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Shadow Paths - Elin Olausson


Promotional image from Tales From Between


This was my first Tales from Between book and I loved how they structured this collection. There’s an author note at the end of every story where Olausson briefly touches on the themes and inspirations for that particular tale, that was a lifesaver for me as it helped me understand the plots a little better. There are also interviews with Olausson and it was interesting to get to know her as a writer, it showcased her writing style and thematic veins well. The placement of the interviews was also a good choice, by having them interspersed with the stories it gives the reader a welcome pause to breathe and decompress between the heavy tales.


I’d like to say that a three-star rating is not a bad rating and it doesn’t mean that I thought this collection was bad, it simply just wasn’t for me. Olausson mentions several times in the author’s notes and interviews that her style is “horror of the quiet and psychological kind” and she tends to write unreliable narrators. I don’t particularly enjoy subtle horror, especially when things are purposefully left unsaid and only hinted at, It confuses me to no end and it just takes me out of the story. I find it impossible to feel tense or uneasy when I can’t grasp what is happening, which is 100% a personal issue. Uncertainty doesn’t scare me, it simply frustrates me. This collection felt like I was watching a shadow puppet show where none of the animals look like they’re supposed to.


However, something I think nobody can deny is that Olausson is a phenomenal writer, her prose is remarkable, the stories flow incredibly well and she has a poetic style and distinct voice. As you can tell by her last name, the author is Swedish and she says in the interviews that the setting of several of her stories is inspired by the Swedish woods. This brings me to my next point: At heart, this collection is pure folk horror. All five tales are slow-paced and permeated with metaphors and allegories. They’ll leave you with more questions than answers. If you’re into this style of horror, there is no doubt in my mind that you’ll enjoy this collection. Here are some of my thoughts on each of the stories:



The Old Man - I have no words for how incredibly sad this made me. It’s folk horror through and through: we have a haunted protagonist, an old man with mysterious powers who lives in the woods and a sense of quiet dread that permeates all of it.


LOVE - We veer from the supernatural to murder territory, while still being a perfect example of folk horror. The setting was eerie and the atmosphere was tense, although I was left with a couple of questions left unanswered, it was a solid story.


Wishes - This was a dystopic tale and even after having read it twice I’m not quite sure I understand what happened in it. It was truly the most confusing story, to the point where I was frustrated with how vague the plot was.


The Lion Game - Out of the five stories, this one was my favorite. I believe since it was longer and told from the point of view of a child, it was easier for me to understand what was actually happening.


Scar - The setting for this one was the most intricate and it had the most solid plot. However, it was a fantasy story focused on a royal family, which is not my cup of tea. I didn’t dislike it but I also can’t say that I enjoyed it.


3 out of 5 Stars


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