Review: Ink Vine by Elizabeth Broadbent

cover of Ink VineInk Vine by Elizabeth Broadbent
(April 2024)
118 pages
Reviewed by Dave Simms

The horror novella can be a powerful entity. When handled properly, it’s a gut punch, a blade twist to the heart, and a mind screw all at the same time. Elizabeth Broadbent has penned one of those stories here in Ink Vine, a tale that is deeper and more dangerous than the swamp she created within. At 118 pages it hits hard, managing to build an effective setting in a South Carolina that reeks of the dank water, humidity, and scent of the trees which smother visitors who dare to enter. The story manages to be a strong character study with a taut element of horror, yet is so much more.
Labeled by many as a sapphic horror tale, which is true, it’s also an entertaining, quick read that begs to be savored slowly.

Emmy (Emerald) is suffocating in her wasteland of a small town that nobody escapes. Faced with a tough choice, she eschews the destiny of working in the chicken plant to dance in the local strip club. She holds onto her core values and refuses to reduce herself to what others have done. Hoping to one day escape, she prays that the money will be enough. Her home life is toxic, her mother berating her for her choices, her sister existing in the double-wide trailer, and a brother she knows has little hope of escaping this world — just like her.
The world of Lower Congaree offers nothing to Emmy except dread and dreams that will never come to fruition. The filth of the town, both literal and in human form, stifle her, yet she refuses to accept her lot in life. She’ll use the dancing to get out of the hell that plagues everyone around her.
The warning to stay out of the swamp echoes in her thoughts, but one day she breaks free and wanders deep. She meets Zara, a beautiful mystery who entrances her. Who is she and why does she reside deep within the strange world far removed from society? Emmy begins to fall, realizing how poisonous her surroundings truly are, and wakes up changed. She can’t stop thinking about the swamp — and Zara — somehow aware of both the dangers and allure of the strange world.
Broadbent paints the words into a gorgeous setting where she places her broken characters within, a juxtaposition between a dying town and the vibrant but dangerous swamp she’s been warned about all her life. She knows this world well and the dark fantasy/horror that comes to life between the covers seethes with life, conflict, and dark threads that threaten to pull Emmy’s world into the depths.
Recommended reading and a fine new author to watch.

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