Published by Demain Publishing on February 16, 2020
Genres: Horror Short Stories, Victorian Era
Source: Purchased Book
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Amongst the slums of Limehouse stands a new hospital, a monument to Victorian philanthropy. Marian, destitute and about to be orphaned as her father succumbs to the ravages of syphilis, is taken there by Dr. Janssen. This eminent physician offers her work and a roof over her head. Employed as a seamstress, she stitches shrouds for the dead and hoods for the hangman. Marian is taken to the ward of St. Carcifex. This shadowy ward receives the recently deceased, particularly those who have hung from the gallows. Her task in this gloomy place is to watch over them, make sure the dead stay dead. On Marian's first night, she is charged with the care of two murderers, who, despite their hanging, do not appear to have the expected deathly pallor. On the second night, these guests are joined by innocent, hard-working men, victims of an unfortunate dock accident. Marian is enraged that such should be forced to share the ward. As her own mind falls victim to the ravages of the disease which killed her father, she metes out her own justice, her own vengeance - on dead and alive alike.(cover by Adrian Baldwin)
Asylum of Shadows does for Victorian England what Jaws did to beaches in the 70s. Stephanie Ellis is a mistress of atmosphere!
Asylum of Shadows is another banging short story from Demain Publishing’s Short Sharp Shocks! Series. Stephanie Ellis excels at being the pin to the grenade. She can write the calm and descriptive but once she eases herself away from that we are treated to a glorious explosion.
We as a species are scared of many things, spiders, enclosed spaces, heights, and reanimated corpses. It’s a reasonable assumption that we are scared of the unknown, but should we be more scared of ourselves? What are we capable of under duress?
I also am guilty of this – incredibly guilty of loving this story so much. The Victorian Era is one that holds so much fascination for me, the dress, the archaic way of life, and disease and medicine. Marian, the main character has been dealt some horrific blows, and now her father is dying of Syphilis. A sexually transmitted disease that had devastating consequences in the 19th century. It can’t be overlooked that this disease was blamed on that other social dysfunction – Prostitution and gender inequalities are there to be seen.
Asylum of Shadows has Marian in the eye of a hurricane. Life is running away without her. Her father is dying, she has no employment due to her caring responsibilities, and will ultimately lose the house because the rent is due. The Doctor attending her father suggests she come and work in the sick house, a solution that will allow her a roof and purpose. All she has to do is some needlework – for shrouds and the executioner’s mask. It’s whispered that other things happen here, but it can’t be too difficult, can it?
Stephanie Ellis doesn’t beat around the bush, but she doesn’t provide you with a map to the elephant in the room either! It doesn’t take too long to realise that Marian has an added element to her role, a role that will take guts of steel and an unwavering resolve. Marian had an addicting voice, it stirred something in me. Grief and anger can act like shackles around your wrists, and she tried to shake them off, but they were stuck tight.
Asylum of Shadows is perfectly paced, and the atmosphere was tighter than two coats of paint. I could imagine the disease-ridden communities, the eerie lantern-like streetlights, the shadows watching from the safety of shadows…it was perfect. Stephanie Ellis had it all figured out, but I did not.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stephanie Ellis is a UK writer of dark fiction. All written work on this site is the original creation of Stephanie Ellis unless otherwise indicated.