CalenDark: The Infernal Almanac
Harvested by Stephanie Ellis and David Shakes
by Chantal Boudreau
Some anthologies are a mixed-bag with a few stand out stories, some are mindless entertainment without much depth, but I consider this creepy anthology an enjoyable learning experience where I can honestly say I at least liked every one of the stories within (and in some cases loved them). The lessons learned? It taught me a little about several obscure, dark holidays with strange rituals or ceremonies that I hadn’t heard of before reading this. It also changed my opinion about expected quality from “for-the-love” anthologies.
Like them or lump them, calls for submissions where authors aren’t being paid won’t typically attract professional authors with a solid track record, and often the editing leaves a lot to be desired. This is where CalenDark very much took me by surprise. The stories and editing were high quality – the best anthology I’ve read so far this year. The characters were interesting, the horror chilling and there was a good mixture of tone, theme and style present. Some of the stories focused on ghosts, others on demons and devils, and they all had a human element of evil. Some offered up psychological horror, others a bit of gore. I looked forward to each new tale as I read.
CalenDark opens strong with a Twelfth Night story, Lord of Misrule, that left me with goosebumps, and stays strong with the tales that follow. While some had more complex plots than others, I found something interesting in each of them. My favourites, other than the opening tale, was the disturbing story with a school setting offered up for Candlemas, “The Presentation in the Temple”, and the time blurring and touching story chosen to represent St. Valentine’s Day, “The Wind of the Hurricane”. I also really enjoyed “The Exile’s Harvest” and the anthology ended strong with the spooky finale, “The First Visitor” (ironically, the last.)
You may note a European influence as you read, with some UK terms used in several of the stories. To round it all out, the anthology had a professional looking cover with striking artwork from Tim Youster.
I do highly recommend this anthology to anyone looking for a good horror mix with plenty of thrills and chills. I consider this a five out of five star read for its entertainment value and quality storytelling.