Invocations is a collection of short stories from the Warhammer universe. But there's a slight twist. These are all specifically from the Horror side of the Warhammer world, and they all certainly fit the bill.
A bunch of different authors got together to make this collection what it is. And the end result is something truly chilling. Lora Gray, Ray Cluley, Richard Strachan, David Annandale (he actually wrote three), Steven Sheil, Nick Kyme, Peter McLean, Jake Ozga, C. L. Werner, Justin D. Hill all wrote short stories for this collection...and they are memorable ones, to put it mildly. Individual reviews of each short story can be found below.
I adored this collection of shorts. They were terrifying and bone-chilling. They were graphic when needed, or unafraid to rely on imaginations at times. In short, they were as varied as they were dark – which is saying something.
The Hunt by David Annandale
The Hunt is the first short story in this collection, and it's the first of three written by David Annandale. This piece truly sets the tone for the entire collection. It's chilling, and more than a little bit disturbing.
This is the tale of a man haunted by his past. So haunted that he isn't at all surprised by what comes for him. In fact, he makes some naturally obvious conclusions about the reason why he's being hunted.
As a start of this collection, this short story was seriously bone-chilling. In some ways, it felt like Warhammer's version of the Cask of Amontillado. And I absolutely adore that. More of this, please!
The Confession of Convict Kline by Justin D. Hill
While the Hunt set the tone for the collection, The Confession of Convict Kline truly freaked me out. It's a chilling tale, taking it's time to set the scene before diving into the horrors within. Okay, that's not entirely true – the scene itself is fairly horrifying. It just manages to surpass itself by the end.
Justin D. Hill wrote an elaborate tale here, which is impressive given how short it is, relatively speaking. His words seem to pop off the page, which is slightly terrifying, given what is happening. The tale that unfolds is of Confessor Thanaton and his terrifying abnormal day. Though even his normal day would be terrifying to most of us.
He Feasts Forever by Lora Gray
He Feasts Forever is the third story in this collection. It is simultaneously the most brutal and ephemeral story in this collection. Lora Gray wrote a terrifying story here, one that leaves readers with so many questions. But that's okay, because I don't think we'd like the answers.
Where the first two stories were chilling, falling somewhere closer to thrillers, He Feasts Forever is as graphic as it is brutal. There's no hiding from the gore within these pages. It is unashamed of what it is, and what is it? Will leave you with some nightmares.
Stitches by Nick Kyme
Stitches is the perfect followup to He Feasts Forever by Nick Kyme. It is also high on the end of graphic nature, but it takes a completely different turn from the last tale. Butcher is one of the many field doctors out there, and in case his name didn't give it away – he's not the sort of doctor you want to end up with. Not if you want to have a chance of surviving.
But something strange happens within his tent. This strange event changes things on a permanent level for Butcher. It's just too bad he wasn't able to put the pieces of the puzzle together as quickly as his cadavers.
The Healer by Steven Sheil
The Healer is perhaps my favorite short story in this collection, introducing us to a tale that at first feels very different from the rest. In this scenario, there's a traveling healer. She's beloved by all the towns she passes through, as she will either heal or make comfortable all of their injured and sick. And that's so much more than they could ever hope for normally.
But, this is a collection of horrors. And thus nothing is quite as it appears. What unfolds is terrifying and dark...yet it also made complete sense in the end. I loved how chilling and disturbing this one was. I loved what Steven Sheil did with this piece, and would really love to see more like it.
Blood Sacrifice by Peter McLean
Blood Sacrifice is a short story that lives up to its name. It's deliciously dark, while also not feeling rushed to tell its story. Instead, Peter McLean weaves us a slowly unfolding tale. One that will set you on edge as you wait for the other shoe to drop. Or at least, that was how it felt to me while I was reading.
The Astra Militarum sees no end to the war. No end to the bloodshed or the dying. And thus it's the perfect setting for what is about to follow. It's dark and while not unexpected, it it still as disturbing as they come.
The Growing Seasons by Richard Strachan
The Growing Seasons was perhaps the most surprising short story in this collection. Perhaps that just means I need to read more Warhammer novels though, so who can say. I will say that I was delighted with the setting for this piece, and more than a little bit curious to see how it would all unfold.
Richard Strachan's tale is one carefully balanced. It's the tale of a small town and a small town's superstitions. But it's also a piece of horror, showing how quickly a small town can fall to the evils of the world.
Supplication by Jake Ozga
Supplication was one of those tales that completely surprised me by the direction it took, and I absolutely loved that about it. It started in one manner – a dark and foreshadowing moment. And by the end managed to come up with even more surprises. And yes, they were as dark as you might expect.
This is a tale of a man who lost everything to the encroaching darkness and infection of the world. He held out for as long as he could, alongside his wife. But like all dark horrors, when things go downhill, it does so quickly.
From the Halls, The Silence by David Annandale
From the Halls, The Silence is the second short story in this collection that was written by David Annandale, and it's dramatically different from the first piece. Personally, I really enjoyed the way this story was told.
It was a tale within a tale, with the main character confessing his moment of weakness. And of his desperate hope for somebody to believe him and do what he could not, all those years ago. It was a chilling tale, for all the lack of evidence that remained about it. Or perhaps it's because of that lacking.
A Sending From the Grave by C. L. Werner
A Sending From the Grave is another favorite of mine from this collection. Written by C. L. Werner, it's a slow-building tale. One that takes it's time to set the scene – and telling us the whole story of the monster that hunts during the night.
Having the outside perspective on this piece, it was easier to see how it all fit together. But knowing that actually made it more chilling, rather than less. It was beautifully written, designed to be as heartbreaking as it was alarming.
Flesh and Blood by Ray Cluley
Oh boy, Flesh and Blood was perhaps the most graphic tale in the series. But not in the literal sense. What was truly graphic was the amount that was left unsaid. Ray Cluley had a clear understanding of how strong out imaginations can be, and thus knew how to take advantage of it.
This was a disturbing tale, showing how far people can go in order to try and gain their own safety. It was also a reminder that those measures will usually not work out in the long run. As evidenced by the events that unfolded here.
The Summons of Shadow by David Annandale
The Summons of Shadow is the final short story in this collection, and the third piece written by David Annandale. There was something so eerie and beautiful about this tale. Maltenus is a man who was willing to give everything to his empire – including his family. He rested well, thinking they were off fulfilling the duties asked of them.
But then the visions begin. Slowly, with each passing hallucination (or so he hopes), Maltenus' life begins to unravel. It's a tale with a poignant reminder about knowing what to value in your life, but that just added to the impact of the tale.