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Ten stabs to the heart.

Ten tales to poke and jab – at your darkest fears, your secret desires.

Margo Lanagan’s electrifying stories take place in a world not quite our own, and yet each one illuminates what it is to be human.

Lanagan is the author of the controversial YA novel Tender Morsels, which is one of the best books I’ve read. From the gorgeous cover art to the last page, this collection of short stories did not disappoint.

There is an enchantingly dark fairy tale tone woven into these stories. Toys (or a dream) coming to life, otherworldly travelers in search of a midwife, and a bear rummaging about the house…all that in one story, “Baby Jane”. My other favorites are “Winkie”, a horror reminiscent of the un-Disneyfied versions of the Brothers Grimm tales, “A Good Heart”, which is a realistic tale of true love lost, “Under Hell, Over Heaven”, a bleak look at limbo wherein those in purgatory watch someone’s soul descend into hell, and “Daughter of the Clay” in which a changeling finds her way back home, although this is a rather sad story about wishing to fit in somewhere.

The stories are in turn frightening, sad, strange, and eerily beautiful. They are about love, pain, violence, courage and loss. There is a lot of variety here and it’s extremely well-written, and like most fairy tales, they are about human strength. If you’re not a fan of short fiction and don’t believe it can touch you the way a novel can, you need to read Red Spikes. 

5 out of 5 stars – must read