Catherine Cavendish’s latest gothic horror offering from Flame Tree Press is a book I dove into immediately upon finishing her excellent novella The Malan Witch, so my expectations were high, but this book delivered big, both in terms of quality writing and great characters and settings.
Carol is renting an upscale apartment that far exceeds her means. When she finds herself under constant attack from violent spirits, she has nowhere else to run to and nobody she can turn to for help.
Nessa is living with a dire diagnosis. Cervical cancer. While her prognosis is positive, she is laid up in Royal and Waverley Hospital for a long-haul stay, recovering from a life-changing operation. She has heard disturbing tales of the hospital’s dark history and has begun to experience strange and unexplainable visions of a past that feels oddly familiar.
Neither women know each other, but both are a target for a demonic presence known only as ‘the One and the Many’. This dark evil will traverse time itself to find them and will stop at nothing to claim their body and their souls, dragging them down into the darkness where it resides.
In Darkness, Shadows Breathe is packed full of creeping dread and disquieting imagery, that never really lets up. It is very much a novel in the gothic tradition so the focus is squarely on unsettling you, and it is hugely successful in this regard. The story switches focus between the two lead characters and is not always told in a linear fashion. Time, in fact, is a malleable thing in the novel and it often switches between the past and the present or, more often, a mix of the two. Both characters suffer from terrible nightmares and we, the reader, can never be quite sure whether they are dreams or reality or something in between. The whole novel feels disjointed and jarring, in a good way. I really enjoyed how unpredictable the story was and how ‘unsafe’ the book felt as a whole.
The settings of a haunted apartment or a spooky hospital aren’t exactly new ground for a horror novel, but they are tropes for a reason: they are incredibly effective. Both are used to claustrophobically uncomfortable effect here. Carol and Nessa feel like polar opposites as characters at times, the former being painfully introverted and the latter having more of a positive outlook, and a much stronger support bubble. Neither character ever truly feels safe, regardless of their situation, however, and both women find many people who believe their seemingly outlandish tales of past lives, haunted buildings and demonic possessions, but rarely one who can offer anything in terms of solid answers. A big part of the fun of the story is how these two disparate characters deal with the same threats they are both plagued with.
While it doesn’t break new ground, In Darkness, Shadows Breathe excels at taking common horror themes and settings and giving us a unique twist on them, delivering a mind-bending supernatural mystery, heavy on scares and very much in the gothic tradition. It is a deeply affecting and unsettling book with zero reliance on blood and gore to get under your skin.
In Darkness, Shadows Breathe (Fiction Without Frontiers) by Catherine Cavendish
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Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.
“[…] if there is a crown of queen of gothic horror, [Catherine Cavendish] should be wearing it.” — Modern Horrors
Description“[…] if there is a crown of queen of gothic horror, [Catherine Cavendish] should be wearing it.” — Modern Horrors You’re next… Carol and Nessa are strangers but not for much longer. In a luxury apartment and in the walls of a modern hospital, the evil that was done continues to thrive. They are in the hands of an entity that knows no boundaries and crosses dimensions – bending and twisting time itself – and where danger waits in every shadow. The battle is on for their bodies and souls and the line between reality and nightmare is hard to define. Through it all, the words of Lydia Warren Carmody haunt them. But who was she? And why have Carol and Nessa been chosen? The answer lies deep in the darkness…