Black Feathers: Dark Avian Tales: An Anthology edited by Ellen Datlow
Pegasus Books, 2017
Available: Hardcover, Kindle edition
This anthology of avian-themed fiction, edited by Ellen Datlow, presents a fantastic collection of short stories by some of the best authors in the horror genre. Each story features, as the anthology title indicates, birds that act as agents of death, sentinels, communicators, and more. The authors present the darkness the bird realm can represent, and present unique philosophical questions and uncomfortable answers in this collection.
Datlow has collected some of the best writers for this anthology. Authors include Sandra Kasturi, Nicholas Royle, Seanan McGuire, Paul Tremblay, Joyce Carol Oates, Richard Bowes, Alison Littlewood, Jeffrey Ford, Mike O’Driscoll, Usman T. Malik, Stephen Graham Jones, A.C. Wise, M. John Harrison, Pat Cadigan, Livia Llewellyn, and Priya Sharma.
There is not a single story in this anthology that does not linger with the reader. A struggling academic studying owls gets too close to his research subjects, much to his wife’s concern, and ending in a deadly discovery. What happens to him will change his family forever. A young girl obsessively counts the types of birds she sees throughout the day, and interprets the numbers to mean certain things will happen. She’s never wrong. A grieving widow begins to relate to the herons on her property, who help her deal with the death of her husband. The birds seemingly take care of her problems and provide her with a new sense of freedom. Rogue birds are being investigated by an occult group for helping humans cheat death. A twin returns home after her father’s death, reconnects with her sister, and finds out the terrible truth about herself after the funeral. These tales are only a fraction of what this collection offers to the reader.
While there is very little in the way of gore, there are definitely psychological horrors that the reader will encounter. Sometimes these can be more terrifying than any amount of blood and guts.
Datlow has won multiple Hugo, Locus, and Shirley Jackson awards and has received several lifetime achievement awards, including the Bram Stoker Award. She is adept at anthology selection, and I promise you won’t be disappointed with this collection. Highly recommended
Contains: brief sex, abuse, psychological terror
Reviewed by Lizzy Walker