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“The ground is bloodshed. The sea is bloodshed. The sky is thick with blood. So much death here that blood vapour rose from the ground, a mist like autumn mornings.”

In the Shadow of their DyingAnna Smith Spark and Michael R. Fletcher combine their wildly disturbing imaginations in the exceptional novella In The Shadow of Their Dying; the grimdark sensation of the year.

The set-up of In the Shadow of Their Dying is quite simple, if slightly insane. Tash, the third best assassin in the city, gets hired by a second rate mercenary crew to kill the king. Easy task, really, if only the city wasn’t crumbling under siege and the king weren’t protected by a deranged demon who will stop at nothing to get her freedom back. Cue the bloodshed, gore, murder, betrayal, death, and dying; oh and throw some zombies in for good measure, because, you know… chaos! 

Now, I’ll admit that I was nervous going into this one. I mean, I love me some dark messed up shit, but In the Shadow of Their Dying sounded exceptionally dark and disturbing. Looking back, I knew I never should have doubted Fletcher and Spark; these two are absolute masters of their craft.

The way that they both capture and establish the oppressively dark mood and atmosphere of the besieged city is superb, and the intensity of this story simply cannot be overstated. Everthing about In the Shadow of their Dying is filthy, gory, visceral, gruesome, vulgar, feverish, frantic, and just utterly unhinged. Yet at the same time, it’s also ridiculously fun and I honestly found myself revelling in the chaotic madness of it all.

Fletcher and Spark just absolutely wrote their asses off in this story, and I loved their alternating chapters between the human and demon perspectives. At first it took me a bit to adjust to the almost fever dream haze quality that Spark created in her demon’s POV, but ultimately I came to really appreciate the crazed poetic beauty of her prose. And by some weird miracle, I even started to get emotional over the demon’s journey as her vulnerability started to show, which was just about the last thing I was expecting.

Combine all that with the delightfully dark wit and hysterical irony in Fletcher’s human chapters, making In The Shadow of Their Dying just an unputdownable tour de force of grimdark goodness. Yes, at times it did almost veer into the realm of satire with how over-the-top it got, but I knew what I signed up for here and just chose to sit back and enjoy the wild ride.

I devoured this story in one day and then immediately took a good long shower afterwards to at least try to cleanse myself of its filth and grime. This novella might be short, but I can guarantee it will leave a big impact; whether you like it or not. Deliciously dark, gloriously grim, and unapologetically unhinged, In the Shadow of Their Dying is just the perfect treat for your black hole of a soul.

Thank you to Grimdark Magazine for providing me with an eARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. In the Shadow of Their Dying is scheduled for release on 19 March, 2024.

In the Shadow of Their Dying

In the Shadow of Their Dying

In the Shadow of Their Dying

In the Shadow of Their Dying

In the Shadow of Their Dying

In the Shadow of Their Dying

In the Shadow of Their Dying

In the Shadow of Their Dying

Esmay Rosalyne

Esmay is a self-proclaimed professional book devourer from The Netherlands. While (dark) fantasy will always have her heart, she is also a big indie/self-pub enthusiast and will probably read anything if the premise sounds intriguing enough. Or, you know, if it promises complete emotional destruction. When not reading books, she is probably reviewing books, talking about books, or watching videos of fellow bookworms talking about books.

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