cover image Mestiza Blood

Mestiza Blood

V. Castro. Flame Tree, $26.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-78758-618-5

Women, mothers, scrappers, and orphans find their power in this slightly unbalanced collection exploring the Chicana experience in 14 horror shorts that confront monsters both supernatural and all-too human. Castro (Queen of the Cicadas) probes both the good and the bad, laying bare the fear of ICE and the heavy trauma of crossing the border, but also the thrills of human connection and the quiet pleasure of raising one’s child into a better life. Human women take a stand against monsters in “Street Fighter” and “Nightmares & ICE,” while “Dancehall Devil” and “Night of the Living Dead Chola” show the sympathetic side to monstrosity. Castro’s talents shine brightest when she gives herself room to work: longer pieces like “The Cold Season” and “Truck Stop” show off impressive worldbuilding chops and a skillful hand at chronicling the passage of time. Unfortunately, shorter pieces are both less successful and more abundant: “Mal de Ojo,” for example, fumbles to find its point, while “The Demon in My Eye” rushes its exploration of its rich world and characters. Despite the unevenness, there’s plenty to recommend this female-centric collection on. Readers interested in speculative explorations of Mexican American culture and mythology—or those just looking for action-packed, cathartic narratives—should snap this up. Agent: Beth Marshea, Ladderbird Literary. (Jan.)