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  • Writer's pictureRachel Schommer

Rachel Schommer Reviews: 6.3.24

As I've been saying most of this year - anthologies and collections are where it's at for me right now, and today's review is a perfect reason why. 3 great stories in 1 place, all very different and I was even introduced to a new author I really enjoyed!


THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE: APPALACHIAN HORROR – DARK TIDE BOOK 14 by Ronald Kelly, Laurel Hightower, and Red Lagoe

1. I haven’t read much Appalachian horror, but I love listening to podcasts or perusing social media based in Appalachia; I’m not sure why that hasn’t translated into my reading. So, when Ronald Kelly himself asked if I’d be interested in reading this installment of the Dark Tide series, I had to say yes and I’m so glad I did. Appalachia is fascinating, y’all. I’d love to say I don’t believe in all the lore, but you surely aren’t gonna catch my ass looking in the trees after dark!

2. The first story in this collection of 3 is “Afoot In The Netherwild” by Ronald Kelly. This story takes place in the late 1800s, which I don’t normally care for; I’m much more a contemporary plot person. However, there are certain themes that transcend time and Kelly hits on one of them in his story – a parent’s love. (A good parent of course…I know we can’t paint all parents with the same brush) I loved following Bowden on his otherworldly trek to bring his children back from the clutches of a witch? fae? Whatever she is, she’s creepy and this story had some Hansel and Gretel vibes that I was a fan of. I also really enjoyed the mystery of Bowden’s escort, Uriah. Kelly’s story tugged at my heartstrings and was expertly written, of course, as one would expect from THE Ronald Kelly.

3. The second story is from Laurel Hightower and is titled: “Spirit Coven”. In this story we meet a coven of witches who are responsible for keeping the peace with nature which is both a fascinating and terrifying concept when I really thought about it. Especially when coupled with old mine towns where disaster happened and the stereotypical mindset of a rural mountain community. Like the first story, love is a theme that runs throughout, but not necessarily romantic love. Hightower has a way of making scenes come to life with words, so this story was an easy one to picture while reading and incredibly enjoyable especially since it was also a little sad. You know I love a story that makes me feel those pesky feelings!

4. The third and last story is from a new-to-me author: Red Lagoe. Lagoe may have been a new name for me, but her story “The Gatherer” turned out to be my favorite of the 3. It was filled with so. many. emotions. and was so viscerally relatable that I tore through it and was left a little sad when it was over. As with the first 2 stories, love is a main theme - brotherly love, parental love, romantic love, etc. but not in the corny stereotypical ways. Lagoe’s story reminded me a bit of M. Night Shyamalan’s ‘The Village’ – I can’t really say more without giving too much away, but this one left me with a story hangover for a couple of days.

5. I will be looking into more Appalachian horror after dipping my toe in with this collection of novellas!

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