Hallowed Days by Daniel Hale
JournalStone Publishing (November 2020)
156 pages; $15.95 paperback
Reviewed by Joshua Gage
Hallowed Days is a dark fantasy- and horror-themed anthology focusing primarily on Christmas and Halloween. What makes Hale’s fiction so potent is the way he builds up to the ominous dread at the end of his stories. Rarely do we see any actual blood and guts, and most of the stories depend on tiny details that are magnified at the end of the tale.
For example, in the story “When Santa Stayed” we follow a father who is comforting his daughter, Annabelle, with her questions about Santa Claus, as well as dealing with marital problems and his own nightmares. It seems to be a basic children’s story from the point of view of a concerned parent, until Santa leaves a letter for Annabelle that lets the reader know it is anything but. What is great about this tale is that Hale not only deals with the stereotypical “child curious about Santa” trope, but he also taps into some of the mythic, pagan origins of Santa Claus as well. This adds to the darkness of the story, and really makes for a creepy read.
In Hallowed Days, we are also presented with some of Hale’s poetry. The narrative poem “Krampusnacht” deals with a holiday party, its revelry, and then takes a much darker turn when the guests get consumed by the holiday spirit and the ancient German traditions. Readers are presented another story in which the right details are provided to let the reader know something ominous is happening, but they are not given too much detail to overwhelm or alienate them from the narrative. And while Hale’s prosody may leave a bit to be desired, the tale in “Krampusnacht” is enough to capture the attention of a reader and give them some lingering dread.
Overall, Hallowed Days is a fun collection of creepy, atmospheric stories. At times, Hale dabbles into poetry or experimental fiction styles, but for the most part, the stories are just solid horror fiction that imply some dreadful end. The focus on holidays is clever, and while Hale treads outside of Christmas and Halloween occasionally, it would be really interesting to see what he could do with less traditional holidays. Still, horror readers will enjoy this collection and its themes.