REVIEW: Curfew by Kev Harrison & Night of the Rider by Alyson Faye
*WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS*
Even a quick glance at some of horror lit’s seminal texts - from Stephen King’s Night Shift and Clive Barker’s Books of Blood to Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Stevenson’s Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde - suggests brevity (and not verbosity) as the erratic, juddering heartbeat of fear-fic. The Short Sharp Shocks! series from Demain takes this conclusion as a given - delivering titles that, as the brand name suggests, aim to scare and discomfit the reader in as few words as possible.
Kev Harrison’s Curfew and Alyson Faye’s Night of the Rider are, respectively, my second and third incursions into the world of SSS!, following last month’s read of Hailey Piper’s An Invitation To Darkness (which I loved). And I wasn’t disappointed.
I’ve read and loved a fair bit of Kev’s stuff (and would encourage everyone to check out his folk-horror novella The Balance, because it’s awesome), so wasn’t at all surprised to find Curfew both immaculately written and genuinely unsettling. With a romantic weekend break-gone-awry as its setup, the story’s mood shifts very effectively from creeping unease to outright scares, reminding me in places of Roald Dahl’s The Landlady. It also made me wonder what the monstrous Mrs Heinz had been up to before the curtain rose on the events of *this* story...
Tonally at least, Night of the Rider is a very different beast. A slice of historical (and in parts faintly Dickensian) gothic, it pits the dissolute son of a rural landowner against a relentless, semi-demonic creature known only as The Rider... with unexpected consequences for both. Linguistically, this was spot-on in its evocation of time and place (I assume later 19th-century Britain), and thematically it took me to some very unexpected places - not only in its representation of proto-feminist female autonomy and desire, but in its humanisation of its monstrous antagonist. I’m not normally a huge fan of historical gothic (... a little too much Walpole and The Monk in the ‘90s successfully inoculated me against it...) but after Rider and An Invitation To Darkness, I may have to revise my position.
Overall: two fabulous reads, heartily recommended - and more than enough reason to dive into the SSS! series, if you haven’t already.