THE FIVE TURNS OF THE WHEEL
BY STEPHANIE ELLIS
PUBLISHED BY SILVER SHAMROCK PUBLISHING
AVAILABLE OCTOBER 2020
I read Bottled earlier this year (or last) and really enjoyed it. I’ve also checked out several short stories by Stephanie Ellis in various anthologies, the most recent being Midnight in the Pentagram. When the cover was revealed for The Five Turns of the Wheel, I think everyone was stunned – it’s gorgeous and frightening and darkly vibrant. And as much as we all like to say don’t judge a book by its cover, the cover is the first thing your eye sees; if you win that attraction, the book is more likely to be read. Not only that, anticipation is built for those of us online who keep seeing images of the book. It makes you want it so bad. That was the case for this novel and, luckily for us all, the story delivers on all marks.
I’ve gone back and forth on how to propose this story, and I think simply providing its synopsis would do best:
Stalking the landscape of rural England are the sons of Hweol, Lord of Umbra. Creatures with a taste for blood and death, they lead the Dance—five nights of ritual, the Five Turns of the Wheel. Proclaiming these events as a celebration of Mother Nature, the grotesque mummers troupe of Tommy, Betty and Fiddler, visit five villages on successive nights to lead the rites as they have done for centuries.In this blend of folk horror and dark fantasy, two women decide it is time to put a stop to the horrors committed in the name of the Mother. Liza and Megan, mother and daughter, fight back to protect the unborn and to weaken the power of Hweol. But will it be enough to destroy it forever?
This novel is a blend of folk horror and dark fantasy. You don’t really have monsters running about, bringing havoc, but they are there in the story and more prominent as it moves along. The fear you feel in this story is upfront with the town and characters that have been under the hypnotic rule of Hweol for too long. He’s taken their husbands and wives, sons and daughters, all in horrific and gruesome ways over the years. Taking them back to the Mother. The loss you feel throughout this book is real and gripping. Aided by the disgusting and bloody deaths of each turn of the wheel, Stephanie Ellis creates a brazen world that somehow feels both fantastical and folkish, gothic and timeless.
The writing is fantastic, as is the story. The only complaint I had along the way was the name of the troupe – I just found them silly and distracting. Otherwise, I was hooked on this book from start to finish. If Ellis decides to write a sequel – seeing how she left it open for one – I would be scratching at her door for it to release. In little time, she has proven to be a writer to watch and recommend. Get this book.
Highlights: A scary and unique concept … violent, ritualistic murders … dramatic and horrifying … a strong cast of characters
Shadows: The troupe that parades into town to begin the Dance have silly human names like Tommy and Betty
For fans of: Folk horror … dark fantasy … demonic rituals and bonds … isolated towns
Takeaway: The Five Turns of the Wheel is not only a darkly unique experience, it is also a story of a ravaged town and its people trying to find purchase following constant and gruesome loss of life. This horrifying novel is a thing of nightmares.
Would I read this author again? Yes