches upon mystery, religion, blog posts, literary fiction, and middle-grade stories, and these tales all carve out their own niche in the collection. This isn’t a book about vampires or zombies; while some well-known creatures appear, so do the lesser-known ones. Various stories are borne from mythology from all around the world, providing an eclectic mix of creatures, stories and archetypes to pool from.

With any anthology, you will inevitably find stories that don’t resonate with you, and that was the case for me while reading Tales of Monstrosity. However, the stories that don’t resonate with me are far exceeded by those that do. And where those stories don’t quite grab me, they are wonderfully written—everyone’s experience will be different, guided by their tastes and preferences.Tales of Monstrosity is a wonderful achievement by all the writers and editors who had a hand in putting it together. Some stories will get inside your head like the monsters who feature in them; other stories will make you laugh, often like the monsters who feature in them. If you enjoy a monster tale, whether it be The Babadook or The Munsters, you’ll find much to fear—or adore—in the collection.


El Cucuy
By Scott A. Johnson

When a story endangers children, it can either be crass, or it can strike fear into a parent’s heart. “El Cucuy” struck fear into my heart. Taken from the Spanish and Portuguese myth of the El Cucuy—more commonly known as the Coco or Coca—Johnson has written a hauntingly evocative story about the sins of the past. This is a great opening story to set the mood for what’s to come.

Gore Vellye (The Autumn Tumult)
By Anne C. Lynch

“Gore Vellye (The Autumn Tumult)” sets the scene with a passage of Orcadian verse (of the Orkney Islands in Scotland). I don’t know if this is a real verse, or one that Lynch wrote especially for this story, but regardless, it sets the scene quite nicely. The tale gives the reader a great feel for its protagonist as it builds towards the threat, the nuckelavee, from Orcadian folklore.

Prey Animals
By Sen R. L. Scherb

As I started reading “Prey Animals,” I couldn’t help but smile. With its lead character narrating the story about how they, and five friends, struck it rich, it oozes character. This character continues through the story until things go awry, as they generally do in horror. It builds slowly, creating a story that’s off-kilter, unsettling the reader, and lingering in their mind. It doesn’t hit the same notes as Scherb’s “Prey Animals” from Dragons of a Different Tail, but it is equally effective.

The Devil and Scott
By W.H. Horner

This collection includes a few stories that exemplify why the included pieces from the authors discussing their works add so much value. It’s not that “The Devil and Scott” is incomprehensible—far from it—but more how the author came up with this idea. As it tells two narratives, one featuring the Devil (but probably not the Devil you expect), and the other featuring Scott (definitely not who I expected), it presents two entertaining threads that coalesce beautifully.

A Thing of Hope
By Carrie Gessner

In a book about monsters—and monstrosity—you don’t expect to find beauty. But if you do, it can be a wonderful palette cleanser. “A Thing of Hope” is one such palette cleanser, encapsulating what can make anthologies work so well: completely different stories around a core theme. As it tells the story of an alien, lost and alone on a planet he’s learning to understand, it truly warms the heart, and is a delightful introduction to the various styles this book will introduce as it continues.


By Kevin Plybon

“Gnomies,” as the name might indicate, is a story about gnomes. It’s a tale that starts off innocently, with the group playing a name game. Throughout this, the reader is treated to a cute conversation as they continue to play. Until the story takes a darker turn, truly becoming a “tale of monstrosity,” that is. In turns comic and darkly comic, Gnomies delights in taking the story into unexpected places. This is a completely different style of story than Plybon’s “Catalyst” from Dragons of a Different Tail, and as much as I enjoyed that, I have to say I enjoyed this more.

Don’t Feed the Troll
By Katharine Dow

The title “Don’t Feed the Troll” is more than a play on words. It’s a story that plays on both the monstrous archetype, threatening people under bridges, and those online, causing a stir. Like “The Brooklyn Dragon Racing Club” from Dragons of a Different Tail, Dow has beautifully reflected our world. But this time, it’s reflected by a world where creatures of legend cohabitate the planet with humans in a lighthearted tale about how we all live together in this melting pot. It’s an entertaining story, and one that I could see being stretched out into a series of entertaining novels.

Don’t Lose Your Head
By Victoria L. Scott

Like the previous story, “Don’t Lose Your Head” is a great blend of mythology and the modern times. Scott is also a Dragons of a Different Tail contributor, responsible for the great “Big Dreams.” Telling the story of a cephalophore, or head-carrier—often depicted as martyred saints—this is a cute story of someone with a grudge against Washington Irving, author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Rather than sharing that story’s gothic nature, Scott provides a curious tale about online dating.

Eyes Like Burning Coal
By Jeremiah Dylan Cook

Cook, a horror writer with a varied history working within the genre, tells a story about the brilliantly named Department of Cryptid Collection, an agency responsible for the incarceration of monsters. “Eyes Like Burning Coal’s” protagonist, who works for the department, finds herself on the tail of Spring-Heeled Jack. It’s an entertaining tale which, like the couple before it, presents a world where humans and monsters coexist… even if it’s not entirely harmonious.

Magicland Mischief
By J.C. Mastro

I’m a huge fan of Mastro’s writing. Not only did he pen probably my favourite story in Dragons of a Different Tail, he also wrote the wonderful Academy Bound, which is unlike either of these fantastical offerings. I was excited to see what he wrote for this, and wasn’t disappointed. Upon seeing its connection to Dragons’ “Spirit of the Dragon,” I couldn’t help but grin. Taking place in a theme park not unlike Disneyland, “Magicland Mischief” is a hilarious story featuring various creatures… and Abraham Lincoln. This story is packed full of wit and wonderful characters, with prose you can’t help but love.

Ghouly Girl
By Sophia DeSensi

DeSensi wrote another of my highlights in Dragons of a Different Tail, “Tiny Hearts.” While much like that story, the author weaves a fun story, it’s where the similarities end. “Ghouly Girl” tells the story of a ghoul—not to be confused with a ghost, as the story makes clear—who, tired of haunting, decides to find a new place to live in the most human way she can think of: joining a sharehouse. It’s an entertaining tale, although one that doesn’t resonate as strongly for me as some of the others.

Worst Vacation Ever: A Frederick Moody Story
By Jennie Rivera

There’s a danger in writing a story for an anthology based on a larger work, in that it can feel shoehorned into the format, and runs the risk of ostracising readers unfamiliar with that work. While “Worst Vacation Ever” is “A Frederick Moody Story,” taken from Frederick Moody and the Secrets of Six Summit Lake—a middle-grade novel, to whose audience this is perfectly suited to—it fits within this book of monstrosities. This tale charms the reader, regardless of whether they know that book—I don’t—as Fred and his friend Lisa contend with the vampiric creature of Filipino myth, the manananggal, which can separate the top of its body from the lower part.


The Brazen Skull: A Good Necromancer Story
By Michael La Ronn

As Myths ended with a story tying in to a larger work, Miscreants opens with “The Brazen Skull,” tying into La Ronn’s The Good Necromancer series. The same dangers apply here, and all those dangers have, once again, been avoided. Featuring one of the greatest opening passages in this collection, the story gets the reader up to speed quickly about this good necromancer and his world, before telling an entertaining tale about him finding a prophetic skull that just won’t stop talking.

Rebel with a Cause: An Obsidian Archives Story
By Marx Pyle

The third story in a row taken from a larger narrative, Rebel with a Cause is set within Obsidian Archives, Pyle’s Kindle Vella series. Once again, it avoids the many pitfalls that can hamper a tie-in story in a wider collection, and does so with aplomb. I’m a fan of the author’s “A Wild Beast of the West” from Dragons of a Different Tail, and this didn’t disappoint. A fun tale with entertaining characters, well-known monsters of myth and more eclectic fare like púca, my only disappointment is that Kindle Vella isn’t available in Australia, meaning I can’t explore this universe further.

An Old Favor
By Marisa Wolf

I’m a huge fan of Greek mythology, so “An Old Favor” grabbed by attention with the use of a satyr, a nature spirit with a horse’s ears and tail (as well as a giant erection, although Wolf’s story doesn’t go there—be either as relieved or disappointed as you see fit). This is a lowkey tale that works best with a careful read, taking in the conversation between the story’s characters.

The Adventures of Elena and Ned, Gargoyle P.I.
By Jeff Burns

“Wei Ling and the Water Dragons” was one of my highlights from Dragons of a Different Tail, a thing of beauty. I was curious to see what Burns brought to this anthology, but wasn’t quite prepared for “The Adventures of Elena and Ned, Gargoyle P.I.” This is a hilarious story about a pair of detectives, the human Elena and the gargoyle Ned, working a case revolving around goblins. The story had me chuckling throughout it, and bonus points go to the author for throwing in a David Bowie reference.

The Greatest of All Time
By Francis Fernandez

The second book in a row by an author whose story I loved in Dragons of a Different Tail—the beautiful “A Friend Called Home”—and the second story in a row that is completely different to that other piece, and had me chuckling throughout. In “The Greatest of All Time,” Fernandez has created a pastiche of hardboiled detective noir, told with a nod and a wink, as its lead character investigates a series of homicides he believes to be the result of some monster or another.

Hexpad Blog: A First-Timer’s Guide to the Big City
By Colten Fisher

After providing the closing story to Dragons of a Different Tail, Fisher provides the penultimate tale here. Instead of a sweet-natured story set during Christmas, “Hexpad Blog: A First-Timer’s Guide to the Big City” is a witty faux blog, full of posts by the author about life in the big city, New Astoria, and dealing with all the creatures that come with it. The tone is wonderful, and it had me chuckling throughout.

The Tiger’s Gift
By G.K. White

As this anthology comes to a close (before it moves onto each author’s commentary about the stories, that is), I was curious to see what White has in store for its finale, having loved Dragons of a Different Tail’s “The Last Hour of Night.” And as this collection does so often, “The Tiger’s Gift” does the unexpected, with a loose retelling of the biblical tale, Esther. This is a story about power and how it corrupts, as seen with a mythological embodiment of power, the white tiger.

Favourite Passage

Ah, Magicland. The Merriest Place on Earth… Unless you’re a corporate-level Crew Member just trying to get home after a fourteen-hour day. Laura John’s morning had begun with project oversight of a new character installation at one of the park’s most beloved attractions, Pirates of the High Seas. The afternoon found her scrolling through endless hotel budget reports. Her greatest desire at the end of the night was to get home and sleep like the dead.

Tales of Monstrosity: Monsters, Myths and Miscreants, Magicland Mischief

Tales of Monstrosity: Monsters, Myths and Miscreants was provided by BookSirens for the purpose of an honest review.

Tales of Monstrosity is available in paperback, hardcover and eBook from retailers, including—but not limited to—Amazon.

You can follow Scott A. Johnson online, via:

You can follow Sen R.L. Scherb online, via:

You can follow W.H. Horner online, via:

You can follow Carrie Gessner online, via:

You can follow Kevin Plybon online, via:

You can follow Katharine Dow online, via:

You can follow Victoria L. Scott online, via:

You can follow Jeremiah Cook online, via:

You can follow J.C. Mastro online, via:

You can follow Sophia DeSensi online, via:

You can follow Jeannie Rivera online, via:

You can follow Michael La Ronn online, via:

You can follow Marx Pyle online, via:

You can follow Marisa Wolf online, via:

You can follow Jeff Burns online, via:

You can follow Francis Fernandez online, via:

You can follow Colten Fisher online, via:

You can follow G.K. White online, via:

Note: I do not post scores on reviews on this website, but do post them on my Amazon and Goodreads reviews:

Interested in purchasing Tales of Monstrosity?

Please find a link below; please note I do not collect any proceeds from the sale.

Tales of Monstrosity: Monsters, Myths, and Miscreants (The Crossing Genres Anthology Collection Book 2)

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