(2013) Tanith Lee, NewCon Press, £9.99, pbk, 207pp, ISBN 978-1-907-06960-4
This is a collection of short stories by Tanith Lee. In 2012 NewCon Press published Cold Grey Stones, available only as a signed, limited edition hardback. It sold out very quickly so they decided to reprint it as a paperback. By now Tanith had finished a story which had been intended for the hardback but had unfortunately not been ready in time; she wished it to be included in the reprint and so this paperback was published with the amended title of Colder Greyer Stones.
Following a short introduction by Ian Whaites (of NewCon Press) there are twelve stories. ‘Clockatrice’ tells of a mythical creature whose effects are felt over the centuries. ‘Malicious Springs’ follows young Bill and his dog Jacob as his father takes a break to overcome writer’s block by sojourning in a rented, lakeside house, ignoring the local warning that ‘there’s something in the water’. In ‘The Greyve’ we join a man who wakes up one morning to find a headstone has appeared in his rented room; what is more, it changes position of its own volition. ‘The Heart of Ice’ follows teenager Nirsen as he is thrown out into the frozen, winter forest by his unscrupulous guardian; his subsequent encounter with the Ice Maiden will change his life forever. Calinnen, in a story named after him, returns from war but his memories play on him. Louis, in ‘Et Forêt Noir’, is warned that nobody who enters the Forest of Arlinacque ever returns and all too soon he finds out why.
The horror of captives awaiting a terrible death fills ‘Fr’eulogy’ whilst ‘The God Orkrem’ describes how a man actually meets his god. ‘In The Country of the Blind’ has an interesting take on one country’s idea of acceptable clothing. Harco, a rag-and-bone man calling at a seemingly deserted house, makes an unusual find in ‘My Heart: A Stone’ and his dreams, in which he takes the form of a were-hare, lead him to the truth about the deceased owner. ‘Killing Her’ describes the hatred of one office worker for her colleague and how she settles the problem. Finally, ‘The Frost Watcher’ (the extra story) tells of Durdyn, a young shepherd who becomes something quite different.
The twelve stories are different to each other yet all are gripping and well told. There is a thread of horror which runs through several of them but it is a gentle horror, born of the mind, not one of shock or gore. The author has a way with words and her descriptions and the pace of the stories succeeded in creating the scenes vividly in my mind and carried me along. Even though one can easily put a book down at the end of a short story, I found myself reading straight on into the next.
I have not read that much by Tanith Lee but I have greatly enjoyed that which I have read. I have no doubt that I must read more!
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