The most—really, the only—disappointing part of GARDEN OF ELDRITCH DELIGHTS is that each of its dozen stories comes to an end. That’s the point of stories, to be sure, but within the pages of each of Lucy A. Snyder’s twelve tales is the suggestion off a world more richly and deeply built and imagined than we will ever know, and though Snyder makes economical use of these worlds, telling precisely the story she intends to tell, each ending carries with it the small pang of heartbreak spurred by the knowledge that this is all that we get.

Most, though not quite all, of these tales could have easily been expanded into at least a novella’s length, or in some cases even a novel; such is the depth of Snyder’s world building. Her narrative precision often belies the layer of framework deftly hidden beneath the words on the page. Each story is constructed with care and craft, meticulously assembled in a way that hints at the wider world surrounding the tales without straying far from path she has envisioned.

The effect is something of a tease. Even as the world of the next story begins to envelope your imagination, it’s difficult to fully leave behind the world of its predecessor. How sad that it should have ended when there was so much more to be explored! Not that any of the stories weaved by Snyder leave one in any way unsatisfied. Snyder’s talents lie in bringing you to narrative satiation while simultaneously leaving you wanting more.

Her stories offer a spectrum of the fantastic, her pendulum swinging wildly from traditional monsters like vampires, as seen in “The Yellow Death,” to the uncanny horrors found in “Executive Functions,” to even more straightforward fantasy of the collection’s closer, “The Warlady’s Daughter.” You never quite know what to expect when you turn the page to a new story, and sometimes the juxtaposition can be delightfully jarring.

Will the next story feature Eldritch abominations waiting on the edge of apocalypse, or will it be a metaphorical study of heartbreak disguised as terror? Will it be horror tinged sci-fi or vice versa? The twelve tales featured in GARDEN OF ELDRITCH DELIGHTS showcase the vast talents of Snyder as a writer and offer a glimpse at the depths of her imagination. She feels no need to constrain herself to a specific genre or set or tropes. No, there are so many luscious sandboxes to explore, and Snyder wants to build her castle in all of them.

Not many writers can pull this off with Snyder’s skill, and it’s not hard to see why she’s a Bram Stoker award winning writer. She is a master of her craft, and reading this collection is akin to taking a class in atmospheric genre writing. Never do her genre switches feel forced or silly. Rather, every change in direction and style merely showcases that Snyder is a writer at the top of her game, restrained by nothing but her seemingly boundless imagination.

Delightfully, Snyder gives her stories uniquely feminine perspectives. The vast majority of the twelve stories here are focused on a female protagonist, their themes touching on the cries not just of women but of the marginalized in general. GARDEN OF ELDRITCH DELIGHTS almost single-handedly dispels the notion that horror and genre writing is a man’s game, or that women should play it the same way as their male counterparts. This approach allows Snyder to mine new angles of terror and offer fresh looks at old tropes, reinvigorating them along the way.

All told, GARDEN OF ELDRITCH DELIGHTS is a wonderful collection that can tickle your fancy and tingle your spine, often in the same story. Each new tale weaves another world of speculative rapture that will engulf you with unrelenting fervor. Here the fantastic is laid bare, opening up new dimensions of genre writing that alternately thrills and enchants. Sad that it may be that these stories aren’t all novels or novellas, they each plant their own seeds within your psyche, growing into a forest of horror even after the collection is complete, until you have a garden of your own to dwell in and despair.

James Roberts
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