- Danse Macabre.
- Laura M. Hughes.
- 56 pages.
- Fantasy / Horror / Horror Thriller.
- My Rating: 5 stars out of 5.
The dead beckon and the little girl obeys. Night after night she answers the graveyard’s call, though she dreads her encounters with the creature that dwells there.
But she’ll soon come to learn that memories are much more dangerous than monsters…
I’m not normally a fan of novella’s, I much prefer a hefty tome that takes days of engrossed reading to finish rather than a short story that takes just over an hour to read. Saying that, I came across this thanks to the Grimdark Fiction Readers and Writers group on Facebook.
And, wow, am I pleased I did! This is a stunning read, in just 56 pages Hughes crafts a fully fledged story with a captivating main character in Blue and a fitting if somewhat tragic ending. Being a novella you know that words and space are to a premium and Hughes utilizes these perfectly, giving you a tale that keeps you intrigued, guessing and mesmerised. It’s dark and ominous with an underlying tone of tragedy throughout.
In short, Blue is a young girl, tormented by memories, each night she visits the village cemetery and the graves of her lost loved ones. Each time, there is a man waiting for her there, Blue strikes a bargain with him and thus her tale of revenge and redemption is set.
“You’re right: most of it is shite. But mamma always says that we should try an’ abide by the Ten Commandments, and I reckon she’s right. What’s so shite about a world where no one ever lies, or steals, or kills each other?”
Blue as I mentioned is a captivating character, the struggles she faces, the actions she must take and the consequences of those actions are all gripping. Even without a single line of dialogue she’s a character that you really feel for. As the story progresses we see some flashbacks of Blue’s, these help you as the reader feel drawn to her even more as you experience events that she has had to go through in her past.
Along with Blue there’s also a few other characters, Snail and Crow are by Blue’s side for her story, her sidekicks, offering advice and acting as her conscious. There’s also the man who haunts Blue, he comes across as sinister and menacing and when his true intentions are revealed late on takes on a nightmarish aspect to.
The world building is also top quality, it’s only a novella so we aren’t given detailed and multi layered areas full of history and lore but what we are given works really well. While we don’t actually know when or where the story takes place Hughes creates a vividly dark setting for her tale that fits the tone perfectly.
The book starts at chapter 10 and ends with chapter 1, this may seem strange at first, it did to me but it ties in well to the story and as you progress you will have an “ah” moment when you realise why the chapters are labelled in reverse.
Hughes writing is also praiseworthy, weaving together elements of fantasy, horror, ghost stories and thriller her style is dark and creepy yet she never goes overboard with the descriptions or gore for the horror elements, sometimes we don’t need gallons of blood with viscera spraying everywhere and that old saying “less is more” is apt for Danse Macabre. Sometimes it’s what you’re not shown rather than what you are that allows you as the reader to imagine the scenes in your head as you read them. This means that those of you who would normally shy away from the genre can easily give this a go and treat yourself to this read.
“Blue never liked words much. She had met many people who had used words to trick, to hurt. To lie. But this one was different. This one didn’t just give her words. He gave her numbers too. And though Blue had never been skilled with either words or numbers, numbers had always seemed more honest to her. Numbers couldn’t lie.”
Hughes has a way with words that borders on the poetic, she manages to create vivid imagery and emotion for her main character in Blue.
I don’t read many novella’s but this is the best one I have read, Danse Macabre outstanding, it is an atmospheric, haunting and evocative read that I highly recommend.
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