The Crimson Pact: Volume 1 by Paul Genesse (The Crimson Pact)

One of the things I love about anthologies is the chance to sample a mixture of authors and discover some new favourites. One of the things I hate is that if you love the short story, you know it’s going to end soon. That fact, at least, is offset by the knowledge that this is only volume one, so the promise of future volumes is there. The other downside is trying to effectively review a number of books with several main characters, worlds, and conflicts, each deserving of a mention. I’d love to detail each story but that would take a book in its own right, so I’ll simply list my favourites and leave you to choose your own.

The anthology does have the advantage of a unified core - the Crimson Pact, a pledge to rid the world of demons - but the variety of style and worlds is huge. They run in all forms from micro-fiction to longer and more detailed stories, from blood-drenched chillers to romantic tales, from classic dark fantasy to dystopian futures. There’s mythology and magic, tales set in different eras of our own world and in others more fantastical otherworldly, populated by cops and librarians, WW2 soldiers and religious warriors, mages and automatons. The opening stories might lead you to think that this anthology is a standard dark fantasy collection, but it steps way beyond that. This is a collection of demonic stories that may well possess you, with a story to suit anyone.

I have to admit there were a couple of stories I didn’t quite understand, and one or two more that I didn’t enjoy, but this was more than compensated for by others. Being a romantic, I adored the love story in ‘Sins of the Father’ and really felt the connection between the two main characters. ‘The Failed Crusade,’ the opening tale that begins the anthology and sets the scene and history for the rest of the book, has an intriguing magic system and a good twist. It also sets the theme for the rest of the anthology - here, the demons break free of their world of origin and escape to others. ‘Of The Breaking Of Stars’ had me completely fascinated with a world far removed from our own. ‘Monsters Under The Bed’ brings childhood fears to life.

Be warned - this IS a book about demons, and even the lighter tales still carry the sharp edge of a fanged mouth or a trail of blood and darkness. But this is an anthology worth adding to any fantasy collection because there will be at least one story within it that you’ll want to read again and again.

9/10 This is an anthology worth adding to any fantasy collection.

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