Title: The Five Turns of the Wheel
Author: Stephanie Ellis
From the back: Stalking the landscape of rural England are the sons of Hweol, Lord of Umbra. Creatures with a taste for blood and death, they lead the Dance—five nights of ritual, the Five Turns of the Wheel. Proclaiming these events as a celebration of Mother Nature, the grotesque mummers troupe of Tommy, Betty and Fiddler, visit five villages on successive nights to lead the rites as they have done for centuries. In this blend of folk horror and dark fantasy, two women decide it is time to put a stop to the horrors committed in the name of the Mother. Liza and Megan, mother and daughter, fight back to protect the unborn and to weaken the power of Hweol. But will it be enough to destroy it forever?
The gist: If you’ve come across Ellis’s writing before, perhaps Bottled or Asylum of Shadows, then you’ll know that you’re in some wonderfully capable, creepily good hands. Not saying her hands are creepy, that would be weird. I have not seen her hands, and even if I had it would be odd to be commenting on them. But you get my drift, which is that Ellis is adept at ensnaring you in her tales of horror.
And The Five Turns of the Wheel certainly does not disappoint.
Folk horror laced (maybe at times drenched) with fire and blood, Ellis sweeps you into the deceptively quiet countryside and then threatens to never let you go. The pacing is brilliantly done, as you’re drawn inexorably through each turn of the wheel, genuinely fearful of what will happen the next time it turns. Maybe it’s the structure of the five turns, maybe it’s the undercurrent of music flowing throughout the book, but it pulses with dread in a way that feels almost hypnotic—once started, it demands to be finished.
It’s a book to read on the long cold nights of winter, to read warmed by a blanket and an open fire. But perhaps not one to read if you’ve just rocked up at a local village pub and the patrons are giving you the side eye while someone suggests a dance.
Favourite line: Old memories had a bad habit of demanding to be revisited, and they came back to her, vociferous, irksome.
Read if: You want your folk horror laced with fire and blood.
Read with: The lights turned low, the fire crackling, the fiddler put strictly on mute.