Review: Kenneth W Cain – Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction

Review: Kenneth W Cain – Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction

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Genre: Horror / Collection
Publisher: Crystal Lake Publishing
Publication Date: 31st March 2017
Pages: 318

 

REVIEWED BY NEV

A copy of Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction was sent to Confessions of a Reviewer by the author, Kenneth W Cain, in exchange for an honest review. This is said review. This book is published by Crystal Lake Publishing.

So, working for Crystal Lake Publishing, you would think that I get to read every ARC that comes out from them. Not so, I’m afraid. This is a mixture of not having enough time to read every wonderful book that they put out there, and not wanting to review something and have a possible conflict of interests with a review going on to the site.

Having said that, when one of the authors approaches you and asks you to review their book, that is a totally different matter altogether.

Kenneth Cain did just that so, how could I refuse?

I have never read any of his stuff before and always find a collection to be the perfect way to see if I can connect with the author and find a desire to read more of their stuff.

This is what I thought of Embers.

 

THE CHAMBER

Karl has returned to the chamber he worked in so many years before. He is with his family this time. They know nothing of what he did in the chamber all those years ago.

Wow. I think the best way to describe this tale is, harrowing.

An examination of one man’s regret of his past and the secrets he has kept ever since.

This is horrific, and moving, and some more horrific.

This is how you open a collection.

General rating:
★★★★★

Dark Fiction rating:
★★★★★

 

VALERIE’S WINDOW

The only joy Valerie gets, is to look out her window and watch the dead go by. Jasper tells her she is safe as long as she doesn’t go out but he keeps telling her she needs to stop looking out.

My word. Another powerful story. One of loss and confusion and the power that one mind can have over another.

This is harrowing again but oh so powerful in filling you full of horror and dread and disgust.

I hope this mood continues in this collection. It is superb up to this point.

General rating:
★★★★★

Dark Fiction rating:
★★★★★

 

A WINDOW TO DREAM BY

Seth is on a business trip. One that is dreary, apart from the vision of the woman he sees from his hotel window every night.

Now, this one is a bit strange. Lovecraftian in its execution, it is a tale of all consuming lust and desire of the unknown.

Very creepy with an ending that has you thinking “Serves you right, Seth!”

General rating:
★★★★

Dark Fiction rating:
★★★★

 

EACH NEW DAY UNKNOWN

Lucas has just woken up. He has no clue where he is, how he got there or even who he is.

The only person that can help him is the doctor holding the big book.

This has Twilight Zone written all over it. A story of a man completely lost, having no clue about anything and being driven to complete distraction by the fact that no one seems to care.

Perfectly written and perfectly paced to fill the reader full of confusion and fear.

General rating:
★★★★★

Dark Fiction rating:
★★★★★

 

GONE

Ryan comes to with a start at the beach. His son, Noah, is missing. And so begins Ryan’s frantic search to find him.

This is wonderful. Written in the style of a surreal dream with that Lovecraftian feel again, you are never sure what is real and is not. Neither is Ryan.

Mr Cain has written this one in a punchy, short and sharp style that envelops you with fear.

This one took my breath away.

General rating:
★★★★★

Dark Fiction rating:
★★★★★

 

UNDER THE DRIFT OF SNOW IS ANOTHER WORLD

David’s wife, Claire is dying. Once she is gone, he finds out things that he didn’t know. Things that, he thinks, cancels out his own infidelity. In truth, they just bring him more pain.

Not sure I totally understood this one. I understood David’s feelings but didn’t quite understand the ending.

General rating:
★★★

Dark Fiction rating:
★★★

 

BLACKBIRD’S BREATH

Henry is trying to get over the death of his wife, Anne. When a bird gets stuck in a part behind his fireplace, he tries to free it with no success. This leads to a trying time for Henry as the bird drives him insane.

This story is so deep. There are so many possibilities for an explanation to it but none of them are answered. I love that in a story. It’s up to the reader to define what is actually happening and their definition may be totally different to anyone else’s.

General rating:
★★★★★

Dark Fiction rating:
★★★★★

 

DESOLATE

Emmie has seen the boy eating the berries. She wonders could it possibly be her brother David. She must get closer to find out, but at the same time, make sure her father doesn’t see her do this.

A story of a young girl eager to see if this undead boy is really her brother come back.

This is just superb. That is all I need to say about this one. A zombie tale with a difference that seems to be so calm and endearing, until…..

General rating:
★★★★★

Dark Fiction rating:
★★★★★

 

LOST IN THE WOODS

Allie is trying to find her recently passed brother, James. She has heard rumours that there is a secret path in her town where you can bring back the dead.

This one was a bit short for me. I could see where it was going and what it was trying to achieve but it just didn’t get there for me.

On the other hand, there is a huge feeling of loss and frustration in the writing.

Beautifully written but just felt unfinished for me.

General rating:
★★★

Dark Fiction rating:
★★★

 

FINAL BREATHS

Glenda is at the bedside of her daughter, Laura, who is sadly dying.

That is all I am going to say about this one. It is very sad and very harrowing and I found it very difficult to read.

General rating:
★★★★

Dark Fiction rating:
★★★★

 

CLOSER

Travis is on a hunting trip with his father. He sees it as a way of maybe getting closer to his father than he has ever been in his life. It is a big sacrifice for Travis. Can he actually go through with it?

This is brilliant. Another heart-warming story of a son trying to find the one thing he has never had with his dad.

Then there is the killer ending. Superb.

 

General rating:
★★★★★

Dark Fiction rating:
★★★★★

 

FLOCKING BIRDS

Chad and Jane have conflicting methods of trying to deal with their daughter Angie. On a typical morning where things get heated, Chad discovers a terrible smell and a flock of birds, curious about something in his gutters.

Well now, this one certainly took off in a direction that I never saw coming. I loved the build-up throughout this story. It had me gripped from the beginning.

What happened at the end though?

General rating:
★★★★

Dark Fiction rating:
★★★★

 

PIROUETTE

A dark and emotional tale of one little girls battle to try and save her family from falling apart. But at what cost.

This is very dark. Again, it is written in such a beautiful way that the emotional side of it just oozes across the page.

Thought provoking and sad but wonderful none the less.

General rating:
★★★★★

Dark Fiction rating:
★★★★★

 

TO SAVE ONE LIFE

Boris stares in horror again as the killer takes another victim. Next time he will try to save the victims life.

This…..this is just superb. Brutal in its telling and description, it has you rooting for Boris but wondering why he has done nothing before.

As it becomes clear, like me, you will probably have a huge smile on your face. Until the end.

This is writing genius.

General rating:
★★★★★

Dark Fiction rating:
★★★★★

 

OF BOTH WORLDS

He watches from his hiding place in the caves as four people come exploring. He needs to stay hidden. He also needs to prevent them from finding the passage to the other world.

Again, this story is told through the eyes of someone you don’t know. Again, it is only half explained coming towards the end of the story but the dread and fear you feel is immense.

Another one that I absolutely loved.

General rating:
★★★★★

Dark Fiction rating:
★★★★★

 

BREATHING CAVE

Kelly is on an adventure into a deep dark cave. She doesn’t really want to go in, but her friends will keep her safe.

Oh, my word. This is my ultimate nightmare. In a cave. In the dark. Something goes wrong.

The feeling of fear in this story is immense.

No other words needed.

General rating:
★★★★★

Dark Fiction rating:
★★★★★

 

SOUL TAPPED

Henry is eighty-one years old. He is frail and slowing down but still has a lot of fight left in him. When he sees a ghost attacking people in the home, he tries to protect them. He can’t protect anyone. Not even himself.

A supernatural tale with a direction that twists and turns as you think one thing and then another and then find out the truth. A different truth than you thought.

Mr Cain has hit the nail on the head with the writing in this one as well.

General rating:
★★★★★

Dark Fiction rating:
★★★★★

 

THE WATER PEOPLE

Chandler has been researching and trying to find the water people since he saw one as a child. His partner, Lizzie has had enough and has left him alone to his research. Are they real?

This is my least favourite so far. Not sure what it was, it just didn’t feel as emotional or believable as the others.

General rating:
★★★

Dark Fiction rating:
★★★

 

WATER SNAKE

Sawyer, Richie and John are fishing at the lake when they are attacked by a load of water snakes.

That is all I am prepared to give. This is a creature feature at its best.

Old skool B movie horror. The best kind.

General rating:
★★★★★

Dark Fiction rating:
★★★★★

 

EVOLVED

Someone, something, is on the run. It appears to be on the run from humans but we cannot be sure. Who really is the animal here?

This one confused me at first. Told in the first person you see the chase through the eyes of the hunted. Nothing is really explained but the adrenalin rush you get and the fear factor is very effective.

General rating:
★★★★

Dark Fiction rating:
★★★★

 

BURIED BENEATH THE OLD CHICAGO SWAMPS

Terrell and his friends have been living underground since the wars. When they get to the surface, they discover a dome in the ground. A dome they should have left alone.

Again, brilliant. Again, Lovecraftian in its execution, this one again shows the size of the imagination of Kenneth W Cain.

Wonderful

General rating:
★★★★★

Dark Fiction rating:
★★★★★

 

THE BAD MEN

Oh. My. Word. Sci-fi meets horror. That is all I am saying about this one.

If you read this Mr Cain – This needs to be a novel!

General rating:
★★★★★

Dark Fiction rating:
★★★★★

 

PARASITE

Aiden is fed up getting calls from his needy brother. This time he seems to be in a real pickle. Something about a scratching noise in his basement.

I am completely blown away by the writing in this collection. Just when you think you can’t read anything mesmerising again in a book, this happens.

General rating:
★★★★★

Dark Fiction rating:
★★★★★

 

STRIP POKER, CRABS, AND BLUE WOMEN

Jesse and his friends seem to have been abducted by aliens. How the hell do they get home?

This one is fun. Sci-fi again with a blend of horror but with a big emphasis on the humour.

Brilliant stuff.

General rating:
★★★★★

Dark Fiction rating:
★★★★★

 

THE BENEFIT OF BEING WEIGHTY

Michael keeps losing his wedding ring. When his wife buys him his third one from a pawn shop, strange things keep happening.

And again, another superb one.

Mr Cain takes an old plot of an object bringing horror to someone’s life and makes it feel all fresh again.

General rating:
★★★★★

Dark Fiction rating:
★★★★★

 

So, there it is. My thoughts on Embers.

I think I can safely say that this collection is one of my all-time favourites. There is such a variety of stories in here that there will definitely be something for everyone in it.

Kenneth W Cain has a superb imagination. Horror and sci-fi and, in the latter stages, humour, fill each and every story in this collection in some very fresh and original ways but at the same time incorporating some old skool images. Lovecraft and old horror B movies are only a couple of the things you will experience in this book.

Personal favourites for me would have to be The Chamber, Gone, Desolate, Of Both Worlds, To Save One Life, The Bad Men and Parasite.

But you need to make your own mind up. Trust me, you will have a great time doing that.

To summarise: if the above doesn’t convince you, there is no hope for you.

 

General rating:

★★★★★ cannot possibly give it any less

Dark Fiction rating:

★★★★★ the true definition of Dark Fiction.

 

If you would like to help support Confessions of a Reviewer, then please consider using the links below to buy Embers or any other books from Kenneth. This not only supports us but also lets us know how many people actually like to buy books after reading our reviews.

Thanks.

At the time of writing this review, the paperback is now available and the eBook is on it’s way!

 

Book Synopsis:

From the author of the short story collections These Old Tales and Fresh Cut Tales comes his latest effort, Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction. In his youth, Cain developed a sense of wonderment owed in part to TV shows like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, One Step Beyond and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. Now Cain seeks the same dark overtones in his writing. There’s a little something for every reader within this collection. These 25 short speculative stories represent the smouldering remains of a blaze, the fiery bits meant to ignite the mind with slow-burning imagery and smoky twists and turns. These are the very embers of Cain’s soul.

In this collection, Cain features stories of troubled men and women, both living and dead. Themes of loss and the afterlife take on many forms, as he explores the unknown. For instance, “The Chamber” focuses on a hardened veteran of World War II who has committed heinous crimes. He seeks only to find peace from his conscience, but sometimes that comes at a great loss. “Valerie’s Window” visits a small town amid a tragic end to humanity. Only things are not as they seem, and the more Valerie comes to know herself, the more her reality is revealed. “The Benefit of Being Weighty” has a humorous side, but the theme of this story revolves around fat shaming and the price one must pay for being so ignorant. Hopefully, these three short descriptions have increased your curiosity to read the book.

When the dark comes, light a match.
Let the fire burn bright and warm.
So that when it dies the embers warm you.

 

Kenneth W. Cain first got the itch for storytelling during his formative years in the suburbs of Chicago, where he got to listen to his grandfather spin tales by the glow of a barrel fire. But it was a reading of Baba Yaga that grew his desire for dark fiction. Shows like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and One Step Beyond furthered that sense of wonder for the unknown, and he’s been writing ever since.

Cain is the author of The Saga of I trilogy, United States of the Dead, the short story collections These Old Tales and Fresh Cut Tales, and the forthcoming Embers: A Collection of Dark Fiction. Writing, reading, fine art, graphic design, and Cardinals baseball are but a few of his passions. Cain now resides in Chester County, Pennsylvania with his wife and two children.

And for more about Kenneth, visit his site or find him on social media:

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