Review: Major Arcana edited by Steve J. Shaw

cover of Major Arcana 7Major Arcana edited by Steve J Shaw
Black Shuck Books (September 2022)
234 pages; $14.99 paperback
Reviewed by Daniel Braum

Major Arcana is the title of the seventh annual installment of the Great British Horror series published by UK Publisher Black Shuck Books. Each book in the series features ten British authors and one “international” (non-UK) author.

The 2022 edition features 11 stories, each having a title sharing the name with one of the Major Arcana cards of the Tarot deck.

The stories are: “Wheel of Fortune” by Ida Keogh, “The Star” by Anna Taborska, “The High Priestess” by Dan Coxon, “The Hierophant” by Jonathan Sims, “The Lovers” by Lynda E Rucker,  “Temperance” by Gary Budden, “The Fool” by Carly Holmes, “The Chariot” by Malcolm Devlin, “The Tower” by Alison Moore, “The Hermit” by Steven J Dines, and “Hanged Man” by Conrad Williams.

Black Shuck’s annual series showcases modern British authors “telling tales of this sceptered isle.” As a reader who is captivated by setting, the promise of a volume of UK set stories by UK authors caught my attention.

In “The Star,” Anna Taborska takes us to two of England’s Royal Parks featuring

2500 acres of woodlands, grassland, gardens, and ponds. Home to 650 deer, two shire horses, 144 species of bird, 250 types of fungus, 1200 ancient trees. 1350 species of beetle, and… something else.

Dan Coxon’s “High Priestess” is set at a vacation cottage in rural Britain where our narrator leaves his work laptop behind for other projects. In a conversation with a voice he cannot see, he is directed to get to work:

“What should I build?” 

Church, the voice says. Or it may have been Temple– somehow it says both at once…

In her standout story of longing and loss, “The Fool,” Carly Holmes shows us Britain by the “bitter glow of streetlight.” It is a tale with the hallmark psychological nuances that Holmes excels at and offers us glimpses of the back gardens of terrace houses where strange and uncanny things might transpire even so close to home.

I picked up this book with the expectation from the title that it would be an anthology of stories with a Tarot card theme. I found the book was (not overtly) themed beyond the titles but that did not stop the collection from living up to the name of the annual series “Great British Horror.”

For those looking for stories by British authors that might not be frequently seen in US publications, Major Arcana is a fine place to start or to further your reading. With a range of styles and kinds of horror stories Major Arcana is a snapshot and who’s-who of British Authors writing the genre today. 

Leave a Reply