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Black Feathers: Dark Avian Tales

3.61  ·  Rating details ·  186 ratings  ·  65 reviews
Birds are usually loved for their beauty and their song. They symbolize freedom, eternal life, the soul.

There’s definitely a dark side to the avian. Birds of prey sometimes kill other birds (the shrike), destroy other birds’ eggs (blue jays), and even have been known to kill small animals (the kea sometimes eats live lambs). And who isn’t disgusted by birds that eat the de
Hardcover, 336 pages
Published February 7th 2017 by Pegasus Books (first published February 1st 2017)
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Amalia Gkavea
''But you have mistaken me, O Bird.
Can you not hear? I am the silence
and the piping and I am coming.
And it is I- I who am terrible.''
O Terrible Bird by Sandra Kasturi

Our feathered friends are amongst Nature's most beautiful creations. They keep us company with their morning chirping, they make us feel nostalgic for the coming of winter when we see them departing for warmer climates, they herald the arrival of spring. Their bright colours and sweet song have inspired paintings and poems. Eag
Copy furnished by Net Galley for the price of a review.

A cacophony of cawing and hooting, down and feathers wafting in the air. Feral parrots running amok in London, ghost birds, murmurations of starlings foretelling the future. Pecking order has never been more literal. A horror of an underwater nest that was never meant to be. Humans who are birdlike, and those who actually aspire to become birds.

This collection as a whole was a bit on the hit or miss side for me, but these two were my standou
Althea Ann
Sep 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Again, Datlow hits it, and it FLIES right out of the park! Great anthology.

O Terrible Bird by Sandra Kasturi
A poem.

*** The Obscure Bird by Nicholas Royle (reprint)
Very much a horror-genre story, but it effectively creeped me out, so - thumbs up! A wife is progressively disturbed by her husband's increasingly odd behavior. It started with just late nights on the computer, but a strange obsession.. and perhaps something more... seems to be developing.

**** The Mathematical Inevitability of Corvi
Ellen Datlow always brings the good stuff to the table, but this anthology takes it up even another notch from her usual excellence. Even the "duds" of the collection were stories I only liked, rather than loved. There were also some standouts that just blew my socks off:

Great Blue Heron from Joyce Carol Oates was absolutely gorgeous - the writing is perfection and the story itself is unnerving and eerie, and will stick with me for a long, long time.

A Little Bird Told Me by Pat Cadigan is just
I'll be updating this review regularly as I finish each individual story, but I will delete it from my feed to avoid monopolizing yours. I mainly want to keep track of each story's rating + brief impression to help me evaluate the anthology as a whole for my final rating.

O Terrible Bird
a poem; no rating cos I didn't really give a shit.

The Obscure Bird ★★★★
Deeply disturbing. There was even a very good and well written Regan MacNeil moment (view spoiler)

The Mathematical Inevit
Magdalena aka A Bookaholic Swede
16 bird stories and I'm actually thinking this was a really good anthology collection with only a couple of duds... I started to read this book a previous time, but changed to another book, and another book, etc. So, the first three stories. Well, poem and two stories did I reread.

First, we have O Terrible Bird by SANDRA KASTURI. A poem. I'm not a big fan of poems. So 2-stars because it's not badly written just not my cup of coffee.

Next story is The Obscure Bird by NICHOLAS ROYLE. Really cre
Rachel Bea
finally finished. here's what I think:

O Terrible Bird - poem that opens the book. I read it but don't remember it.
The Obscure Bird - ***, although it was predictable
the Mathematical Inevitably of Corvids - **, not into ~violent mentally ill protagonists.
Something About Birds - *****, finally a satisfyingly creepy story. by Paul Tremblay!
Great Blue Heron - *****, my first time reading Joyce Carol Oates and she didn't let me down.
the Season of the Raptors - ****, really creative and kept me wanti
Jan 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
This review originally appeared on New York Journal of Books:

Coming up with new and interesting themes for short story anthologies is no easy task. Inevitably, many editors are left trying to think up some kind of spin on a well-worn idea; however, some of the most original and innovative anthologies—in any genre—have been pioneered by the great Ellen Datlow, who seems to have no shortage of fresh ideas for authors to base their stories upon. So it is wit
Eddie Generous
Feb 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Unnerving Magazine Review
There’s expectation when picking up a collection edited by Ellen Datlow. Somewhere between a keen eye, a wealth of skill, and the much deserved praise that has authors dreaming of her nod, she amasses collections that seem, on the whole, nearly infallible.
Black Feathers is a masterful presentation of dark avian-themed shorts. From the jarring, owl-like turn of a head, to the blood-flecked beaks, to the sinister gifts left by all-seeing pigeons, to the replacement eggs ha
Cait Poytress
I originally rated this book 3 stars until I started writing down my favorite stories and realized how many there were. I think my biggest mistake in the beginning was trying to read all of them in just one or two sittings. I love short stories, but very rarely can I read them that way (although Everything That Rises Must Converge: Stories, Willful Creatures, and How to Breathe Underwater are 3 that come to mind where I did just that). I loved the avian theme in this collection, but it did make ...more
Book received from Goodreads Giveaways.

This was pretty good. There were some really creepy stories in this anthology starting with the poem that starts the whole thing. I think the one that got me the most was the one with the husband being obsessed with owls. I believe that one stuck out for me since most of the stories revolve around the family Corvidae, mainly crows, magpies, and ravens. I have read other books that Ellen Datlow has had a part of but I think this is my favorite. If you want a
Beth Roberts
I was expecting a lot from this one. I trust Datlow's abilities as an editor. She typically curates very good stories. I love birds and their symbolic use throughout literature. I specifically love the corvids: the crows, the ravens, etc. So maybe I was expecting too much.

My love for the work of Seanan McGuire in particular led me to this anthology. Seanan McGuire writing a story about crows? Oh hell yeah.

And it was good. . .but not great. As I've said when reviewing other anthologies, nobody ne
Mar 11, 2017 rated it liked it
“The Raven has dropped a black feather at your door…”

Ever since January 1845 when Edgar Allan Poe’s epic classic poem “The Raven” was published, writers have been adding tales with a nod to that bird of sorrow. Blackbirds are said to be the harbingers of all manner of bad things. The black bird is an ill omen.

In this anthology, the birds are not all ravens, and indeed, not all real; but they play a significant part in the sad tale of tragedy.

• The book begins with a poem by Sandra Kasturi enti
Sep 24, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: af-supernatural
I liked some of the stories; others fell flat for me, being too obscure, or too full of drugs.
Emily Pallett
The first thing that drew me in with this book was the cover art. I really did think it looked beautiful and captivating. I also felt more drawn in when I realised it was edited by Ellen Datlow whom I know has won some awesome Bram Stoker awards. This for me meant that reading and reviewing this before it's publication date was a great opportunity.

I soon noticed that the short stories were strange and dark, just how I like it. However the more I read I also realised that some were also dull and
Maggie Gordon
Oct 13, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: horror, short-stories
Black Feathers: Dark Avian Tales caught my eye on NetGalley because who doesn't think birds are a bit creepy? If you don't, go look at some closeups of birds and let their dinosaur-like tendencies give you nightmares!

The collection focuses on the darker side of birds. It is, unfortunately, a bit uneven in terms of quality, but that's a sin that most anthologies commit. There are several standout stories though that are definitely worth picking up the book.

The Mathematical Inevitably of Corvids
Thomas Joyce
Feb 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
If you ask most horror authors of any sub-genre which editor they would most like to work with, the name ‘Ellen Datlow’ is almost always top of the list. With many years of experience in the publishing business and many, many awards (including multiple Hugo, Stoker, Shirley Jackson and International Horror Guild Awards) celebrating her editorial work with magazines such as OMNI and Event Horizon as well as over ninety anthologies, it is clear to see why she is held in such high regard. Indeed, t ...more
Armel Dagorn
Mar 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is another great anthology from Ellen Datlow. I was particularly impressed by the wide range of tones and ideas the writers included here came up. All are dark tales with some bird element to them, but still the stories manage to map very different territories. You'll find gorey zombie-ish pigeons, psychological horrors, and historical fantasy.

Some favourites:
Paul Tremblay's "Something about birds", written in parts as an interview between a cult weird/horror writer and a young hopeful jour
Feb 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The editor has given 14 original tales and 2 that are reprints. This is a book of dark fantasy and horror stories. It is more psychological and subtle in its horror. Awful things do happen in this book. It is not for the "faint of heart." Being a bird lover and parrot owner, when I saw this title edited by one of my favorite editors I had to read it. The stories focus on birds as part of the darkness of human nature. The stories sneak up on you as you read them, the reader will discover the "hor ...more
May 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
I love short stories!! And this anthology of avian tales is both dark and at times delightful. Birds symbolize freedom, transformation, life. But there is a dark side to the avian world, and this collection explores the strange and sometimes unsettling aspects of the bird kingdom. My favorite of the stories are: Great Blue Heron, by Joyce Carol Oates; The Fortune of Sparrows, by Usman T. Malik; and The Secret of Flight, by A.C. Wise. Wonderful storytelling!!!
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I really enjoyed all of the stories in this collection, with the possible exception of "the Acid Test" which I felt demonstrated some of the worst qualities of stream-of-consciousness writing. The standouts from this collection were "The Mathematical Inevitability of Corvids," "The Crow Palace," and "Great Blue Heron." ...more
Becky Spratford
Jan 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Review in the Feb 2017 issue of Booklist and online:

Three Words That Describe This Book: primal fear, wide range, unease
amanda eve
Jan 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Birds are miniature dinosaurs, worthy of great fear and trepidation.

Not every story is perfect, but many are. I particularly enjoyed McGuire's "The Mathematical Inevitability of Corvids", Tremblay's "Something About Birds", and Wise's "The Secret of Flight".
Sep 19, 2016 rated it really liked it
I received a copy of this book free from the publisher via in exchange for an honest review.

Please see my full review available soon at
Des Lewis
Jan 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
Great Blue Heron by JOYCE CAROL OATES

“In his sleep the husband does strange, sculptural things with pillows: bends them in two, sets them beneath his head vertically, merges two pillows into one, lies at an uncomfortable angle with his head crooked. Yet he sleeps soundly, the nocturnal birds rarely wake him.”

And sometimes memorials in a cemetery are sculpted as stone pillows.
Claudia, teacher in a girls’ school, loses the husband effectively through his being too good-hearted. Indeed, the story
Jamie Killen
Jun 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Both lovely and unsettling, Black Feathers is a collection of bird-related dark fantasy and horror stories. Beyond the broad theme of birds, the stories in this collection tend toward the motif of physical or psychological transformation in the face of trauma. As in any anthology, some stories are more captivating than others, although there are far more hits than misses in this collection. Rather than delve into each story one-by-one, I'll mention some of the standouts. First, there is Seanan M ...more
Eamonn Murphy
Jun 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
After an introduction by renowned editor Ellen Datlow and a poem ‘O Terrible Bird’ by Sandra Kasturi we get down to the meat of the book: the stories.
‘The Obscure Bird’ by Nicholas Royle is about a man who starts turning nocturnal. His wife becomes worried. Then he ends up more Owlish than Billy Bunter and she has real cause for concern. I jest but this is really quite disturbing and will surprise you.
‘The Mathematical Inevitability of Corvids by Seanan McGuire’ concerns a modern family with a
Jeanette Greaves
Jul 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The best thing about themed anthologies is that they introduce you to new writers. The best thing about an Ellen Datlow anthology is that I know I can part with my money and be confident that I won't regret it. I enjoyed every story, and loved how well balanced the anthology was.
Again, Datlow hits it, and it FLIES right out of the park! Great anthology. A few absolutely stood out for me, but of course other readers will find different favourites.

The Obscure Bird by Nicholas Royle is a typical R
Alyssa (Intotheheartwyld)
Apr 16, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dnf
I have officially given up on this anthology of “Dark Avian Tales”

After attempting to read 7 of the stories, I DNF’d 4 of them because they were either boring, drawn out, unnecessarily Info dumping or written in an interview style (yah I didn’t like that one a lot)

I was so excited to read some stories that were marketed as dark and centered around birds as I absolutely love and adore birds. But out of the 7, only one actually hit that Dark vibe and that was the 2nd story
The Obscure Bird by Ni
Apr 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is my first collection of horror stories. Actually, it’s really my first ever horror novel. So reading this has been a very interesting journey. One that I was surprised to enjoy so much. And, although I didn’t really read any of these stories late at night, I also didn’t get any horrifying nightmares from the tales either. Unlike some of the crime, mystery and thriller novels that I’ve read.

Birds have always fascinated me. And I’ve been wanting to get a parrot for a little while. This coll
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Ellen Datlow has been editing science fiction, fantasy, and horror short fiction for forty years as fiction editor of OMNI Magazine and editor of Event Horizon and SCIFICTION. She currently acquires short stories and novellas for In addition, she has edited about one hundred science fiction, fantasy, and horror anthologies, including the annual The Best Horror of the Year series, The Doll ...more

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