While a good long horror novel can be a lot of fun, one of my FAVORITE ways to enjoy great horror and dark fiction storytelling is in the fast paced world of short stories. If you can give me a whole bunch of excellent stories in a single anthology volume, even better!
Let’s find out, but first…
Ash and Bone : Tales of Terror is written by Elford Alley and originally published on the Kindle in 2018, again in December of 2020 and the paperback in February of 2021. The December 2020 version I own was put out by Desert Creek Publishing.
“The undead rise and monsters roam the dark in Ash and Bone: Tales of Terror. Enjoy nine terrifying tales featuring zombies, giant spiders, witches, and more. Find the horror that waits not only in the periphery of our vision, but within ourselves.”
Whether it’s a classic “monster” story, in which giant spiders stalk a family and threaten to overrun a town, in the story Funny Kittens or more heartbreaking tales such as the stories of Group 3 and Keep Them Down in which children are left to bear the worst of the horrifying events unfolding around them, this collection hits all the right notes from start to finish.
I loved how it opens with a story in Nature of the Business that shares a look at a zombie tale that was the perfect “ice breaker” to get things rolling. Then moves quickly into darker and darker stories that crank up the emotional anguish as you proceed through the collection.
As the description says, there are nine stories included in this anthology, and I’m very hard pressed to pick my favorites. That being said, I really enjoyed the emotional gut punch of Keep Them Down and the supernatural vibes of The Corpse Walker, and I’d have to say they are probably my FAVORITES of the nine tales within Ash and Bone : Tales of Terror.
On a “writing style” note, there’s something that I really enjoy about Alley’s writing. It’s descriptive and efficient. He has a way of capturing a tone or voice within his stories that brings you into his worlds while not getting OVERLY flowery for the sake of it.
For example, this short passage from the story The Corpse Walker:
To Haze, the woods were a mass of gray and black, spotted in blotches of red, the living that crawled, hunted, and fucked in the trees and grass.Alley, Elford. Ash and Bone: Tales of Terror (p. 22). Desert Creek Publishing. Kindle Edition.
The Not So Good
To be perfectly honest, I don’t really have much about this collection that I didn’t enjoy. The stories were all punchy and impactful, delivering on the promise of being Tales of Terror from the title.
I will say this, however. Maybe it’s only because I’ve read so many different horror stories lately, but most of the stories in this collection feel to be more dark fiction than terrifying horror. With the exception of one and maybe two stories that hit me a little different as they involve horrible, heartbreaking things happening to children, most of these were much more in the realm of satisfying dark fiction. The stories where kids are involved creep me out more and I think it’s only because I’m a father of two wonderful kiddo’s and I can’t help but imagine the horror I’d feel if it were my own kids on those situations.
But honestly, I have no real complaints. The dark fiction vs terrifying horror distinction is… well I’ll put it this way. If that’s the only gripe about a story collection… well, it’s a pretty damn solid collection in my opinion.
The Bottom Line
I had previously read(and enjoyed) another collection from author Elford Alley called The Last Night in the Damned House and Other Ghost Stories and enjoyed it quite a bit, so when I saw Ash and Bone : Tales of Terror I didn’t hesitate to pick it up.
Where the previous collection(The Last Night) had a series of stories that were largely interconnected, Ash and Bone : Tales of Terror contains nine wonderful, stand-alone stories that you can jump into in any order and enjoy no matter what other tales in the book you’ve read.
Now I don’t know many that will jump into a book by finding a story in the middle as the FIRST thing they’d read… what kind of monster would you have to be to do that?! Geesh! But you COULD do that with this book and be just fine!
I really enjoyed the blend of folklore and myth style horror combined with more traditional dark fiction and horror that the author seems to do so well.
As I wrote in my Goodreads review, I’d very much recommend this collection to any fans of dark fiction and horror that is saturated in a dark and dusty Texas vibe!
I give Ash and Bone : Tales of Terror by Elford Alley a 4 out of 5 stars.
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