50 Beasts to Break Your Heart

Fifty Beasts to Break Your Heart by Gennarose Nethercott

£10.99, Paperback, Random House USA

Reviewed by Melody Bowles

Fifty Beasts to Break Your Heart is a collection of fourteen short stories. All the stories are delightfully kooky and written with an off-beat sense of humour, which balances out the copious amounts of heartbreak and horror.

The collection kicks off with Sundown at the Eternal Staircase. The Eternal Staircase is a deeply creepy tourist attraction where staying too long causes madness, and consequently, tourists often go missing. The story centres around two teens working at the attraction. It’s funny; it’s dark and perfectly sets the stage for the rest of the collection.

Fifty Beasts To Break Your Heart is the standout story, and one hundred per cent deserves its elevated spot in the collection title. Each entry of the fictional bestiary contains a completely mad, made-up creature and a charming drawing to bring them to life. Between the bestiary entries, all mini-stories in their own right, you get another underlying tale of tragedy related to the bestiary’s authors. It’s unique, it’s fun, and the dark undercurrent absolutely makes it sing. Between the Serrin (sweeps the sea clean and leaves behind shipwrecks)and the Harrow (cursed to do a human’s bidding if their true face is revealed) it’s difficult to pick a favourite beast. It’s such clever, fun and unique storytelling.

There are a couple of other stories that use a similar list-like structure. A Diviner’s Abecedarian lists different methods of divination and tells the story of a group of witchy school girls, and A Haunted Calendar contains thirty tiny hauntings. It’s a form that could easily become boring, but the new spins on it each time work well.

Other highlights include a boy made of thread, a woman who turns into a house and a tale of a strange friendship between a vampire and a goat girl. The only story that didn’t really work for me was The War of Fog. It just didn’t carry the same sense of fun as the other tales, which gave me the sense that something was missing from the story.

Read Fifty Beasts to Break Your Heart if you want a humorous collection of dark fantasy tales where the author isn’t afraid to experiment with story form and structure.

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