What does a secret cult, a shapeshifter, a femme fatale, and a penis-stealing opossum have in common? Well, it is that they all appear in this book!
Burnt Fur is an erotic/horror anthology by Blood Bound Books themed around animals (ironically, not all of them furred). From talking animals to shape-shifters, and all the way to humans in costumes, this collection explores not only the horror of being hunted as a prey by a non-human being, but also the one that even we as humans can cause against ourselves.
CW: This book contains graphic depictions of gore, cannibalism, torture, mutilation, rape, bestiality, among others.
The anthology opens with "The Moon in her Eyes" by Sarah Hans. This is the story of an aging werewolf who meets Hannah, a human girl, after she escapes from her abusive father. Compared with the rest of the anthology, probably one of the tamest stories when it comes to the violence or scare factors, but easily makes up for it with what it is and does: a somber character development story with a solid outcome.
Next comes "Mallard's Maze" by Joseph Sale. This is the tale of Phaedra, a girl on the run after watching a murder committed by a man in a duck mask. For starters, Sale's story stands out for me because not only is it the only story in the whole anthology written in present tense, but, more importantly, the all-around feeling of paranoia that permeates it really settled well with me. However, the ending, while satisfactory, did feel like it came a little out of the blue.
In "Salivation" by Theodore Deadrat we follow the thoughts of our protagonist, an unnamed goat who gets an unhealthy fixation on a deer he meets every day at the subway. What starts as a simple fascination turns into something more sinister as our protagonist thinks more and more about his prey. One of the shorter pieces in the anthology, and the page-turning writing makes it feel go even faster.
"The Hamford Pigs" by N. Rose is when things start getting more graphic. In this story, Toby, a police officer, gets invited to join a club founded by his late father, one which demands absolute secrecy and for him to wear a pig mask as they go on their activities. While I'll admit that maybe it's not the best story to read in the current political climate, the story does pose some interesting questions about, as another reviewer once noted, “duty, morals, and responsibility.”
Next is "The Willingness of Prey" by Paul Allih, a tale about three friends who share one interest in common: vore—but what will happen to this trio when one of them reveals a way to fulfill their fantasies? Without going into much spoilers, the multiple POVs in this story really help to crank the horror since we, as the audience, are the only ones getting the complete picture of everything that's happening all the way to its satisfactory conclusion.
Next comes "6 Dicks" by Rachel Lee Weist, a black comedy about Wax, an opossum on a mission. Said mission: to steal six human dicks to craft a skin suit from them. Overall, a pretty fun read, though it might be the only one I'd consider to be a little gratuitous given one very specific scene near its end.
In "The Others" by C. M. Saunders we see a difference between the protagonist and the narrator. In this story, James meets Marilynn on a blind date, a girl with the ability to see things that others can't, one of which is a very mean and jealous panda. While reading this, I couldn’t help but to get vibes of r/NoSleep, given the casual tone of the story and how most of it read as a second-hand experience.
Next comes "Randall Rabbit." In this story by Elliot Arthur Cross we follow Fred, a young man who recalls his life in a foster home after one of his clients shows up dressed in a bunny costume. While the ending was more than satisfactory, it also felt like most of the horror in the story came from the ending alone. The morale of this story is simple: Don't fuck with rabbits.
Dealing less with horror and more with the erotic side of this anthology we have "A Concubine for the Hive" by Rue K. Poe. This is the tale of Lora, a woman in an unhappy marriage who decides to take advantage of her husband's bee allergy to get rid of him, which leads to several unforeseen consequences. Sweet sex scenes notwithstanding, Lora's ultimate fate did leave much to be desired for me. #TeamRandyForever
A mix of erotic and body horror come together in "Five Nights With Teddy" by Thurston Howl. This be-careful-what-you-wish-for story deals with Dante, a furry fan who goes to meet the eponymous Teddy for a chance to be transformed into his fursona, each night getting closer to his goal, for better or for worse. A very unsettling story, with the main character's way of coping making it even more so as the nights go on.
Next comes "Oh Piggy, My Piggy" by Matt Scott. In this story, John is awakened by Potter, his pet pig, who has recently gained the ability to talk and... well, let's just say that the title of this story sets the right expectations from the go. In some ways, this story reminded me of "A Concubine for the Hive," especially in how John also deserved better than what he got.
In "Ware the Deep" by Stephanie Park we follow Zachary, a werewolf who's on the lookout for his next meal and ends up picking a girl he meets at a bar, one with an obsessive for and unusual interest in sharks. Extremely well paced, this cat-and-mouse story will have your eyes glued as you wonder who'll come out triumphant. Well, who am I kidding? We all know who was going to win, but, as the saying goes, "The journey, not the destination matters."
Featuring transformation horror at its core, we have "The Molt of a Diminishing Light" by Michelle F. Goddard. In this tale, Amara, a shape-shifter, decides to go back to her original form after the "magic" disappears from her relationship with her human husband. Most of the story deals with Amara's painful transformation as she takes a walk down memory lane, unaware that her husband is on his way. Will he be able to accept her for what she is or are things doomed from the beginning? Somber and nostalgic.
Last, but definitely not least, we have "The Victims" by James L. Steele. In this story, a female wolf recounts to one of her newborn pups about a yearly ritual that he'll eventually have to take part in. Every year, for one day only, evil spirits are given full control over their bodies and in exchange these spirits leave the world alone. As expected from this kind of spirit, what they decide to do with their new, temporary bodies and the aftermaths of it make up the bulk of the story. Body horror, dread, and somberness are all over the place, more than making "The Victims" a great way of finishing this collection.
Overall, a fun and disturbing anthology with a wide enough variety for fans of horror. This book will make you cringe, will make you sad, will make you root for some heroes while hating some of the others, and will keep you on the edge of your seat most of the time. However, as much as I liked several of the stories, I have to admit that I'd have mixed feelings recommending the anthology as a whole due to some of the subjects contained within it and the way they were handled. If any of the tagged warnings might offend you, this might not be the best book for you. If, on the other hand, you think you can stomach through all of them, pick this one up. I can assure that you'll have a beast of a time.