Review: Dark Stars: New Tales of Darkest Horror edited by John F.D. Taff

Anthologies are so hard to review but I tried my best.

Dark Stars: New Tales of Darkest Horror edited by John F.D. Taff

Released: May 2022

Dark Fiction  |  Goodreads  |  Amazon  |  Bookshop

Dark Stars, edited by John F.D. Taff, is a tribute to horror’s longstanding short fiction legacy, featuring 12 terrifying original stories from today’s most noteworthy authors.

Within these pages you’ll find tales of dead men walking, an insidious secret summer fling, an island harboring unspeakable power, and a dark hallway that beckons. You’ll encounter terrible monsters―both human and supernatural―and be forever changed. The stories in Dark Stars run the gamut from traditional to modern, from dark fantasy to neo-noir, from explorations of beloved horror tropes to the unknown―possibly unknowable―threats.

It’s all in here because it’s all out there, now, in horror.

Dark Stars features all-new stories from the following award-winning authors and up-and-coming voices: Chesya Burke, Ramsey Campbell, Gemma Files, Stephen Graham Jones, Alma Katsu, Caroline Kepnes, John Langan, Livia Llewellyn, Josh Malerman, Usman T. Malik, Priya Sharma, and John F.D. Taff.

Created as an homage to the 1980 classic horror anthology Dark Forces, edited by Kirby McCauley, Dark Stars also features an introduction by Josh Malerman and an afterword from original contributor Ramsey Campbell―a poignant finale to this bone-chilling collection.

My 2 Cents For Free!

This anthology features stories that generally have a slow rollout but usually end with a horrific payoff. You may like some better than others as is the case with short story anthologies for me - or maybe not. Who am I to say what you’re going to like?

Anyhow here are some thoughts. Yours will likely be different but that’s the joy of reading experiences, right?

The Attentionist by Caroline Kepnes
This is a little coming-of-age story set during a time when no one had a cell phone or the internet to check out possible creepers. It’s about two boy-crazy teens who are living for any sort of attention from the males of the species. Attention finds them but it’s of the creepy variety.

This story was uncomfortable and I loved that. It’s about sisterly dysfunction and the ugly side of growing up and wanting things with a wee bit too much desperation. I wasn’t super fond of the end but that’s just me. I always want more evil so I guess I’d give this one a 3 1/2 out of 5

A life in Nightmares by Ramsey Campbell
I admit I’ve always struggled with Campbell’s writing and believe me I have tried. My sister loved his writing when we were younger but I always found it hard to stay focused. This story wasn’t an exception. It was purposely disorienting and not worth it in the end for me. 2/5

Papa Eye by Priya Sharma
A recently divorced doctor visits a mysterious island on the advice of his new therapist. The island and its residents keep secrets they hold close. This story was quiet, haunting, and a bit sad. 3 1/2 out of 5

Volcano by Livia Llewelyn
This is another that wasn’t meant for me. It was about a self-destructive young woman who lands a job in a strange basement reupholstering furniture in a strange room with a door that leads to something cosmic that makes her finally feel something good. I felt too distant from everything in this one but I think that was the point. 2.5/5

All the Things He Called Memories by Stephen Graham Jones
A man and his scientist wife are cooped up together during Covid and out of boredom and/or lack of subjects she involves him in a fear study. That turns out to be a terrible idea ๐Ÿ˜ณ This one ratchets up the dread scene by scene and is intense. 4/5

Trinity River’s Blues by Chesya Burke
An evil entity attaches itself to a young woman. This is not the fault of the author but the pages for this story (and part of the next one) were all of out order. I ended up reading quite a few pages like this and nearly ended up tossing it aside in confusion before I figured it out. Thought I was losing my final brain cell. 3/5

The Familiar’s Assistant by Alma Katsu
The first few pages are out of order here too. I really enjoyed this tale of an addict wishing for death and an end to a messy existence who finds something better (or possibly worse!) at the door of a monster’s home. Fun stuff and the setting was lovely. 4.5/5

Swim in the Blood of a Curious Dream by John F.D. Taft
This one is filled to the brim with grief and puke ๐Ÿคข Make sure you’re ready! It was an odd nightmare of a story about a man who has lost his wife to cancer. He takes his son on a road trip to start a new life and things go very sideways. 3/5

The Sanguintalist by Gemma Files
Lala can see the dead’s final moments through their blood. This is a complete story but it feels like a world that could potentially fill an entire series. 4/5

Mrs. Addison’s Nest by Josh Malerman
Four troublemakers meet their nemesis while in detention and she is terrifying. This story is a bit disorientating but I enjoyed reading it. 3.5/5

Challawa by Usman T. Malik
A tale of the mythical Challawa that smoothly blends past legends with a modern-day threat. This is folk horror that is timely and quiet and beautifully done. 4.5/5

Enough for Hunger and Enough for Hate by John Langan
A woman has plans to avenge her (most likely dead) brother by confronting the man she believes murdered him. Instead, she is treated to a lengthy life story about a troubled marriage. At first, I was all like wth is this?! And then it all made sense. It’s gruesome and tense and a real nail-biter (do people still say that? Who knows but I’m saying it anyway) as the truth is ever so slowly and horrifyingly revealed. 4/5

I think it’s most definitely worth a read if you’re a fan of horror short stories.



  1. This sounds good. I always love a mysterious island. I can see settling in with some of these short stories- the nice thing about anthologies is you can read a little every night.

    1. I love reading them in-between bigger reads because I can never settle on just one book.

  2. What a great collection of authors in this one!

  3. I enjoy anthologies because I find new-to-me authors that way, and because I enjoy the different authors' takes on the anthology's theme. Good review!

    1. Thank you! I love finding new-to-me writers via anthologies. I've discovered some favorites this way.

  4. It sounds like a mixed bag, but I love seeing your high rating for Alma Katsu's story๐Ÿ˜

  5. sounds intriguing! particularly thrilled with alma katsu—her writing is always stellar

  6. That sounds like a really good collection of stories.

  7. Noooo! Darnit, Trinity River’s Blues was my favorite one! Such a bummer yours was out of order!

    1. I think I saw that it's being released on audio so I'll probably reread it that way at some point.


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