Sunday, January 15, 2023

Our Shadows Have Claws: 15 Latin American Monster Stories by Yamile Saied Méndez

 I have mixed feelings about anthologies. I like the idea of them in theory but the overall quality hinges on not just the quality of the individual stories but also how they fit and work together. In past collections I've read, there's always one or two stories where I'm like, "Did you NOT understand the assignment?" Happily, that was not the case with this book-- it's one of the few where everything feels cohesive. Gothy, gloomy Addams family-aesthetic Latinx stories? Uhhhh let me go ahead and slam down that YAAAAASS button.

So here are my jotted thoughts and feelings about each individual story, with a respective rating.

The Nightmare and the Lark: ☆☆☆
Chantel Acevedo

This is a Romeo and Juliet retelling with monster hunters and monster sympathizers, replete with a twist. I can see why it was chosen to kick off the collection because it sets the overall theme and tone of the stories to come and hooks you in with a lil' bit of romance, but I found it just okay.


Donde Esta el Duende?: ☆☆☆
Jenny Torres Sanchez

I thought this one was also just okay, although it's a very different story than the first. Apparently a "duende" is a sort of monster elf creature (and not a cuddly rosy-cheeked one, either!). This has more of a classic horror movie vibe to it, like a 1950s pulp. It also kind of gave me Troll 2 vibes.


El Viejo de la Bolsa: ☆☆
Alexandra Villasante

I didn't care for this one much at all. It's a very strange story revolving around an entity that kidnaps and eats children who don't finish their meals. The ending was weird and didn't really make sense to me. I get the purpose of vague, open-ended endings but if they're not executed well, they just feel lazy.


Beware the Empty Subway Car: ☆☆½
Maika and Maritza Moulite

This was almost a good story. I've actually read a book by these authors before and it had similar problems: it tried to get a little too fancy for a story that didn't quite have enough substance to carry it off. I liked the premise-- a lougaru living in New York-- and it had '90s grunge vibes. But I didn't like it.


Dismembered: ☆☆☆☆
Ann Davila Cardinal

This story was actually really sweet. It's about a girl who inherits her grandmother's house after she is killed in a gruesome car crash. On a completely UNRELATED note (*cough*) she learns that so many people die on the road where her grandmother had the accident that an urban legend has surfaced about the dismembros, body parts that just blob around, searching for their missing pieces. *shudder*


Blood Kin: ☆☆☆
Ari Tison

This is a story about revenge for the indigenous people of Costa Rica and it involves, strangely enough, panther shape-shifters. Or the legend of them, anyway. *wink* I thought this one was only okay. It kind of felt like it could have been a Captain Planet episode. I just don't think the story was long enough to do its thing. Not a bad book-- again, it was okay plus-- but it could have been better.


La Boca del Loba: ☆☆☆
M. Garcia Pena

I thought this one was fine. It's an Angela Carter-like story about female rage that becomes carnivorous in its fury. Surreal and very magic-realism-y, but I rolled with it. And I did kind of like it.


Bloodstained Hands Like Yours:
Gabriela Martins

There's always ONE. This is the story in the book that I really didn't like. It didn't offend me or make me angry or anything like that, I just didn't feel like it made sense (even if I liked the idea of a mummy story where the mummy is targeting this one girl for ~reasons~).


The Boy from Hell: ☆☆☆☆
Amparo Ortiz

So satisfying. Almost five stars. I want to see this one played out in a full book. Latinx vampires and a kickbutt female vampire huntress who seeks them out with the help of her chaotic good granny? YAS


La Patasola: ☆☆☆☆☆
Racquel Marie

This is more of a five-star rating in terms of the overall collection than something that really had me obsessing, but it was an excellent short story. I guess it's a feminist spin on a Colombian story of a woman who, after being murdered by her jealous fiance, becomes a flesh-eating monster. So good and it's set in a camp and talks about biphobia and bisexual erasure. SO GOOD.


The Other Side of the Mountains: ☆½
Claribel A. Ortega

This one was confusing and weird and I feel like it was going for a maybe Tim Burton sort of vibe and it almost succeeded but wasn't quite there. It's about a boy looking for the witch who took his sister into the mountains. Creative but confusing and also kind of depressing.


La Madrina: ☆☆½
Yamile Saied Mendez

This is a story about a girl who ends up encountering the woman who guides the dead to their final place. I rounded up a bit because I liked the ending, but I wanted more from it.


Sugary Deaths: ☆☆☆☆☆
Lilliam Rivera

I was obsessed with this one and clearly need to check out more of this author's works. 80s nostalgia! Tough girl heroine! Pac-Man! Arcades! Also the premise revolves around a girl getting revenge on a privileged older guy who's taking advantage of her friends. SO GOOD. Love love love.


Leave no Tracks: ☆☆½
Julia Alvarez

Julia Alvarez is such a big name in Latinx fiction that I went in with really high expectations but this story felt pretty dialed in. I liked the environmental theme and the supernatural element but this one didn't really impress me much. Sadness.


The Hour of the Wolf: ☆☆☆
Courtney Alameda

I have heard so many good things about this author and even own some of her books (but haven't read them yet). Clearly I need to because this book was pretty good. It served up old school Goosebumps-style horror with skulls and altars and a vengeful wolf. Plus, a strong heroine in her own right.


So overall this collection was a little bit hit, a little bit miss, and a whole lot of okay. I did discover some new authors I'm pretty excited to read more from, though, so that's something! Also the editors put together a super cohesive collection that was the best of any anthology I've read, so go them on that. I'm honestly super impressed. Would make a great gift for the horror aesthete in your life.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review!

3 out of 5 stars

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