Cirque Du Mort by Anastasia Catris isn’t just a collection of flash fiction horror stories. It’s a visual and literary journey into a freak show circus that will leave chills running down your spine. The combination of illustrations along with the dark tales makes this book a collector’s item every horror fan should own. With great discipline and perfectly spaced detail, Catris reminds us why the circus is such a great source of horror.
It starts with “A Story of Silence” and it definitely sets the tone for the rest of the tales that follow. Following the rather turbulent road a young girl has to follow with her father and their circus life, she quickly discovers why her older siblings left. More importantly, she faces the consequences of wanting to leave herself. The stories that follow this pleasant introduction are similar in the sense that they surprise you. Such as the second tale about the illusionist who teaches his daughter all the tricks he knows. Unfortunately she falls for a man who only uses her for her knowledge and finally does something horrific.
Due to the short length of the stories it’s impossible to share more information without giving away the brilliant plot lines, but it’s safe to say that the author is incredibly creative. From the first page the reader gets swept up in the darkness through her perfect illustrations. They are beautiful and haunting at the same time, while tying into the theme as if it’s a parchment sent from an alternative history.
Then comes her literary style and approach. Despite the short length of the stories Catris utilizes perfect patience. Within only a few pages she develops the characters so quickly and it goes by unnoticed. When I reached the end of each tale it felt like I’ve read a lot more. Another element that really stands out is the subtle grace in the tone with which Catris writes. She doesn’t want to create shock value through powerful words. Instead, she uses perfect timing to reveal little details and ultimately leaves your soul colder than ice in the winter.
Last but not least, Catris has a very unique way of presenting her haunting tales. With great sophistication and control she describes the essence of the setting and the characteristics of her characters. Only when it’s truly necessary will she elaborate on the physical factors. The author doesn’t need to tell the reader about all the blood and guts when something much deeper can be used.
Something that becomes very obvious throughout the collection is the focus on female domination. It’s the women in the stories who have the upper hand while the men are usually left at their mercy. Whether this was intentional can’t really be established, but it’s definitely part of the journey. Even though the stories don’t feature heavy gore and hyped up scenes of death they are still worthy of the horror genre. The collection is authentic, original and thought provoking, which makes it appealing to a wide audience.
Reviewed by Damnetha Jules
Damnetha is a staff writer, horror book and movie critic.