Bram Stoker Award-winner Sara Tantlinger delivers her CRADLELAND OF PARASITES, a harrowing and darkly gorgeous collection of poetry chronicling the death and devastation of one of history’s greatest horrors: The Black Plague.
Title: Cradleland of Parasites | Author: Sara Tantlinger | Publisher: Strangehouse Books | Pub. Date: October 31st, 2020 | Pages: 111 | ISBN13: 9781946335364 | Genre: Horror Poetry | Language: English | Source: Received from the author for review consideration | Starred Review
Cradleland of Parasites Review
“As my horse gallops on, I draw backOn a White Horse – Cradleland of Parasites by Sara Tantlinger
my bow, a bleeding sun overhead
turns sky to crimson as my brass
quiver demands death; arrows
poisoned with disease fly through
the world, spreading epidemics
abroad in devastating silence”
The poetry collection opens with On a White Horse which is a fantastic poem to open the collection with. It perfectly sets the tone and invokes the Apocalyptic Pestilence Horse.
A very apropos collection for the dark and scary whirlwind that was 2020 and even though 2021 has brought a ray of hope it still doesn’t feel like we’re out of the woods.
The collection is about the Black Plague and even though the images it evokes are medieval and historical they also feel timeless. I’ve never been much of a poetry reader but the few I like tell stories. I have a hard time getting into free-flowing stream of consciousness styles of poetry. I like poetry that brings scenes to life, to tell me a story with beautiful words.
And Cradleland of Parasites certainly does this. Sara Tantlinger always writes in such a dark and rich way that even her prose tales (To Be Devoured) still feel like poetry.
The Siege of Caffa has always interested me because even though it was primitive, it was still biological warfare and the same-titled poem really reflects that well.
Ruinous Halcyon is a well said truth that unfortunately holds true today.
Other poems that I liked very much are Princess Joan and Memento Mori. I really loved Seven Rooms, which takes its inspiration from Poe. Preventative Measures looks at some of the superstitions associated with disease and the plague in particular. Mecca of Infection and Medico della Pesto brings up images of the Plague Doctors which have such a fascinating look to them (I have to confess that I love the image, so much so that I got a Plague Doctor tattoo last summer).
Island of Ghosts calls up the nickname of the Italian island of Poveglia. Herd Immunity is an excellent poem that is a searing indictment on those that refuse to vaccinate. Not those who can’t. Those who won’t. There’s a huge difference.
If there is a negative it would be that some of the poems of the dying could feel repetitive if this was read all in one sitting. I don’t read poetry books like that so it wasn’t a problem but if that’s your reading style I could see that happening.
Cradleland of Parasites weaves its dark and beautiful words throughout history up to present day and it’s mesmerizing.
You can purchase a copy of this book via your normal retailer, but please consider purchasing it from a local indie bookshop instead. It can be found here at Indiebound or at Bookshop. Please note the Bookshop link is an affiliate link and each purchase you make through it helps to support Sci-Fi & Scary and keep the site running.
GracieKat was the first co-host of Sci-Fi & Scary, Lilyn’s partner-in-crime, and sub-head of the Kali Krew. She reviews horror books, movies, and games for the site. She also does a weekly Focus on the Frightful feature, and is the site list-maker. She is also in control of the Sci-Fi & Scary podcast which will relaunch soon.