The anti-fascist, queer-friendly novella-in-verse of your nightmares…
It’s taken me a while to come around to finding the words for this review. Verse is a difficult thing to master effectively, and verse with bite even more so. Yet, somehow, the talent at Tenebrous Press pulls through to bring out not just a sharp bit of queer-friendly, anti-fascist fiction, but a work of art.
Marrying intricately detailed cover work from Jonathan LaMantia and astounding internal illustrations from artist Echo Echo with Valkyrie Loughcrewe’s stomach-churning prose, Crom Cruach unfolds a tale rife with anxiety, bursting with ghosts who continue their lives unawares, and a Panic as new and old as the dirt blowing amid an empty street — you feel it almost before you see it, familiar and grating and somehow still freshly uncomfortable and unshakeable every time.
Loughcrewe’s approach to the subject matter brings a propulsion to the story unique to verse as an art form. At once lingering and rapid, Crom Cruach nearly defies description and classification. You feel each character whispering their fears into the back of your neck, driving you onward to reach the story’s end even as the depth of the horror in these sparse pages begins to sink and sing for you.
Tenebrous Press is one of my favorite indie presses working right now, not least because of their finely-tuned ability to find the most unique stories and approaches to the art out there. Equally important, they have a skill for bringing visual artists and writers together who bring out the best in each other while reaching deep into the core of the work. In much the same way Loughcrewe’s prose is both sparse and brimming with emotional depth, Echo Echo’s illustrations offer richly detailed depictions of the your simplest and deepest nightmares. Both invite closer inspection and revisits…but don’t be surprised if looking too closely leaves a monster in your mind’s eye that you can’t quite shake.
Crom Cruach is now available from Tenebrous Press, anywhere books are sold.