He tweets from @stevestred
I think I’ve arrived late at the Steve Stred party, but with his latest and phenomenal dark fantasy epic Piece of Me – I’m sure to be gorging myself on more of his fabulous offerings for some time to come (as of writing I’ve dived into his dark horror offering in the shape of ‘The Stranger’).
Piece of Me follows the life of Kari a very relatable protagonist who the reader champions from the start – due to her being fully realised by Stred (who has a way of writing characters that you fully believe in – each one serving a purpose, driving the story forward – there is no cannon-fodder here, no space for hangers on). Kari sets out on a quest to find her husband and son – thought dead, lost in the unforgiving landscape she calls home, when a stranger arrives who opens her eyes to the possibility that they are still alive after all these years. But does she trust this stranger, and will she venture out into the wild to find them, when the darkness hides a myriad of evil creatures that’s soul purpose is to feast on the things they find, lost or isolated within the forest and open plains, snow blinded and confused – each intent on tearing their prey apart and feasting on their innards.
The darkness works hard to bring food for its children.
Piece of Me is a tale of the all consuming darkness of grief and what it does to the person or persons it touches. Stred has done a fabulous job in showcasing this without pandering to stereotypes or being overly sympathetic – this is not a pity party. But due to his fresh and bold approach at detailing grief, Stred has created a tale that is unlike anything you would have read before.
At it’s heart Piece of Me is an unrelenting, unapologetic tale of hope and discovery that is singed around the edges by the inescapable clutches of grief, it’s a life left in tatters, but through all of this, there is still a hope that lingers in the unrelenting and inescapable darkness. It’s a fabulously rich example of how someone suffering from grief would feel and react when given hope, however small that chance of hope is, it stokes the fire within Kari’s heart and sets her on the road to recovery and wholeness as she follows that dwindling thread of hope to the very end… whatever the cost.
Stred has masterfully curated a rich tapestry to act as the backdrop for this epic tale, the world that he has painstakingly created is clear for all to see. From the world itself, the environment, the cabin, the bleakness of the snow, and the isolation all aid in this storytelling masterclass (reminiscent of Ursula Le Guin ‘The Left Hand of Darkness’ in scope and detailed brilliance, never once do you doubt what you’re reading – Stred has you in the palm of his hand and you go and believe what he tells you). The environment that Stred has created almost becomes a character in its own right, as Kari battles the elements and the unforgiving landscape that seems intent on keeping her captive as it attempts to thwart her quest at every juncture.
Then woven into this masterfully constructed landscape you have the unique cast of characters that populate Stred’s world – again proving a delight whenever they show up, whether that be the beasts of the darkness (each a unique slice of horror – think Robert A. Heinlein’s Starship Troopers fused by a bad acid trip with a Demogorgon and you’ll be in the right ballpark), Fritjof our wandering stranger who seems to be able to communicate with these monsters of the dark, devil hounds, trolls, giants, and huge eagles – there are so many to choose from and each brilliantly portrayed. There are also a number of other fascinating characters but I’ll let you discover those for yourself.
Piece of Me is like The Lord of the Rings but fused brilliantly with the darkness of say Clive Barker’s Hellraiser – Epic Dark Horror Fantasy, if that’s a thing? If not, Stred has created a genre all by himself.
Piece of Me is an astonishing piece of storytelling from a writer who has left his heart a bleeding mess upon the page, a rich and compelling tale that is both visceral and visionary and truly unforgettable. It will maim you and leave you scarred – you’ll never forget this encounter!
Piece of me will be available here shortly.
Steve Stred writes dark, bleak horror fiction.
Steve is the author of two novels, four novellas, two short story collections as well as two poetry/drabble collections.
Steve has had works featured in 100 Word Zombie Bites, 100 Word Horrors 3, and Forest of Fear.
Steve is also a voracious reader, reviewing everything he reads and submitting the majority of his reviews to be featured on Kendall Reviews.
Steve Stred is based in Edmonton, AB, Canada and lives with his wife, his son and their dog OJ.
Reviewed by Ross Jeffery
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