Cloaked In Shadow, edited by W.H.Horner (Fantasist Enterprises, 2004)

Cloaked in Shadow is the first themed anthology offering from the relatively new Fantasist Enterprises ( With almost two dozen stories featuring the darker side of elves and fairies, it definitely has a little something for everything, though in general, what you’ll find here tends to hew towards a dark fantasy bordering on outright horror, thus proving that elves don’t always have to be happy and shiny.
I have to admit, I was unfamiliar with many of the authors present in this collection, so I really didn’t know what to expect from the stories within. It’s an interesting mix, with some rather memorable stories, some which really convey a lingering dark feeling. Three of them – Erin MacKay’s “Diminishing,” H. Turnip Smith’s “Evil Lives, Vice Eats Simplicity,” and K.D. Wentworth’s “Bad Company” – all deal with mortal police running afoul of elven crimes or mischief, though MacKay’s story is a homicide investigation, Wentworth’s involves a murder on the job, and Smith’s is … hard to explain. In all three cases, things don’t go well for the human involved. In John Sullivan’s “Under Distant Hills,” a woman makes a fateful deal with the elves, sacrificing her future to insure her success in the present, a deal which works out well for the long-term-planning of the elves. J.R. Cain’s “The Suitcase” reads like a cross between True Romance and Tam Lin: when a loser finds a suitcase full of money, he and an old friend and her baby are drawn into a bizarre plot involving elves, cat-fairies, and lots of gunplay. “Rotten Blood,” by Murray Leeder, looks at the last moments of immortality for one race of elves, as the true implications of unchanging eternity are brought to light. Stephen D. Rogers gives us “Laume’s Lesson,” a rather short, viciously-to-the-point story of how elves reward kindness and punish greed.
All in all, Cloaked in Shadow succeeds in delivering some rather dark, disturbing tales involving the elves, mixing science fiction, fantasy, and urban fantasy to produce an interesting assortment. An overuse of pseudo-Gothic lettering used in the font for the cover, table of contents, and page headers does make it occasionally hard to read the names of stories or authors, and I’m not entirely sure what the half-naked elf on the cover is doing with the sword, or what exactly he’s actually wearing, so I do have to subtract points for the presentation. Hopefully future anthologies will have a more polished appearance as the publisher establishes more of a presence in the marketplace. This collection is worth picking up, however, if you enjoy dark fantasy or the nastier side of elves.

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