Asylum of Shadows by Stephanie Ellis
Reviewed by Morgan K. Tanner
The story begins with the apparent death of Marian’s father, who succumbs to a strange and bloodthirsty disease that brings on rotting sores and violent outbursts. Victims need to be restrained as the disease takes hold (yikes!).
Marian, now homeless, is taken in by the local hospital, St Carnifex.
She arrives exhausted and is shown to her room, or more like cell. Her surroundings are far from welcoming, but the people she meets seem polite and kind enough, although all she really wants to do is sleep. Upon waking she is given breakfast and instructed on her tasks. Because even though this place is hospitable and charitable, she needs to earn her keep.
Things start off OK, if a little grim. Sewing funeral garments is a job few would enjoy, especially when some of these are small enough to fit children. It upsets Marian, but what else can she do?
The atmosphere of St Carnifex is captured perfectly. You can almost smell the infection and death rising from the pages.
Marian is then given another job. In the cold basement of the hospital, the recently deceased are delivered. Marian’s in charge of – wait for it – making sure they’re actually dead. She is instructed on what to do if these corpses wake up, as if they do, they probably weren’t dead after all. Yeah, right.
The descriptions of the corpses made them seem almost alive, well, real anyway. As Marian gazes upon these mangled bodies she imagines their lives before this terrible affliction. She is visited regularly by hospital staff to either change shifts with, or just to check she’s holding up OK.
Then things take on a sinister turn. The basement really gave me the chills, in more ways than one. The place changes Marian, although given her life and the situation she’s in, it would be hard to not be affected. This change is harrowing.
That is, of course all I can say in this review. But this was one dark tale that gripped me in its death throes, infecting me with its blackened and fetid odour. This is certainly worth checking out.
About Morgan K. Tanner
Morgan K Tanner is a writer, drummer, and golfist currently residing in the English countryside. The idyllic surroundings make it an ideal place to write, drum, and hide the bodies. The busy sound of the typewriter is perfect to drown out the hum of the antiquated torture equipment.
When he’s not writing or inflicting pain and suffering on his numerous victims, he indulges himself in all things horror and metal.
His debut novella, An Army of Skin is available now.