Among the magical elements are time travel, witches, ghosts, demons, a golem, a jinni (aka genie), and a zombie apocalypse (nothing like The Walking Dead, I promise you!).
I have included a brief description of the plot type for each one. Here are the elements they have in common: fascinating characters, intricate story lines, sustained suspense, and compelling action. All in all, that adds up to great story telling, the kind that keeps you reading until the wee hours of the night.
Click on the pink-link book titles to read to my full reviews.
Click on the pink-link ratings for each book to go to an explanation of my five-point rating system for violence, sensuality, and humor.
At one point, [a character] says, 'There are only so many plots in the world. It's how they unfold that makes them interesting.' And that's the strength of this book—what keeps it from falling into a stereotypical horror story. The chapters skip back and forth in time and the points of view alternate among the villain, his various victims, and some of the secondary characters….At first, this technique can be dizzying, but you soon fall into the rhythm. Both [the heroine and the villain] are caught up in their obsessions, both trying to fulfill their destinies at the same time they're trying to escape their own fates….It's a thrilling, nail-biting ride through 60 years of troubled times.”
The catalyst that sets the story in motion is the fiery destruction of…a slaughterhouse, just after the cattle turn violently against their killers. Oddly, the animals hump their prey before disemboweling them (remember...sexual transmission). Early in the story, we learn that the cause of the cows' violence is a government-developed virus developed by a scientific team that was tasked to come up with a bio-weapon that would kill animals—the food chain—but not humans. Gradually, the virus jumps to other animals, and the infection quickly spreads out across Britain. Chaos reigns as Britain is completely cut off from the rest of the world. Survivors are forcibly evacuated into primitive camps; soldiers with itchy trigger fingers roam the countryside with automatic weapons; and rampaging hordes of animals—from cows to rats—wreak havoc on the population.
This is a terrific story that is strong both in its plot and characterization—even among the secondary characters. The unhurried pace of the early chapters allows the reader to fully grasp the qualities of the primary and secondary characters. Thus when the action picks up in the later chapters, we know these characters well and can understand and empathize with them as they interact with various people and face a variety of challenges and dangers. The author's meticulous management of the complexities of the plot is masterful and mostly unpredictable. I found myself wondering just how this or that person or event could possibly play into the resolution, but it all fit together perfectly—like one of those thousand-piece jigsaw puzzles—and without a single missing piece. By the end, virtually all of the characters are put into positions in which they must make decisions as to the degree to which they will willingly submit their free will to another. The end results include both heartbreak and happiness—and are always satisfying.”
Plot Type: Historical Fantasy with Witchcraft and Elements of Horror
Although Winterson weaves her fictional romantic horror story through the events…surrounding the Pendle witch trials, her story is definitely not a dry or scholarly summation of that sad and scandalous affair. Instead, she fabricates events in the lives of three of the actual participants with the least amount of known biographical information. All of the characters named in the story were real people who played their parts in the Pendle trials
Winterson is a terrific storyteller who reports the facts of the case like an investigative reporter, but doesn't spare us the gruesome details. This was a world in which women, particularly poor women, had absolutely no power—not even over their own lives. When you read of the conditions in their dungeon, the fact that these descriptions are absolutely factual will make your blood run cold. It is difficult for us here in the 21st century to imagine a world in which torture was of the worst kind and was applied as a first line of questioning….This book is written in language pared down to its visceral basics, allowing the disturbing details to stand out in their depravity, without the need for adjectival enhancement. Winterson recognizes that this is not a story to be told in gorgeous, flowing sweeps of metaphorical eloquence, and she is a master at evoking the atmosphere of this dreadful place and time....To put a modern spin on this story, think back to when you (probably) read Rod Serling's "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" back when you were in middle school, and you'll get the picture”