Friday, February 27, 2015

We Will All Go Down Together by Gemma Files

This cast list reads like a who’s who of strangest people to cram in one book:
  • (maybe) washed-out former child medium
  • defrocked priest turned magic objects store owner
  • monster-slaying warrior nun
  • ghostbuster
  • shaman
  • former victim of possession
  • psychic with a twist on being afraid of his own shadow
  • bodysnatching ghost
  • a couple of regular people
Take this unusual cast, and feature them in this dark fantasy horror collection of short stories, along with human nature at its darkest, witches, the Fae, forces and myths beyond human comprehension, and a feud spanning generations to get We Will All Go Down Together. 

This short story collection features different characters that connect to each other bit by bit, forming one overarching story of family drama gone very wrong.  The feud is between witches who made a deal with a fallen angel and the Fae. The feud started with betrayal, and the betrayed witches, their family, and their allies have been slowly working their way over generations, deliberately or not, to a confrontation with the traitors.  This fragmented style works with the story spanning generations. Focusing on key characters and their stories create the sense of a cold war, where there is no active fighting, just loosely connected events moving towards a final showdown. The moments are more poignant, especially since different kinds of experiences are captured and illustrated with Files' uniquely dark imagery and writing.

Files’ writing is the hugest draw. It is eloquent, punch-in-the-gut and cutting at times, requiring careful reading, but it is worth it. The things Files does with words is practically poetry in prose form, with a dark and morbid bent. She has a way of blending description, observation, and experience into one thing, capturing what the character sees and thinks in place of the usual background description that can be skimmed. It makes the story more personal, deeper, more biased and sometime questionable, with intriguing insight mixed in. She gets deep into her characters' heads, hearts, and experiences. The imagery is original and provides much to think about. The characters stand out, each well-developed with their own story and unique voices, and readers can see how complex and twisted they are.  There are no good guys, just very flawed people.  Even Toronto, the setting for most of the stories, is a character itself. Files brings an interesting look at the identity of Canada and Toronto with both insider and outsider perspectives and issues of diversity. It makes this an even more fascinating read, and Files brings attention to Canada and Toronto's character, digging below the nice façade.

Look for We Will All Go Down Together in the VBPL Catalog.  For more of Files’ trademark dark and twisted writing, try her Hexslinger trilogy (see review).  For a similarly dark and poetic writing style, try works by Caitlin Kiernan and Kathe Koja.

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