Gifts for the One Who Comes After

Gifts for the One Who Comes AfterGifts for the One Who Comes After by Helen Marshall

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Marshall’s second collection both fulfills and exceeds the promise of her first. The horrors are personal in these seventeen effective tales, and the fantastic elements are dark and disturbing. I’ve previously likened Marshall’s work to Kelly Link’s, and that kind of anything-goes, character-driven imagination is certainly still on display in these stories, but the analogy feels reductive to me now. Marshall is swiftly carving a style of fiction all her own — deeply inspired by the likes of Link and Neil Gaiman and Robert Shearman, yes, but distinctly her own. This is a very strong collection, without a dud in the bunch. I’d be hard pressed to choose a favorite, but if I must I’d point to the collection’s centerpiece novella, “Ship House,” a weird tale about a haunted ancestral home in South Africa. The longest piece in the book, it gives Marshall the room to fully explore her characters and their situation, and leaves me itching to see what she could do with a full-length novel. Here’s hoping she’ll have one soon, because I’ll be first in line to read it.

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