Those who dwell unseen within the hedge, the grotesques emergent in the weave of tangled roots, the writhing form amid the shadows of the Willow boughs—all are keepers of a rustic and terrible wisdom predating the emergence of mankind. Lurching between disembodiment and wholly manifest flesh, the baleful forces of wasteland and rural barren have long been etched upon the human soul.
From the preeminent author of At Fear’s Altar and The Benighted Path comes Sylvan Dread, Richard Gavin’s long awaited fifth collection of preternatural tales. Bound within are thirteen nightmares exploring the Sinister Pastoral, the dominion prevailing at the intersection of mortal reckoning and the primoridum of daemonic Nature.
As a meditation on the forces of predation and parasitism, monstrous fecundity and decay, and those hidden folk who occupy the spaces between the branches, Sylvan Dread evokes the primeval wood — the place where all dreams and nightmares begin. In this isolate copse we witness the excavation of abominations long earthbound, the twilight of the rational, and the forgotten violence of the Dionysian Rite.
In medieval times scholars spoke of “Natura naturans” — Nature reveling in her sheer fecundity and pagan vitality. Like Blackwood and Machen before him, Richard Gavin knows the inhuman yet seductive rapture of the deep woods; he has heard the ancient music on the hills. In his stories of “sylvan dread,” his protagonists explore uncanny ravines and hillside clefts, take part in sacrilegious rites, encounter maenads and goatbrides and Lovecraftian horrors. Gavin’s prose is always quietly controlled, carefully crafted, but it inexorably leads his men and women into realms of terrifying otherness, where they are changed, changed utterly.
Pulitzer Prize-winning critic
Author of The Great Age of Storytelling