My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Have I said before that Lily’s writing is breathtaking, dark, delicious, grippingly horrific, gutsy, brilliant, compelling, driving, visceral, lusty, erotic and…oh, back ‘round to breathtaking, are we?
Horror mistress Lily Childs brings us a stunning collection of contemporary and neo-period horror, with a tantalizing dash of crime fiction, in Cabaret of Dread, Volume I – demons, murderers, ghosts, wraiths, psychopaths and piteously lost souls abound in the pages of Cabaret, bringing their horrifying agendas to fruition.
From the moment I first saw the cover art for Cabaret of Dread, I knew that I was in for a literary treat I would not soon forget. I believe I even mentioned to Lily that I was off to the market to buy another night light in preparation for her latest masterpiece.
When one hears the word ‘cabaret’, they think of fun… joyous abandon… loosening of one’s inhibitions… glee and good cheer, right? Life is a cabaret, as the saying goes.
In Cabaret of Dread, Volume I, the first tome of Lily’s vast collection of penned horror and urban fantasy, the word cabaret in the title is a bit of a misnomer as the only joyous abandon in these pages is that of the lustful and horrifyingly visceral cravings and desires of beings, some considerably less than human, lost in their wanton frenzies.
Lily’s vibrant, violent and oft ‘dripping’ narrative style fires the imagination, taking one to those dark places where her characters dwell and satisfy their hungers, surrendering to their dark ‘masters’, be they another being entirely or just another facet of an already tortured soul clawing and clutching for a peace that eludes.
Every piece in this collection is brilliantly done… a rich tapestry of words that conjure dark and bloody, melancholy (sometimes poignant), horrific images and a maelstrom of emotions… and in my case, leave one scrambling for the night light. I intend no slight toward any of these exquisitely crafted slices of horror in remarking here on only a handful of the tales that seem to flow effortlessly from Lily’s pen.
Right from the very first, our senses are alit with the bloodily gruesome and visceral imagery presented in “Dressing-Up Box”. The ballerina here bears no resemblance at all to my pink and grey tutu-ed adolescence… or that of my pre-pubescent classmates from my days of ballet. I wonder what Madame would say to this?
“If I take my eye out and put it in a pickle jar whilst I mould a pair of sockets, I’ll only be able to see at an angle.”
Now, there is a tasty little morsel, isn’t it? Ooohh…. Gave me a right little shiver!
And, as Lily says… “The dance begins.”
“Cold September Call” leaves a chill… and one wondering what could possibly have transpired to warrant such a fate for a young girl.
In “Smiling Cyrus” there’s a line that tears at my heart –
“’Cyrus isn’t coming back.’ She’s practiced the line until it no longer shakes in her mouth.”
From “Hidden Beast”, this little ‘gem’ put me off the evening’s meal; Tina’s usually wonderful Liver and Portobello in red wine reduction –
“Drawing the lobe to his lips Mifkin began to chew, tasting the blood before it cooled and congealed.”
“Carpaccio” is both funny and horrifying in its murderous matter-of-factness. I thoroughly enjoyed this tale!
“In Adoration” will leave the squeamish running from the room…. “ha-ha… soft basta…” Oops! I have to be careful here…. Amazon doesn’t like sweary words.
I must say that “In Adoration” is one of my favorites. I probably should not take such rapacious delight in the demonic seduction of the holy and [self] righteous (it’s okay, though… I confessed when I next went to church), but hey… it’s fiction!
Right, Lily? Right….? Lily……?
Besides, with lines like this, how can one not enjoy the tale –?
“Orgasm plays between her legs in satisfaction at being such a good Samaritan.”
“Staring At The Pink” – this one was especially chilling… sleep was a long time coming after reading Lily’s tale of the clash between corporeal and spirit world and what happens when a person’s spirit breaks upon the death of the corporeal being; the ‘dark half’ biding its time, then returning with a sinister need… a soul that is not hers to own.
There is a line – “Pink Nana dies, for the second time, in the safety of my arms.”
Well, I may have let my imagination get the best of me… as I said; sleep would not come for a long time.
“The Infanta Triptych” is the closing tale in this collection… and the crown jewel out of these forty-three dark and wickedly delicious tales. Vampire horror at its very best!
At times shockingly raw, to the point of catching one’s heart in their throat… often melancholy… Lily’s prose is filled with a power and determination that truly will leave one breathless… that is, if they have a beating heart inside their chest.
Not for the faint of heart… there is nothing mundane, mediocre, ordinary or trifling… Cabaret of Dread more than delivers on the promise the name Lily Childs brings to aficionados of horror and dark urban fantasy. Whether it is one of the delicious little slices of flash fiction or a mini-novelette piece, Lily’s writing will leave your senses both shaken and stirred!
I had only one complaint whilst reading Cabaret of Dread… but my complaint is directed at the weather, not Lily. The weather gods did not see fit to bring me a little thunder and lightning… Cabaret is a book that begs to be on a dark and stormy night!
I’m almost afraid to ask Lily what she has in store for us in Volume II… not that her answer would keep me away. This girl does like to scare herself!
And now I must go and replace the lamp in my night light… it is flickering rather alarmingly.
I raise my glass to you, Lily… Saude!
Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw
Cannon Beach, Oregon
19 May 2012
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