by Julian Lopez
Cirque des Freaks and Other Tales of Horror will be released 14th April 2020 by Bold Strokes Books.
Cirque des Freaks and Other Tales of Horror is described as a collection of horror stories, ‘sure to frighten’. A few reviewers commented that they felt underwhelmed, perhaps a little let down by the book’s contents. Unfortunately, I have to agree with them. The book is marketed as LGBTQ+ Horror, but would have perhaps been better as Fantasy. It’s specifically dark fantasy, with the focus in the stories on M/M pairings, with some supernatural elements. To me, a lot of the main, POV characters read as too similar to one another, with little to distinguish between them or, in some cases, the actual plots.
Many revolve around ‘doomed love’, whether it’s falling for a supernatural monster, or a lover being whisked away by a ghost. Some stories are honestly entertaining, but these are let down by those around it. The first story in the collection, “A Masked Camaraderie” is set in the early 30s, and feels very strongly influenced by Hemmingway and Fitzgerald, with a starkness to the prose and the kind of setting and gatherings both men wrote about.
“Razor Cut” is a story that stands out for its unique feeling and gory imagery, when a man’s obsession and lust get the better of him. But other tales in this collection feel too much like what’s come before in the genre. The title story, “Cirque des Freaks”, reads like a strange homage to Freaks and American Horror Story: Freakshow, which sounds weird in that Freakshow itself plays homage in ways to the 1932 film. This story in particular also veers into territory that can be deemed offensive, with a slur used often in the story, aimed at people with dwarfism. “Wax Entrapment” isn’t even a homage, but plucks the plot right from the 1988 film Waxwork.
Lopez is clearly a talented writer, but I think these stories could have done with slightly more focus on the actual characters, rather than just the events. When there are moments of decent characterisation, they work really well, and when we get a slightly deeper glimpse into relationships, it’s effective. But the stories are too fast paced with too much crammed in, too many of the same ideas, and often read as a list of events rather than actual tales.
Review by Elle Turpitt
I received this e-book from NetGalley and Bold Strokes Books for review consideration.