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Reviewed by Tania Staley for Readers' Favorite
The Loved, the Lost, and the Dreaming, by Michelle Browne, is an exploration of what it means to fear. Her horror anthology takes readers to vastly different landscapes and societies. In The Underlighters, the first story in the collection, and easily a stand-alone novel, Earth’s survivors have been forced to move underground, living in darkness to protect themselves from the dangers of Dust. It is a story of survival and unconditional love in the midst of danger and tragedy. Some of her other stories seem to be inspired by fairytale lore. In The Undine, a prince marries a beautiful water nymph, who agrees to love him as long as he follows a few trifling conditions. In “Lyre,” a magical lyre has been cursed to live as a human for refusing to play for an evil witch, but with the help of new found love his curse may soon be broken. Finally, in some of her tales, such as A Shot of Vodka, horror is to be found from within, residing in the memories we can’t escape, and danger lurks in the guise of those we trust the most. All of these stories have one common theme: they teach us that no matter our background, gender, status, sexual preference, or age, we all feel fear and it is nothing to be ashamed of. It is what we do with our fear, whether we turn and hide or strive to overcome it, which decides our fate.
This is a fun, adventurous, and thought-provoking collection of stories. I truly admire Browne’s well-rounded characters and her open-mindedness about the world and the various beliefs and attitudes of people. While the journal format narrative is at times slightly far-fetched, the vulnerability this form creates more than makes up for this. In my opinion, it is in her longer tales that Browne’s true abilities shine. Given the space to allow her characters to grow and evolve, her stories reach a definitive and more satisfying conclusion than a few of her shorter works in the collection. Overall, this anthology was quite enjoyable, and I would recommend it to anyone wanting something different from your average shock-factor horror stories.