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Twice Cursed: An Anthology (2023)

by Neil Gaiman (Contributor), Paul Kane (Editor), Marie O'Regan (Editor)

Other authors: Katherine Arden (Contributor), Kelley Armstrong (Contributor), A. K. Benedict (Contributor), MR Carey (Contributor), Mark Chadbourn (Contributor)10 more, Helen Grant (Contributor), Joanne Harris (Contributor), Christina Henry (Contributor), Joe Hill (Contributor), LL McKinney (Contributor), Adam LG Nevill (Contributor), Sarah Pinborough (Contributor), Laura Purcell (Contributor), Angela Slatter (Contributor), AC Wise (Contributor)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations
501512,196 (3)None
Fantasy. Fiction. Short Stories. HTML:From the fun of the fair to the depths of hell, experience sixteen more curses in this sequel to the bestselling Cursed: An Anthology. A blend of traditional and reimagined curses from fairy-tales to Snow White, from some of the best names in fantasy.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR
Take a trip to a terrifying carnival and uncover the secrets within, solve a mysterious puzzle box and await your reward, join a travelling circus and witness the strangest ventriloquist act you??ve ever seen.
In this follow-up to the bestselling Cursed: An Anthology, you??ll unearth curses old and new. From a very different take on Snow White, to a new interpretation of The Red Shoes, the best in fantasy spin straw into gold, and invite you into the labyrinth.
Just don??t forget to leave your trail of breadcrumbs?
Featuring stories from:
Joanne Harris
Neil Gaiman
Joe Hill
Sarah Pinborough
Angela Slatter
M. R. Carey
Christina Henry
A. C. Wise
Laura Purcell
Katherine Arden
Adam L. G. Nevill
Mark Chadbourn
Helen Grant
Kelley Armstrong
A. K. Benedict
L.
… (more)
2023nov (1) anthology (5) ARC (1) arcs (1) DRC (1) ebook (1) fairy tale (2) fairy tales (1) fantasy (6) fantasy anthology (1) fiction (1) folklore (1) horror (3) K (1) Kindle (2) kobo (1) remake (1) retelling (1) short stories (2) signed (1) to-read (4) unread (2)
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Originally posted on Just Geeking by.

Content warnings:

‘The Bell’ by Joanne Harris – Contains violence, death, cannibalism, reference to enslavement.
‘Snow, Glass, Apples’ by Neil Gaiman – Contains paedophilia, child nudity, child death, necrophilia, death by exsanguination, being burned alive,
‘The Tissot Family Circus’ by Angela Slatter – Contains blood-letting for a spell, child abuse, dead children, discussion of death and true death.
‘Mr Thirteen’ by M. R. Carey – Contains discussions of death by curses (various) and preparing for death, violence, gore, a woman is drugged and stripped naked for a sacrificial murder, cannibalism.
‘The Confessor’s Tale’ by Sarah Pinborough – Contains gore, violence, torture, multiple violent deaths, child mutilation, suicide, cannibalism, rape, gang rape, sexual assault, ableism, animal death, death of a child, reference to paedophilia, women are plied with drugs and alcohol, sadism.
‘The Old Stories hide secrets deep inside them’ by Mark Chadbourn – Contains misogny, gaslighting, toxic worth place, death by poison.
‘Awake’ by Laura Purcell – Contains trauma, hallucinations, reference to torture, discussion of death, a suicide attempt.
‘Pretty Maids all in a Row’ by Christina Henry – Contains ableism, ageism, old age and mental health stereotypes, spiders, reference to a male serial targeting young girls and removing their eyes.
‘The Viral Voyage of Bird Man’ by Katherine Arden – Contains bird death and multiple deaths.
‘The Angels of London’ by Adam L. G. Nevill – Contains the slur cross-dresser, hallucinations, threats of violence, extortion, death and gore.
‘A Curse is a Curse’ by Helen Grant – Contains references to scientific experimentation.
‘Dark Carousel’ by Joe Hill – Contains violence, gore, death, reference to sexual harassment off page, police corruption, and a violent car accident.
‘Shoes As Red As Blood’ by A.C. Wise – Contains torture, emotional abuse, manipulation, pain, and open wounds.
‘Just Your Standard Haunted Doll Drama’ by Kelley Armstrong – Contains creepy dolls, death, faked car accident, references to a woman who was hanged for practising magic, and suffocation by magic.
‘St Diablolo’s Travelling Music Hall’ by A.K. Benedict – Contains domestic violence (emotion and physical abuse), and violence.
‘The Music Box’ by L.L. McKinney – Contains kidnapping, imprisonment, and body contortions.



After hearing good things about Cursed, the first book in this anthology series, I expected great things from Twice Cursed. I don’t know how well Twice Cursed compares to its predecessor, but this anthology was very disappointing and contains some extremely disturbing stories. Considering how many reviews praise this book without mentioning such problematic stories, it makes me question the good reviews that the first book got. While the anthologies contain different stories by different authors, they have an editor in common, and I wasn’t that impressed with the editing of this anthology.

The first hint that something was amiss with the editing in this anthology was that the two biggest names were given the first two spots. I’ve only read one book by Joanne Harris, The Gospel of Loki, which is a very stylised piece of writing, and I wasn’t a huge fan of it. I went into ‘The Bell’ with little expectations, and found it to be a likeable, but very brief story that felt more like a fictional introduction than a part of the anthology. It set up the anthology nicely, and that was about it.

The second story was easily the most disturbing story, and after seeing another reviewer mention that they were disappointed that it was a reprint, I decided to check up on that. It turns out that this is the third reprint of ‘Snow, Glass, Apples’ by Neil Gaiman, and it was originally written in 1994. The age of the story goes towards explaining why this story is appallingly disturbing. However, why editors seem to think it is still acceptable to include stories that sexually victimise children in anthologies almost thirty years later is beyond me.

Please skip the hidden section below if you do not wish to know further details.

[spoiler]
In ‘Snow, Glass, Apples’, a four-year-old vampiric child is described as draining her father’s blood through multiple bites including his “thighs, and on his ballock-pouch, and on his male member”. As if this isn’t disturbing enough, when the child is twelve, Gaiman describes in detail a scene with an adult man. Stories mentioning these sorts of scenes are not uncommon, but most authors realise that the reader doesn’t need the specific details. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the story continues to include necrophilia as a Prince’s desire for dead flesh is met by the teenage vampiric girl newly awoken from slumber.

The story ends with the stepmother being horrifically burnt alive.
[/spoiler]

Honestly, if the next two stories had not been of such high calibre, I probably would have walked away from this anthology after that story. It had left me with a yucky feeling, and I was beginning to wonder exactly what type of anthology I was reading. Thankfully, Angela Slater and M.R. Carey both got the memo that horror can be creepy and disturbing without involving underage children. Slater first came to my attention through one of her other short stories (this time in the Hex anthology) and ‘The Tissot Family Circus’ is once again of excellent quality. As with all of Slater’s works that I’m familiar with, it’s a clever story that lingers with you well after you’ve finished it. In comparison, in Carey’s ‘Mr Thirteen’ a support group for people with curses gains a new member who isn’t all they appear to be.

The next story was another disturbing story that is once again a reprint. ‘The Confessor’s Tale’ by Sarah Pinborough originally featured in the Hellbound Hearts anthology also edited by Twice Cursed’s editor Paul Kane. A disabled young boy (mute and coded autistic) is the focal point of Pinborough’s horror story, which is filled with child mutilation, multiple sexual assaults and torture. Additionally, the young boy ends up transforming into something monstrous at the end of the story and escapes to another realm. While this could be taken as a metaphor for a disabled character leaving for a world that will accept them, the fact that the boy turns into a monster and that this is written by a non-disabled author suggests to me that this wasn’t what Pinborough was aiming for at all.

From then on, Twice Cursed began to get better and while there were still a few hit-and-miss stories that didn’t quite hit the mark with me, they were the level of creepy horror I’ve grown to expect in a horror anthology. They creep you out, but they don’t leave you with an icky feeling that makes you wonder too much about the author who wrote them.

Katherine Arden and Helen Grant spin us tales that make us think about the future. In ‘The Viral Voyage of Bird Man’ by Arden, a man is cursed with immortal life and to tell people he meets his story. As the man reaches present day, he interacts with a young woman who takes his story online, where it instantly goes viral. When she asks him what’s different between people now and three hundred years ago, he realises that just how much people have forgotten. It leaves the reader wondering whether the bird man is the man is actually the one who’s cursed.

Grant’s story was one of my favourites in Twice Cursed, and shows Grant at the top of her game. In ‘A Curse is a Curse’ we’re transported to a future that has moved past technology advancements and returned to the old ways. Ruins of settlements are looked on with superstition, viewed as the result of curses and witchcraft rather than the science. When a visitor makes Maggie question whether curses are real, talking to her about the time that came before, her mother responds with “a curse is a curse” and there is a real power to those words. What does actually define a curse? Is it magic or is it how something makes us feel? This is one that is going to stick with me for a long time.

Kelley Armstrong has been one of my favourite authors for well over a decade now, and her short stories are always a delight to read. Her addition to Twice Cursed could have stepped out of one of her urban fantasy series and left me desperately hoping that she expands on the world building in ‘Just Your Standard Haunted Doll Drama’. Featuring her usual witty banter and slick writing, it features hexes and introduces the idea of someone who specialises in joke hexes. It’s a wonderfully, creepy story that left me wanting more!

Other stories that caught my attention were ‘Pretty Maids all in a Row’ by Christina Henry, the deliciously dark ‘Dark Carousel’ by Joe Hill, and ‘St Diablolo’s Travelling Music Hall’ by A.K. Benedict. The anthology ends on a sinister note with ‘The Music Box’ by L.L. McKinney.

There is a distinct lack of diversity in Twice Cursed, in the stories and in the selection of authors. There are no stories featuring an LGBTQIA character (‘The Angels of London’ refers to a minor character as a “cross-dresser” and a “drag queen”), and except for ‘The Music Box’ by L.L. McKinney, no stories appear to feature people of colour. Incidentally, L.L. McKinney is also the only author of colour featured in the anthology. The only disabled character, as mentioned, is featured in a story where their disability is used in a negative context.

Normally as I read through an anthology I can get a feel for the editor/s reasoning for placing stories in the order they have chosen. In Twice Cursed, there doesn’t seem to be any order other than placing two best-selling British authors first and everyone else after. The stories flow in a mix-match of styles and genres, fairytale retellings (usually Snow White) thrown together with horror and speculative fiction. While most editors tend to try to cater for audience reactions, placing a mild story after a particularly disturbing one, for example, that isn’t the case in this anthology. There doesn’t seem to be any regard to the audience, considering the disturbing nature of some of the stories.

It’s not uncommon for anthologies to include reprinted stories, however, this one felt like it had more than usual. For those who wish to know, the four stories contained in this anthology that have been republished are ‘Snow, Glass, Apples’ by Neil Gaiman, ‘The Confessor’s Tale’ by Sarah Pinborough, ‘Dark Carousel’ by Joe Hill and ‘The Angels of London’ by Adam L.G. Nevill.

I feel that there is a good selection of stories in Twice Cursed, but a few authors went too far with their stories. We go into horror anthologies expecting a certain level of safe darkness that leaves us creeped out. Heinous acts may be mentioned, but they are done so briefly and without detail, just to remind us of how dark the world can be. To give us too much detail is to cross a line, and that is exactly what has happened here. The fact that the two stories in question are reprints is even more worrying, and considering some of the fantastic new writing other authors submitted, I personally don’t see why they needed to include them – unless it was to add their names to the cover just to sell copies.

Despite these issues, I would be remiss in saying to avoid this anthology completely because there is some strong work in here by other authors. I just strongly advise checking the content warnings for each story before reading them.

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  justgeekingby | Jun 6, 2023 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Gaiman, NeilContributorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kane, PaulEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
O'Regan, MarieEditormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Arden, KatherineContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Armstrong, KelleyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Benedict, A. K.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Carey, MRContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Chadbourn, MarkContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Grant, HelenContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Harris, JoanneContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Henry, ChristinaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hill, JoeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
McKinney, LLContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Nevill, Adam LGContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Pinborough, SarahContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Purcell, LauraContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Slatter, AngelaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wise, ACContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Fantasy. Fiction. Short Stories. HTML:From the fun of the fair to the depths of hell, experience sixteen more curses in this sequel to the bestselling Cursed: An Anthology. A blend of traditional and reimagined curses from fairy-tales to Snow White, from some of the best names in fantasy.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR
Take a trip to a terrifying carnival and uncover the secrets within, solve a mysterious puzzle box and await your reward, join a travelling circus and witness the strangest ventriloquist act you??ve ever seen.
In this follow-up to the bestselling Cursed: An Anthology, you??ll unearth curses old and new. From a very different take on Snow White, to a new interpretation of The Red Shoes, the best in fantasy spin straw into gold, and invite you into the labyrinth.
Just don??t forget to leave your trail of breadcrumbs?
Featuring stories from:
Joanne Harris
Neil Gaiman
Joe Hill
Sarah Pinborough
Angela Slatter
M. R. Carey
Christina Henry
A. C. Wise
Laura Purcell
Katherine Arden
Adam L. G. Nevill
Mark Chadbourn
Helen Grant
Kelley Armstrong
A. K. Benedict
L.

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