Realms of Darkness by E. H. James

Realms of Darkness by E. H. James
Publisher: Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing
Genre: Horror, Paranormal, Contemporary, Historical
Length: Short Story (25 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Just when you thought it was safe to come out and play…

Being in the wrong place at the wrong time can be murder.
The Lamp ~ Don’t play games in the dead of night where shadows dwell.
The Late Shift ~ By the time you finish reading this, it’s already too late.
The Hitch ~ Don’t go looking for it…you might not like what you find.
The Furnace ~ Once you open that door there’s no going back.
In the Realms of Darkness…no one is safe.

Is it scarier to imagine something horrifying or to actually see it happen? It is better to wonder if something terrible is hunting you down or to know this information for sure?

The stories in this collection ricochet off of this question. While they ended up in wildly different places all four of them truly deserve to be included in the horror genre.

“The Lamp” had a bone-chilling premise that easily could have been expanded into a full-length novel. The reader is given just enough information about Sandra and Jennifer’s Ouija board experiment to whet his or her appetite for the truth. While it worked well as a short story I think “The Lamp” would have been creepier and more memorable if the characters were given a few pages of exposition so that we could get to know everyone a little better. For example, are Sandra and Jennifer platonic friends or high school sweethearts? The way it is currently written I could make an argument for either possibility.

My favourite tale was “The Late Shift.” At first I wondered how a story about a tired server eagerly counting down the minutes until closing time could possible belong in this collection. Sheila, the progagonist, is such an observant, meticulous individual that I couldn’t imagine anything out of the ordinary slipping by on her watch. I didn’t figure out what was really happening until just a few sentences before it was described in greater detail.

I figured out the twist in “The Hitch” early on, but knowing what was probably going to happen did not dampen my enthusiasm in the least. The subtle clues in it lead to an immensely satisfying ending. Sensitive readers be warned, “The Hitch” includes a fairly gory scene. While it makes sense in the context of the tale the description of what is happening is explicit and should not be shared with younger readers.

“The Furnace” was the weakest addition. Like “The Hitch” it includes blood and gore, but in this case the violence does not seamlessly blend into the rest of the story. I had trouble understanding an unwise decision Karen makes early on. Perhaps the average person was more trusting in the 1970s, but I had a hard time reconciling her choice with her otherwise intelligent demeanour.

The subtle tales in this book were of more interest to this reader but all of them caught my attention at some point. I don’t know if the author has any plans to write a sequel to Realms of Darkness, but I would be quite interested in reading more!

Realms of Darkness is best consumed in one sitting. While none of the stories are set in the same universe each one reinforces the spooky atmosphere that makes dipping one’s toes into the horror genre so deliciously frightening.

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