Publication Date: February 13th, 2023
Theresa Braun's The Broken Darkness is a chilling collection of horror stories that all center around what it means to be a human and deal with all the many emotions that come with that. I don't think I expected this collection to be quite as dark as it was, but I found that to be a pleasant surprise and enjoyed seeing the different levels Braun managed to take each of these stories. Before jumping into this review, I'd like to note that there are a lot of content warnings for these stories, so just be aware going into it that there are some intense topics.
Paperback. 294 pages.
About The Broken Darkness:
"In her debut collection, Theresa Braun explores the inner workings of the human heart and what it is we most desire—forgiveness, acceptance, love, fame, or merely to escape who we really are. Whether we are battling ghosts, demons, mythical monsters, the past, or other dimensions, we are really facing the deepest parts of ourselves. These thirteen tales of horror and dark fantasy may appear to be a matter of good versus evil, but they are all a reflection of the hidden corners of the soul that are often shades of broken darkness. The characters in these stories must face their inner and outer terrors, or else suffer the consequences."
There are thirteen stories (coincidence? I'm thinking not!) in this collection, each containing a general horror vibe, while some had more paranormal elements in them than others, as well. Braun includes a really strong variety of stories ranging from hauntings and the aforementioned paranormal elements, to the deranged actions of some individuals, to the influence of some folkloric and mythic elements that took things to new levels.
A few of my favorites were:
"Dead Over Heels": This story follows Veronica and Sebastian as they meet for a first date, hit it off, and then notice something a bit peculiar happen while on their first date. They move on from this first happening, but as their relationship progresses they decide to figure out just what happened on that first date... and it's definitely not something they ever could have expected. This was a great introduction to the collection as a whole. It wasn't too intense (well, maybe a little at the end!) and laid just enough foundation to really lure me in to wanting to read the rest of the collection.
"Collecting Empties": I really can't say much about this story of a drunken night because it was so short that just about anything would give away too much. I loved how much Braun was able to pack into this short delight of a story and appreciated how much it kept me entertained. It's the short stories like this that often make me really appreciate when authors are able to craft something compelling and succinct.
"Stillborn": This one is probably not for the faint of heart, but I really liked this crazy and shocking story. We follow a nurse, Sylvia, as she begins working for a doctor who has a terrifying side hustle that makes Sylvia realize she is in way over her head. This was a rollercoaster from start to finish and definitely left me feeling uneasy–which is exactly what I want from a horror story!
"Stay Tuned": This one hooked me from the start. We follow a group of 'vigilantes' of sorts who take a lot of matters into their own hands... with methods that probably aren't exactly ones most people would condone. There were some huge twists and shocking moments in this one that left me completely unsure how to feel. I didn't find the latter half quite as compelling as the beginning when we are still getting to know these vigilantes and what they do, but overall I really enjoyed this particular story.
Overall, I found this to be a very solid collection of stories. As with any anthology, there were certainly stories I enjoyed more than others, and I found just a few that didn't quite live up to the others. There were some with abrupt endings that fit well with the story and left you with an open ending that works well with horror, whereas others felt a bit too abrupt and I felt like there was too many things left unsaid or almost as if the story wasn't as complete as it could have been. However, even if I didn't think a story quite hit the mark in a way I expected it to, I still found myself captivating by at least one aspect in each story and I really liked the different ideas Braun played with throughout this collection. I've given The Broken Darkness four bloody stars!