Title: Compendium of Creatures
Author: Ksenia Murray
Release date: October 1st, 2021
I’ve only read one short story prior to this collection from Ksenia Murray, but it stuck with me, to the point that when she tweeted out looking for any one available to give her newest collection a read, I jumped at it. I’ve hit another groove with my reading here, and knew I’d be able to slot it in and start on it asap.
I didn’t ask about a synopsis before hand. Why? Judging from the title and the fact that it was a short story collection, I just assumed each story would revolve around a different creature!
I just want to add that midway through the first story, I was enjoying it so much, that I snagged the Kindle version of her novella ‘The Cave,’ which I’ll be starting in the next few days!
What I liked: The stories in here cover a range of creatures from around the globe, but what I really found to be the highlight was the way Murray made the characters within each come alive in such a short time. That’s tough to do, especially when you have limited word counts and want to rip and shred and decapitate those who wander where they shouldn’t, but story after story after story, she delivered relatable characters that all felt like you knew them before reading their story.
The opener ‘Pipes’ just may be my favorite of the batch. We follow young friends, Jeff and Chris, as they go and explore the drainage/sewage pipes near their homes. The story itself went places that I expected but also in directions I wasn’t, which really had me on edge.
‘Inheritance’ was a fun look at Leo and Oliver, new home owners, who’ve just moved in when they hear a noise. Of course, like every moron in dark fiction, they go to investigate and what they find isn’t so nice.
‘The Receptionist’ was a fun story. Sharing the arrival of a rookie in the Army, they end up overseas and the draw of the exotic ‘ladies-of-the-night’ is just too much for him to ignore. I loved how short and snappy this one was and how, even though you knew what was going to become of our soldier, you couldn’t wait to see it happen.
‘The Snow Globe’ was another really great story. Cynthia receives a gift from her grandma on the day she is born. Over the years she realizes a pixie lives within it. But when she wants to leave it behind and move to college, she sees just how malevolent that little pixie really is.
My other favorite was ‘Its In the Garden.’ Mia gets a phone call from her grandmother that something is in her garden eating her prized flowers. I never, never, in a million years would’ve imagined where this story went. Not only with what is actually in her garden but also the reason’s etc etc.
Murray does a great job of keeping each story fresh and inviting and ensuring that tension is used to perfection.
What I didn’t like: As with any collection/anthology a few stories weren’t really for me. A few stories also felt like I would’ve enjoyed them a bit more if they went full Rated R instead of almost a soft R. Hard to describe, but it felt like maybe a bit was held back or softened.
Why you should buy this: Murray has delivered a really great, engaging collection filled with fast-paced stories and characters you’ll root for. I really loved the variety within and can’t wait to dive into ‘The Cave.’