With a week to go until Halloween, my huge thanks go to Daphne Denley, one of the contributors to a most timely collection, Spooky Ambiguous, edited by Lorna Brookes, for arranging to have the book sent to me in return for an honest review. I’m delighted to share that review today.
Published by Crumps Barn, Spooky Ambiguous is available for purchase here.
Ghosts and vampires, zombies and werewolves. A mirror with danger at its heart. A child is delighted to discover she is a witch, and a village disappears under a fairy curse. Then a selkie finds her way back to the waves, before a blood moon rises, bringing its own secrets …
Full of the spooky and the gothic, fairy tales and poetry, this is a brilliant and intriguing collection where nothing and no one is as they seem.
Bringing together authors from across the UK: featuring Penny Ayers, Michael Bartlett, Patrick Booth, Amaris Chase, Holly Anne Crawford, Ivor Daniel, Amanda Jane Davies, Daphne Denley, J. J. Drover, Harriet Hitchen, Rebecca McDowall, Jane Phillips, Angela Reddaway, Joe Robson, Margaret Royall, with illustrations by Lorna Gray
My Review of Spooky Ambiguous
Now, I don’t ‘do’ Halloween, feeling like Leslie in Michael Bartlett’s Mirror Mirror that it’s ‘American-inspired rubbish’ and I rarely read anything spooky because I don’t like being scared, so really Spooky Ambiguous should be a book for me to avoid. Hmm. I really enjoyed it!
Filled with slightly intangible, ethereal and hugely atmospheric illustrations from Lorna Gray that add to the mystery of the book and enhance the writing, Spooky Ambiguous has something for every reader. There’s a Gothic rather than overtly horror genre feel to the collection (although that’s represented too, particularly in Joe Robson’s Penance) with both poems and short stories from such a wide range of writers that this eclectic volume really is greater than the sum of its parts.
There are elements one might expect with a collection under the title Spooky Ambiguous with werewolves, selkies, ghosts and so on, but there’s historical and geographical detail, literary allusion and some wonderful writing too, particularly with regard to vivid or disturbing descriptions so Spooky Ambiguous has depth and quality. I especially appreciated the sense of place that is created in so many entries whether that’s a crypt, a closed road or a newly renovated house.
The different entries entertain brilliantly and of course, some will appeal to some readers more than others, but what works so well here is the exploration of themes. There’s identity and appearance, stereotypical attitudes and feminism, control and deception as well as death, relationships and science. However, the most affecting element of the collection, as the title might suggest, is the ambiguity between the corporeal and other worlds. Here there is a blurring of lines so well represented by the illustrations as well as the writing so that there is a murkiness, and not every story is completely resolved, further enhancing the reader’s disquiet and thoughts.
I thoroughly enjoyed Spooky Ambiguous. I appreciated having both poems and prose, first and third person perspectives and a collection that can be dipped into or read in the order presented as I did. If like me, you view the concept of trick or treat anathema, I think you’ll be missing a trick if you don’t treat yourself to this eclectic collection instead. Embrace the otherworldliness and, like me, you might be surprised, but if you’re a reader hoping for a cure for diabetes – watch out!
About Lorna Brookes
Lorna Brookes is an illustrator, most commonly seen filling children’s books with animals for Crumps Barn Studio. She’s also occasionally an author. She loves re-imagining the natural world in print. Her background in archaeology and Fine Art is a significant influence. She is married and lives in a very rural corner of Gloucestershire.
For further information, follow Lorna on Twitter @CrumpsBarnBooks.
2 thoughts on “Spooky Ambiguous Edited by Lorna Brookes”
Thank you Linda, lovely review. I so very much appreciate your feedback and taking the time to read the collection.
You are a fantastic wordsmith yourself, giving every potential reader an honest insight.
Thank you for braving your spooky side and Happy Halloween to you and your blog followers and readers.
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My pleasure. Thank you for ensuring I received a copy 😀👻