American Monsters Part 1 edited by Margret Helgadottir

Publisher – Fox Spirit

Price - £10.00

Published – Out Now

Here Be Monsters! …..American Monsters Part 1 is the fifth volume in a coffee table book series from Fox Spirit Books with dark fiction and art about monsters from around the world, and the first of two volumes covering the American continent.

I’ve reviewed all of this series to date and the idea is simple - to get authors local to a region or with connections to it writing short tales about the monsters and myths of the land. Its been an intriguing expedition so far and what I find fascinating are the similarities and differences in these ancient myths across the world. I do find this an window on other cultures and also just as important a lot of writers who we do not usually hear about in the UK. Once again Margret Helgadottir has assembled a great set of stories. I found in this collection a big theme of the old world clashing with the new be it industrial progress wiping out the old way of life or progressive attitudes in a fight with the conservative views of the past. A collection you should be trying

Stories I really enjoyed in the collection: -

The Wave by Liliana Colanzi (translated by Jessica Sequeira) – is a startling eerie set of tales within tales. A student goes to her dying father haunted by a wave of death that has hit her university. A taxi driver tells her of a Bolivian woman who travelled the desert and saw the infinite. Its very much a tale of loss and not knowing where you’re going.

A Carpet Sewn With Skeletons by Santiago Santos – Nine workers at a hydroelectric plant are found killed and in pieces. Carina is a heading up a special investigations unit that deals with the supernatural and an ancient monster tale has repercussions for now. I loved the idea of a special group of monster hunters going around Brazil trying to work out the mystery and it ties into darker elements of the past colonists and those who are now trying to convert ancient land into something more modern. A lot of fun.

Time’s Up, Cerotes by Sabrina Vouroulias – One of my favourites in the collection. A Guatemalan myth has moved global. Our narrator tells us a dark tale from her past when she first became aware of La Siguanaba who seeks revenge for those women killed by men. It’s a dark tale that mixes the Me Too movement with a look back how women in the period were treated and often vanished without warning. Really smart and heartfelt.

The Pearl by Ramiro Sanchez (translated by Fabio Fernades and Mercedes Guilloux) – the haunting phrase ‘the bad light’ runs around our lead’s minds as he tries to reconcile what why his uncle suddenly killed himself years ago. This tale links a Uruguayan myth of mysterious lights in the fields with a land now often destroyed by floods and then capitalised on by the rich for dubious businesses. Its deeply unsettling but you’re pulled along this dark memory lane until in the last few paragraphs it goes truly spectral and disheartening.

Almamula by Paula Andrade - This was another of my favourites. Lucia keeps hearing hooves on her roof – except she lives on the top of an Argentinian block of flats in the city. This mystery was incidental to the character study of Lucia who we initially see as a very angry old woman, but we learn so much about her life that by the end it is both tragic but also a tale of hopeful beginnings.

The Eyes of A Wolf by Mariela Pappas – This tale looks at the Argentine myth that the seventh son in a family will be a werewolf. A priest decides not to kill a baby despite the mother’s requests, and they live together but eventually young Estanislao becomes a man and the priest is disturbed that a new visitor from the city wishes him ill.  A tale of dark secrets being finally revealed and up to the reader to decide who is the monster.

The Entangler by Solange Rodriguez Pappe (translated by Fabio Fernandes and Mercedes Guillioux) – Again in Argentina a young boy tries to impress a girl at a party, but she instead has a ghost story to tell. Here the myth of a demon known as The Entangler is used to be creepy and starts from innocent things such as tangling hair gets nastier and nastier.  The only way to move it though is to give it to another… delightfully creepy and yet feels a fresh urban myth.

My Name is Iara by Flavia Rizental – This was another very strong tale. A young footballer on the brink of great riches is haunted by the vision of the Caipora strange trickster like fae creatures that love to meddle with people. The footballer though has a secret that in manly Brazil is frowned upon and even those he trusts cannot always be guaranteed their silence. A very sombre tale of revenge and intolerance and the monsters here are sadly so very human.

The Emptiness in the Heart of All Things by Fabio Fernandes – loved this mystery tale. A young woman goes to interview a long lost writer.  Everyone is telling lies to one another. That slow reveal of the truths behind a set of unexplained deaths in the locality and how these two  characters realise their similarities gives this a truly remarkable quality and the reader gets their alliances switched beautifully.