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Anthology Smackdown! ECHOES vs. HEX LIFE by Beth Griffith

Anthology Smackdown! “Echoes” vs. “Hex Life” 

I have recently finished two highly anticipated new-release anthologies, “Echoes” and “Hex Life”. I wanted to write an article comparing them based on my drastically different experiences with each book. Before the actual smackdown starts, let’s learn a little more about each competitor. 

“Echoes”, edited by Ellen Datlow, is an anthology of ghost stories. There are thirty stories compiled, totaling in at an impressive 781 pages. Ellen Datlow is known for her popular annual “Best Horror of the Year” anthologies, plus she has forty years worth of other editing achievements under her belt. This anthology contains stories from several New York Times best-selling authors, including my favorite author Alice Hoffman. 

“Hex Life”, edited by Christopher Golden and Rachel Autumn Deering, is an anthology about witchcraft. There are eighteen stories compiled, totaling 365 pages, all written by women authors. I am not familiar with Ms. Deering’s previous work, but she contributed a story to this anthology (“Where Relics Go to Dream and Die”). I have previously read another anthology from Mr. Golden (“Dark Cities: All-New Masterpieces of Urban Terror”), which is a themed horror anthology featuring stories set in cities. “Hex Life” contains a story by Ania Ahlborn, who is my favorite horror author. 

At this point, the books are equal. I have read and enjoyed previous anthologies by both editors. Each book contains a story written by a favorite author of mine. I had high hopes heading into it, but sadly the winner of this smackdown was pretty clear cut early on. Let’s look at the blow by blow and see why “Hex Life” won. 

The story I was most looking forward to in “Echoes” was “The Other Woman”, by Alice Hoffman. It was five pages long. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with flash fiction, but a five-page story in an anthology of 781 pages is not even 1% of the book. Still, I read it and it left me craving more. Upon finishing the entire anthology, only a few stories really stood out. “The Loneliness of Not Being Haunted” (Bracken MacLeod) and “A Shade of Dusk” (Indrapramit Das) were both heartbreaking stories that continue to haunt me a month or so later. I am a sucker for Chad Lutzke's style of emotional horror and both of these stories really delivered in that sense. They were simply beautiful, but don’t think that diminished their creepiness. Both authors did an excellent job of striking the perfect balance. The remainder of the anthology ranged from *yawn* to *meh* to *when will it end*. 

I thought perhaps limiting the authors in “Hex Life” would handicap it a bit in this smackdown, but I certainly was mistaken. The editors achieved a broad variety of topics, even within the limitations of the witchcraft theme and there was a refreshing range of writing styles from the authors. Ania Ahlborn’s story (“The Debt”) did not disappoint. It was gripping from start to finish and I did not even begin to suspect the twist ending! There was only one story of the thirteen I wasn’t in love with (“How to Become a Witch Queen” by Theodora Goss). It was not a bad story (it was certainly better than the majority of the stories in “Echoes”), but it was the last story in the book and after reading so many truly excellent works, it could not compare. I also did not care for the second person point of view the author chose to use. The story is a take on the fairy tale “Snow White”, which is interesting, but I don’t feel it was very successful. It is my understanding from the author’s notes section that she has written other Snow White themed works. I will not be seeking them out. 

In closing, save a little of your hard-earned cash and buy “Hex Life”, but check “Echoes” out at your local library. Maybe even wait a few months or so until it starts haunting thrift stores around the country. Either way, you don’t need it hogging up precious shelf space.

Beth Griffith lives in Maryland with her husband, three children and a pathetically small herd of cats. She enjoys reading smut and gardening. You can watch saucy smut reviews, read salty book reviews and keep tabs on her questionable life choices on Instagram @mrsbeverlygibbs

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