Book Review: The Five Turns of the Wheel
Wow, what a tale. Steeped in the tenets of folk horror, but with a lore that is completely original to this story. Brutal violence, relentless dread, and unsettling imagery. This book is everything I wanted it to be and more!
SUMMARY: Stalking the landscape of rural England are the sons of Hweol, Lord of Umbra. Creatures with a taste for blood and death, they lead the Dance—five nights of ritual, the Five Turns of the Wheel. Proclaiming these events as a celebration of Mother Nature, the grotesque mummers troupe of Tommy, Betty and Fiddler, visit five villages on successive nights to lead the rites as they have done for centuries.In this blend of folk horror and dark fantasy, two women decide it is time to put a stop to the horrors committed in the name of the Mother. Liza and Megan, mother and daughter, fight back to protect the unborn and to weaken the power of Hweol. But will it be enough to destroy it forever?
The world that we’re dropped into is a dark and disturbing one. An area of land encompassing several rural villages is held under the power of ancient gods who demand annual sacrifice from the townspeople in order to maintain balance between the worlds of human and other. Everyone has a part to play, and each year the wheel turns with gruesome results. Except this time there is a family who has given too much, and a mother and her daughter who refuse to submit any longer. But the powers that bind them are strong and seeped in dark magic. When mankind challenges the ancients, can anyone survive?
I can’t express enough how much I love the lore/world that author Stephanie Ellis has created. The gut-wrenching rituals, the hierarchy of the supernatural order, the variety of terrifying beings, the connections/reliance on humans, and so on. It manages to somehow feel comfortably familiar while also staying full of surprises around every turn. The rituals themselves are BRUTAL, and one is constantly fearing for the safety of the main characters (and, no spoilers, but the author gives you good reason to be afraid). Thematic concepts of grief, suffering, oppression, silence, and modernity vs traditionalism are also explored and powerfully intertwined with the narrative.
I absolutely devoured this book. The writing style is easy to fall into and the story is completely engrossing. I love folk horror, and Stephanie Ellis has given us a spectacular addition to the genre!
Thanks to @silvershamrockpublishing for sending a copy!
Stephanie Ellis writes dark speculative fiction, finding success in a variety of magazines and anthologies, the latest being “Milking Time” in Flame Tree Press’ A Dying Planet, “Asylum of Shadows” as part of Demain Publishing’s Short Sharp Shocks! series and “The Way of the Mother” in Nosetouch Press’ The Fiends in the Furrows. She has collected a number of her published, and some unpublished, short stories in The Reckoning, her dark verse in Dark is My Playground, and flash in The Dark Bites. She is co-editor and contributor at The Infernal Clock, producing three anthologies to-date and co-editor of Trembling With Fear, Horror Tree.com’s online magazine. She is also an affiliate member of the HWA. Stephanie’s debut novella, Bottled, was published by Silver Shamrock Publishing on January 21st, 2020.