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A review by Ross Jeffery

What the hell did I just read?

A Press of Feathers is what you get when you mix David Cronenberg, Clive Barker and Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’. A Press of Feathers is a quintessentially British horror that has so much to offer the reader, it is a fabulously woven story that flits back and forth between our two main protagonists and deals with a number of themes such as; portal horror, cosmic horror, mythology, folklore, asylums, social experiments that make the Stanford Prison Experiment look like a picnic, plus there is blood and gore and a huge slice of unease that is woven between the very fabric of the story, with each chapter adding to the tension and the drama that is unfolding on the page.

Touching on the Britishness of the piece, this could (but it shouldn’t) affect the enjoyment of those across the pond in a number of ways which I’ll try to elaborate on here. The language used by TC Parker is very British, the location is in England and the prose is also very British with many turns of phrase that might be lost to a few from over the pond, but here in the UK and for me, those really made the piece feel authentic and very much about our little Island we call home. I bloody loved it, but this may be in part due to me being (as I’ve mentioned a few times already) British – so I’d love to see what the American audience thinks of this brutal story too.

But A Press of Feathers is something to be celebrated nonetheless, many times we British writers take on the mantel of setting our stories in the States (I’ve done it myself with my books Juniper and Tome), in a way it seems engrained in us from an early age that horror is American – strange right? We have people like Clive Barker, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker (Irish but we’ll claim him), Daphne du Maurier, James Herbert, Adam Nevill and Ramsey Campbell (big hitters right?) to name just a few fabulous British writers.

But there has always the lure of horror greatness which comes from across the pond with the likes of Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, HP Lovecraft, Anne Rice, Jack Ketchum, Robert McCammon, Joe Hill, Stephen Graham Jones, Edgar Allan Poe, William Peter Blatty, Ray Bradbury and Richard Matheson, Alma Katsu (the list is literally endless).

So in a way this connection between horror and America is something that does truly exist, and I feel that all too often, us writers from this little island we call home are pulled to set our stories in the great horror house that is America – but TC Parker has bucked that trend – firstly with her debut Salt Blood (setting it on a remote island off the coast of England – although populated with many American characters) and now with A Press of Feathers, she’s cemented it firmly here in the UK and I for one bloody love the boldness of that, British horror is great, we’ve a wealth of history to back these tales up, there should be more, there will be more!

Now, on with the book – TC Parker produces a masterclass of pacing with this book, it’s a little more frenetic (pages turning not pace of the prose) than Salt Blood, as the story drifts between our two fabulously realised protagonists. This back and forth element helps us to become attached to each of them and their individual and then combined plights, but also helps to pull the reader into the ensuing chaos that rages around this new settlement and the discovery of various mutilated bodies that are stacking up. The introduction of one of our characters being a True Crime Podcaster also adds another fabulous element to the story too, that being crime, knowing personally that TC Parker also writes under another name for her crime fiction we know that this is going to be another feather to A Press of Feathers already impressive cap, because let me tell you that the crime elements (Ture Crime elements) are spectacularly written, damn this woman writes it so well!

And then we touch on the prose of the piece, and what a sheer delight it is. There are many passages that I highlighted in this book; word flourishes that made me re-read them to fully absorb their brilliance. What TC Parker is able to achieve in a few words is pretty outstanding (and I’ve been taking notes for myself too), there is no need for hefty and weighty paragraphs of descriptions in her work as she delivers everything you need to know with the most beguiling of short and concise wordplay which is an absolute delight, her beautiful and easy on the eyes prose enables some of the heavier and more detailed parts of the book to be fully digested without feeling lost or confused about these weightier matters.

There is also intelligence to TC Parker’s prose and voice to her work. The subject choices that she chooses to use for her fiction are sensational, this isn’t just some hack and slash job, gore for gores sake and a mindless evil entity (this goes for Salt Blood too). It is always about the story and there is a fabulous story behind this offering, one of social class and belonging, of wrongs made right – it is horror, but it’s horror that glances at the state of society and holds up a mirror to show us what we’ve been missing, as we stare at the page and quite possibly see ourselves, people we know, situations that are raging around us reflected back in an eerie horrific clarity.

A Press of Feathers is a stunning read, one that cements TC Parker as a main player in the British horror scene, I gave Salt Blood five stars, I’ve rated A Press of Feathers five stars – so on that basis I can’t wait to see what TC Parker comes up with next.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

AUTHOR

Nat Edwards aka T.C. Parker is a writer and researcher based in the fox-ravaged wilds of Leicestershire, where I live with my partner and two extremely energetic children. Follow Nat on Twitter and Amazon.

REVIEWER

Ross Jeffery is the Bram Stoker Award & Splatterpunk nominated author of Tome, Juniper & Tethered. A Bristol-based writer and Executive Director of Books for STORGY Magazine. Ross has been published in print with a number of anthologies. His work has also appeared in various online journals. You can follow Ross on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Amazon and Youtube.
More articles by Ross Jeffery
The Ruin of Delicate Things by Beverley Lee
We Are Wolves Edited by Gemma Amor, Laurel Hightower and Cynthia Pelayo

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