The Bitterwood Bible And Other Recountings by Angela Slatter. Book review

THE BITTERWOOD BIBLE AND OTHER RECOUNTINGS By Angela Slatter, Tartarus Press, h/b, £35.00,

Reviewed by Matthew Johns

Another beautifully bound, illustrated and embossed tome from Tartarus, this is a collection of tales (or recountings, if you like) from Angela Slatter.  I’d previously encountered Slatter’s work in another collection from Tartarus, and had been impressed with that single short story.

This collection is all set in the same world, and Slatter manages to ingeniously weave an overarching thread that runs through and unites all the tales.

The opening story, “The Coffin-Maker’s Daughter” introduces Hepsibah Ballantyne, the eponymous coffin-maker’s daughter.  Her dead father, Hector, continues to haunt and harangue her from beyond the grave, constantly belittling and insulting her while she goes about her craft.  When she is betrayed by the daughter of one of her customers, she takes revenge by poisoning her and capturing her spirit.  Hepsibah reappears in several of the other tales, including the excellent “St Dymphna’s School for Poison Girls”, where young ladies are trained to become assassins.

Slatter’s work is excellent, and eminently readable.  The world that her creations live within is excellently depicted, and the characters easy to relate to.  It’s easy to see how she’s managed to make such an impact on the genre and garnered a British Fantasy Award and numerous other nominations.