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Not For The Faint Hearted, New Hive Horror Anthology Trail XIII Will Give You The Heebie-Jeebies!

If you are a beginner to horror, Trail XIII: Path to Perdition published by The Hive might be a good book to test waters with, as some of the stories are more atmospheric than spectral.

If you are a beginner to horror, Trail XIII: Path to Perdition published by The Hive might be a good book to test waters with, as some of the stories are more atmospheric than spectral.

The buzzing Hive is back, and this time, they have returned to their core strength of horror-thrillers. Needless to say, this book set high expectations in my mind. And to a great extent, the book proved worth reading.

I loved how the title gave a subtle nod to the first Hive horror anthology. Trail XIII: The Path to Perdition is almost the verbatim equivalent of Route 13: Highway to Hell.

So which one performs better? I must confess, I have a special place in my heart for Route 13 because it was the very first horror anthology I read in my life, and in many ways, it turned out to be a path-breaker in my reading habits. But other than the fact that both are horror anthologies with 13 tales each, the stories in the collections are quite distinct from each other.

Route 13 had a more traditional horror feel, while Trail XIII goes into newer and varied subgenres. You won’t find any repetitiveness across the content, because each story seems to take a different ‘path to perdition’.

While some of the stories clicked with me much more than I had anticipated (it’s horror after all; I never knew what to expect!), others left me feeling like something was missing. Like when you are cooking a dish and you have added every necessary ingredient, and the dish does taste good, but it doesn’t blow your mind. You don’t know what’s missing, you just know you expected something more but didn’t get it.

That was my experience for some of the stories.  (Yeah, I just equated cooking and horror – two things that are almost similarly deadly in my eyes!)

At the same time, this book demonstrated to me the vast variety that is possible within the ‘horror’ genre. The book may be called Path to Perdition but it certainly doesn’t go down the tried-and-tested path of ghosts and monsters. Many stories don’t contain anything outright paranormal, but they’ll still leave you stupefied. For an anthology to include a variety of genres and do justice to them is creditable.

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As there are multiple writers who have contributed to this work, my feedback is based on the individual stories.

My personal favourites (4.5 – 5 stars) from this collection are: (in no particular order)

The Seer

Richard Beauchamp

Did I ever think that I’ll enjoy a splatterpunk story? Not in my wildest dreams! I didn’t even know I could read this kind of genre.

Well, I didn’t read it entirely. I hopped, skipped and jumped through the bloodier bits… In my mind, I was picturing it in a less gory way, kind of like the church shooting scene in Kingsman: The Secret Service. That made it easier to reach the finish line. The way the story developed and built up to its climax was a nail-biting experience.

Look Into My Eyes

Anshu Bhojnagarwala

My kind of ghost story. A good old ghost story which, though, a bit guessable (thank you, Bollywood), provided a chilling ending. Moved steadily and quickly. I enjoyed the spooks.

The Dante House

Varadharajan Ramesh

What a concept! Never thought I’d see Fibonacci being used in horror.

This was an intelligent story, though it became a bit too complicated as it progressed. I love fitting in story puzzles together and in that sense, this tale was the perfect jigsaw! The concept was such that I felt it would have better fitted a European locale than an Indian countryside. (Perhaps Italy, as an ode to Dante and Fibonacci.) Still, it was a well-crafted piece.

Mother Promise; and Insidious Thoughts

Prachi Sharma; and Angel Whelan, respectively

The only two stories in the book that made me go “Dayyum!” Loved them from start to end!

I tried to guess what would happen next, but I couldn’t. A common factor to both of these was that they were from a mother’s point of view. Did that make a difference to my feelings about them? I honestly don’t know. But I enjoyed them both tremendously.

Other notable mentions: (3.5 – 4 stars)

Summer Solstice

Srivalli Rekha Mantrala

Scary and mysterious! What I love about Srivalli’s stories is that she provides me with an ending I can’t see coming. And in horror, as everyone knows, the ending makes the huge difference.

I would have loved this story more if it were a bit shorter, maybe by cutting down on the elaborate descriptions? It took away the pace of the thrill. This is my personal preference, but I don’t enjoy descriptive writing in faster genres such as thrillers and horror.

A Legend of Truth

Monica Singh

The only story in this book that actually made me retch. (I simply can’t handle animal or child related gore.) I had to stop twice in between this little story to recover my ability to continue.

But what writing! The scene setting, the time shifts, the nerve-wracking atmosphere, the ending… Complicated yet well-done. Monica is a talented writer, and it shows in this story. Her research is impeccable.

Redivivus

Benjamin Wylde

Superb title and quite a unique concept. Sort of like ‘Frankenstein’ with a twist. Extremely spooky. But I didn’t enjoy the overabundance of adjectives.

Some writers seem to assume that story settings are best created by providing a plethora of adjectives. But there are far better ways to help readers visualise the story, and too many adjectives make the writing look amateurish.

Naani & the Shadows

Ell P

Loved the idea, and the way the story was structured. But it left me with many unanswered questions. Not that I want answers to every question; open endings work wonderfully if written well. But this left gaps in some important plot points.

The Voice

Priya Bajpai

Nicely constructed, and leads to a great ending. The use of the present tense adds to the suspense. I didn’t, however,  enjoy the resolution provided for the occurrence of the events.

Leaving It All Behind

Matthew Piskun

A well-crafted slow-burn horror. Not sure why I didn’t enjoy it more, maybe it just wasn’t my type. I think this was the ‘Wicked West’ genre and I usually find this genre boring. (I don’t even like cowboy movies or Wild West novels.)  So that the fact that I still enjoyed this story speaks volumes.

A good book to test your horror sensibilities

11/13 is a great deal for an anthology, especially considering the fact that I don’t even enjoy reading horror. If you are a beginner to horror, this might be a good book to test waters with as some of the stories are more atmospheric than spectral.

But do note that there is a fair amount of gore in most of the stories. If you are squeamish about gore, you might want to toughen yourself up before opting for this. If you are a seasoned horror reader, give this book a try for a motley assortment of horrifying tales from Indian and international writers.

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Image source: Instagram/ The Hive, and book cover Amazon

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