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The Repentant

edited by Brian M Thomsen and Martin H Greenberg

(DAW, US $6.99 / Canada $9.99 paperback, 313 pages, 2003.)

Review by Elizabeth Barrette

cover scanPart of what makes horror stories interesting is the tension between good and evil, light and dark. Cardboard characters and one-dimensional monsters are passé. Now readers want to see the struggle as monsters try to overcome their base nature. Conversely, religious fiction tends to be either dry and pedantic, or sappy and simplistic. Change the protagonist to a werewolf, a vampire, a demon, or some other creature of the night -- and suddenly his path through temptation and salvation takes on a whole new level of intrigue. That's what this anthology is all about.

"The Salem Trial" by Jody Lynn Nye examines magical ethics through the eyes of a newcomer to a coven of (artistically exaggerated) witches. Edo Van Belkom tackles the difficult issue of domestic violence in "The Den Mother." For those of you who are Henry Fitzroy fans, check out "Scleratus," in which Tanya Huff relates a painful part of Henry's past. "The Devil You Know" by Nina Kiriki Hoffman follows a child raised by a demon. The fearless Cthulhu Mythos mavens will delight in Tom Dupree's "The Recall of Cthulhu," the funniest story in the anthology. Finally, there is the question of true salvation in Allen C. Kupfer's brutally subtle "Redeemed," in which a demon must convince a team of priests that mere exorcism isn't precisely the prescription needed for this possession.

You don't have to belong to any particular religion to enjoy this book, as it rambles through a variety of traditions. Most horror readers will have fun here; the stories span blood-and-guts to psychological to austere. But they all cling to the ray of hope laid out in the title and theme: it's never too late, even for a monster. Highly recommended.

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