Review: Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales

Grab some pumpkins, spiderwebs, and fake blood because the Halloween season has arrived, and with it horror movie marathons and scary stories. As a former scaredy-cat, I’ve only recently come to enjoy all that this spooky time of year has to offer, in particular monster literature. I’ve pored over Frankenstein, Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, as well as the more contemporary Wilder Girls and Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Most recently, I’ve added Monstrous Affections: An Anthology of Beastly Tales, edited by Kelly Link and Gavin J. Grant, to this collection.

Some of today’s most renowned YA authors, such as Cassandra Clare (author of The Mortal Instruments series among others) and Paolo Tadini Bacigalupi (author of Ship Breaker), contribute to this eerie anthology. There are 15 short stories, one of which told through a charming little comic. The stories range relatively vastly in subjects, from krakens to World War I heroes to vampires on Facebook.

Because the stories have different authors, the quality and scare-factor of the stories do vary a bit as well, although each one certainly holds some intrinsic creepiness. Bacigalupi’s “Moriabe’s Children” and Holly Black’s “Ten Rules for Being an Intergalactic Smuggler (The Successful King” are especially well-written, while some like Dylan Horrocks’s “Kitty Capulet and the Invention of Underwater Photography” veer more towards clichéd and forgettable. Nevertheless, it’s clear on the page that these authors are having a blast, experimenting with new genres and stories, and this enthusiasm infects the reader. However, be warned that the short length and horror genre also allows these authors to go much darker than they might normally go, in doing so producing content better fitting to the upper age limit of YA Fiction.

Ultimately, Monstrous Affection: An anthology of Beastly Tales is a great way to add some spook to your October, as long as you’re not too easily spooked in the first place. The format of the anthology, broken into stories, makes the book digestible—it’s almost as if it’s meant to be read in bite-sized bits between passing out candies to trick-or-treaters. Moreover, the stories are highly entertaining and definitely scary—a treat for the reader him or herself. The anthology may even “cast a spell” on the reader, causing him or her to seek out other great works by these YA authors.

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