The Black Wind’s Whispers by Various Authors – Book Review [Eroldren]
Eroldren takes a look over the Bolthole’s first self-published anthology, The Black Wind’s Whispers, with a special short story contribution from C.L. Werner.
“Indeed a strange batch of intriguing tales from our world’s dark side done with unexpected takes.” – The Founding Fields
Don’t know who the Boltholers are? Well the introductory of The Black Wind’s Whispers should be adequate enough to covers their backstory and show what you’ll be getting yourself into. Regardless having their roots in Black Library’s range of WH40K and Warhammer Fantasy titles their forum community one that I enjoy being among with. Anyway, The Black Wind Whispers was the Bolthole’s first step into putting together a book product done as a group effort and the chosen story theme for their first anthology… monsters.
In generations past and, surely, generations to come, ancient tales of demons and monsters persist. Ghosts, vampires, werewolves, mummies, gargoyles and more. Some endure, familiar as they are terrifying. Others wear new faces and take new forms.
From the twisted minds over at the Bolthole writing forums comes nine fantastic and dark tales of horror. Edited by Andrew Aston a and C.S. Barlow, including a story by special guest author, veteran horror writer C.L. Werner, here is proof that you can teach an old monster new horrors…
“The Birth Howl” by James Fadeley
Kicking off The Black Wind’s Whisper is first a great two-part story from James Fadeley that readies us what to expect from the rest. Dropped with a murder case set in London 1972 Detective Inspector Ian Stewart works out to learn the identity of the culprit, however, his investigation leads him into wary developments surrounding the supernatural. Although “The Birth Howl” was cut into two segments Fadeley ended the first part of his story on a high note, allowing some bit of anticipation grow in me to speculate how the mystery behind “The Birth Howl” would be resolved while I read through the others. Reflecting back on it was indeed a bit of an entertaining surprise but I need to look back and try to interpret again what exactly just happened.
As for the lead character Ian Stewart was an enjoyable narrator for me to follow throughout the mystery from start to finish without fault. Anyway in short of what I’m saying Fadeley’s “The Birth Howl” was overall terrific tale and it got me keen to see what was coming up next immediately.
“Plague of the Krakenmari” by Simon Howers
Completely different to the storytelling format I just left behind in “The Birth Howl” Simon Howers’ “Plague of the Krakenmari” transitions the reader away from the third person perspective and gender into a refreshing story told through the eyes of Anna in first-person. In the village of Shureham the troublesome deaths inflict the people and Anna and the local doctor how to confront this spreading horror. Short and brisk “Plague of the Krakenmari” is another strong installment from the Bolthole that kept my attention glued to the computer screen.
Simon’s taken a rather interesting twist on his chosen monster and developed that feels even distinct among the host of other twisted monstrosities the Boltholer took with their own. Loved this story that I was actually wondering whether or not the Krakenmari had actually derived somewhere from obscured myths. Alas I don’t think so and Simon Howers done a most excellent job being creative.
“The Sculptor’s Torment” by Jonathan Ward
Third in line is another grand short story from the Bolthole group is Jonathan Ward’s “The Sculptor’s Torment”. Set in contemporary time period much different from the previous two entries is a small yet immersive world that digs into the life of David Lerner and that of his troublesome Uncle Zak. And with a featured creature I’ve barely ever seen portrayed in any media except hearing offhand tidbits of lore from the source material and its modern twist in horror, Jonathan’s storytelling here is indeed impressive.
“Unmarked” by Andrew Aston
Out of the entire lot of entries from the Bolthole’s pool of spawned writing talent I’ll say that “Unmarked” bound to be my top favorite installment. Plenty of other great stories throughout The Black Wind’s Whispers are vying for second place and third and so forth, but Andrew’s particular monster and setting was entirety unexpected and an enjoyable twist but a recognizable kindred.
I won’t say much on the story of “Unmarked” apart from my earlier hint and being in chilling atmosphere. I certainly do like to see what other delightful horrors Andrew Aston is holding back from us…
“An Old Friend” by Keanu Ross-Cabrera
Next is “An Old Friend” set around a tale of Valentin, an old man and his dog out alone in his home as winter falls and a creature from the past awaits him outside. “An Old Friend” it is by no means a bad read, it’s an enjoyable read like the rest in The Black Wind’s Whispers and it did kept me entertained all the way through in see what was happening to Valentin’s world. However, I couldn’t quite fully figure out what was going on with this story so the whole underlying horror aspect of this short story was felt rather lost to me.
“Guardian” by Alec McQuay
Fixed around the account of one human character known only as Victor, Alec McQuay’s short story “Guardian” is made a very character-focused story. While this one entry wasn’t overly a memorable story when I was reflecting back on the entire anthology, jumping back to this review after rereading McQuay’s story still fresh in my mind I found “Guardian” quite a entertaining tale.
And as my fellow reviewer Bane of Kings gave mention in his own review, the ending was indeed chilling.
“Since This War” by Robbie McNiven
Now this next short story was one of particular interest which I had some anticipation to read since I’ve already read part through Robbie McNiven’s ongoing fantasy serial found over at JukePop Serials: Werekynd – Beasts of the Tanglewild. However, this anthology is grounded on Earth instead a fantasy world McNiven has explores a historical period set in WWII seen from the perspective of Russians sent out to liberate Nazi prison camps.
Told in a brisk pacing and a compelling narrative, “Since This War” is another of great standouts The Black Wind’s Whispers has to offer.
“Burden” by Jeremy Daw
Up next is Jeremy Daw’s “Burden” and it’s one told in a different storytelling approach for the bulk of it read as a recorded interview transcript between Director Hendrickson and his patient Wilmott. In this unique format I ended up in a slow reading pace, trying to absorb every bit of detail the story had to show unlike the two other shorts “Burden” found itself situated between the fast paced “Since This War” by McNiven and Werner’s “Entombed in the Dark.” Plus, like any other entry you can find in this anthology, “Burden’s” contemporary setting here is certainly to be a chilling and dark.
“Entombed in the Dawn” by C.L. Werner
Packed alongside our range of various stories was a surprise entry from C.L. Werner that was slipped with the Bolthole’s monster-theme anthology. Alone this short story may be incentive enough for readers of Werner’s other work to pursue after “Entombed in the Dawn” among the collection Bolthole entries. Set around the regions of France two men of a expedition are out to of that would affirm their belief Neanderthal originated from France rather than migrated, however, being that the anthology center on various nightmarish creatures, this chilling journey Werner takes us (and the narrator) down not a delightful one at that…
“In Parting” by Andrew Aston
Last in line story for The Black Wind’s Whispers is “In Parting”, a second entry but a very short story from Andrew Aston. However, it didn’t end The Black Wind Whispers for me particularly on a high note right after reading C.L. Werner’s fantastic story. A decent read with a strange turn of events for sure but it didn’t click with me being all too short for me to grasp onto it, even with multiple readings.
Andrew Aston’s previous story in the anthology beforehand, “Unmarked”, was very entertaining for me and my expectations for “In Parting” were situated high among with rest found throughout the anthology. I still look forward for more stories from Aston but sadly this one couldn’t quite work its storytelling magic on me.
In conclusion, like any anthology out there in the world we’ll have both our notable low and high point stories to be found wherever and The Black Wind’s Whispers no exception but everything leans towards the more positive color spectrum. This monster themed anthology overall held together itself rather strongly for a first time publication. None the stories were terrible to read, despite some didn’t quite leave a solid impression on me for the fantastical elements mixed with the horror aspect. But for my overall impression, it was satisfying regardless and didn’t stop me spending some my reading hours through the middle of a couple late nights.
Overall Verdict: 8/10
Eroldren, a SFF follower of both tie-in media and original works, enjoys rereading books frequently. So be warned, he might bring out sometimes his share of older and heavy duty titles alongside the newcomers.