Birds may be the theme for the excellent Black Feathers: Dark Avian Tales, but it is human interaction with our feathered friends (and enemies) that provides the darkness as well as the diversity in these 15 stories (13 original, two republished) and one poem. Not surprisingly, corvidae—traditional birds of ill omen and intermediaries between life and death—tend to turn up more than other phyla, but that does nothing to diminish the variety of the tales.
It is difficult to single out the best stories. All are well written and imaginative; favorites may depend, at least in part, on personal preference…Priya Sharma closes the volume with one of the strongest stories, “The Crow Palace.” After her father’s death, Julie returns home to handle the usual post-mortem consequences plus deciding the future care of her twin sister, Pippa, who has cerebral palsy. Julie, who found her mother’s suicided body at a young age, is cold and emotionless, although she loves her sister. Birds play a supernaturally sinister role in this cinematic and truly terrifying tale. Paula Guran for Locus
As its title suggests, the stories in Black Feathers: Dark Avian Tales, Ellen Datlow’s strong new anthology, take place at the darker end of the literary spectrum. In these stories, birds are both symbols and plot devices, figures for the characters’ interior states, and mechanisms by which those states are realized. These birds are the literary descendants of those who fly through Daphne du Maurier’s, familiar creatures rendered strange and terrible. The result is a flock of stories among the year’s most memorable and disturbing. John Langan for Locus