cover image Black Feathers: Dark Avian Tales

Black Feathers: Dark Avian Tales

Edited by Ellen Datlow. Pegasus, $25.95 (336p) ISBN 978-1-68177-321-6

In this collection of 14 original tales and two reprints, Datlow (Children of Lovecraft) taps into the spooky and sometimes unsettling aspects of the bird kingdom. She makes a solid selection of dark fantasy and horror pieces, many of which possess a more literary tone, opting for psychological and subtle terror over blood and gore. As the stories unfold, several motifs unfold. Death and transformation feature in Jeffrey Ford’s “The Murmurations of Vienna Von Drome,” in which a detective tracks a serial killer by following a victim’s daughter, and Pat Cadigan’s “A Little Bird Told Me,” in which a woman tasked with investigating those who cheat death discovers a bizarre connection with the local birds. Seanan McGuire’s wonderful “The Mathematical Inevitability of Corvids” features a teen girl whose obsession with crows and numbers helps her deal with a world perpetually on the brink of disaster. Paul Tremblay’s “Something About Birds” is an interview with a fictional acclaimed horror writer that gradually takes a creepy turn. This collection isn’t for those with delicate sensibilities; awful things happen to just about everyone, and open-ended or ambiguous conclusions may frustrate some readers. Still, it’s a thought-provoking exploration of the theme. (Feb.)