Figurehead

Carly Holmes. Tartarus, $45 (256p) ISBN 978-1-912586-06-6
The 26 stories in Holmes’s impressive first collection of fantasy fiction alternate between skillfully orchestrated forays into traditional supernatural horror and modern vignettes steeped in the magic of classic fairy tales. In the first category is “Three for a Girl,” which tells of two sisters, one expecting a baby and the other recovering from a terminated pregnancy, who are treated with differing degrees of malice and affection by the ghosts of children who died in a former orphanage. In the second category is the title story, about a sailing ship’s figurehead who recalls the fantastic sights she has witnessed, from her carving to her likely fate as discarded flotsam. Another highlight is “Heartwood,” about a small village whose lands are encroached on by a forest that is refuge to Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood, and other fairy-tale heroines. No matter her approach, Holmes (The Scrapbook) grounds her stories in evocative imagery—a dawn described as “a sticky lilac smeared across the windscreen,” a lingering gaze of a stranger that’s “like a student studying the innards of a dissected frog to see what once made it leap”—that set the tone for their unsettling events. This book is tailor-made for fans of both the light and dark fantastic. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 10/01/2018
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