Book Review: VANDAL, Tales of Damage — Dark Tides Book Six
VANDAL: TALES OF DAMAGE – – DARK TIDES MYSTERIES AND THRILLERS, BOOK SIX anthology of novellas (Crystal Lake Publishing, February 2023) Kindle Edition, 206 pages
The Dark Tide series of novella anthologies from Crystal Lake Publishing continues to delight with three more provocative tales, linked by the theme of vandalism (in any form) as well as written by Australian authors. The opening story is the most powerful of the trio, and one that is sure to be mentioned when awards time occurs.
THE DEATHPLACE SET by Kaaron Warren
The opening story was fascinating and spell-binding – – an account of cigarette cards/postcards featuring sites where suicide or murder occurred and which ghosts may be haunting. Like a mini-tour guide of odd spots in Australia, this will fuel speculation regarding their source – – if these are pure creations by Warren or based on actual sites.
Throughout the story, it was difficult to understand how a young couple could become so obsessed with visiting these places, although they managed to eke out a decent living by flipping the houses or renovating the cafe and operating it, etc. It’s not until the final chapters that the driving force behind their pre-occupation, which also consumed most of their family, was revealed. The story was creepy and disturbing enough, but that revelation put everything into an even grimmer spotlight. This one will stay with readers for awhile.
It’s quite different and original, and should be an early contender for best horror novella of the year. I fully expect to see THE DEATHPLACE SET collected in some Best-Of-The-Year anthologies. I would rate this five stars only if I worried more about these characters. Empathy is important to my reading, and I felt detached from these characters for much of the story – – not until the end sections where I felt sorry and worried for the narrator. FOUR AND ONE-HALF STARS.
WE CALLED IT GRAFFITIVILLE by Aaron Dries Dan and Kiki are two young Australian volunteers working in Samoa to make a difference in the local communities. They meet there, fall in love, and share their joy of helping others. Over the recent months their love has started to lose its’ value and their local contributions seem more challenging. In a joint effort the mend the relationship, Dan and Kiki made a side-trip to the southern part of the island for a mountain-climbing adventure. A tsunami strikes and destroys the coastline. Their saving grace was the higher elevation of the mountain which the devastating waves could not reach.
Their partnership in survival seems to bring them together again and provides suspense as they try to find their way through the jungle without navigation, hoping to find a village or community.
The story grabs attention and holds interest for most of its’ length. However, the ending was an unexpected abrupt left turn that ended up disturbing a compelling narrative. The supernatural turn at the end seemed oddly inserted, and ruined the ending. This was a four-star rated story until that point Final rating: THREE STARS.
QUICKSILVER by J.S. Breukelaar:
The final story starts out like a curious fairy tale/folklore involving a poor Polish village and a witch’s gift that helps a poor villager gain fame and wealth as an in-demand artist. The secret is the four words he carefully conceals within the wet paint. His brave wife visits the witch and obtains a fifth word to counter some of the side effects of his cursed art. K
Then the story morphs into a symbolic tale of the power of art on not just culture but the ability to shape a life. Across two centuries the story follows descendants of the original artist as they continue the concealed message within their art and have their very lives influenced and shaped by tradition and obligation. FOUR STARS.