Livia Llewellyn is a new dark fantasy and horror author whose debut collection, Engines of Desire: Tales of Love & Other Horrors, will be published in March 2011 by Lethe Press.

Livia Llewellyn's official website can be found here.

Here's the official description of Engines of Desire: Tales of Love & Other Horrors:

Death and pleasure. Freud's Todestrieb, his statement that ''libido has the task of making the destroying instinct innocuous, and it fulfils the task by diverting that instinct to a great extent outwards... The instinct is then called the destructive instinct, the instinct for mastery, or the will to power.'' Few authors have spun stories of Thanatos and Eros as skillfully and powerfully as Livia Llewellyn.

In his introduction to this volume, Laird Barron writes ''Scant difference exists between exquisite pleasure and pain.'' An orphan girl with a mind for anthracite falls into the hands of a cult worshipping an entombed god. In the Pacific Northwest, evergreens lull prepubescent girls into their trunks to serve as wombs. A suburban housewife troubled by her present encounters the sixteen year-old girl she ached to touch in her dreams. These ten stories promise to indulge a reader's sensibilities, their fears and desires.

Here's the review of this collection:

A REVIEW OF LIVIA LLEWELLYN'S ENGINES OF DESIRE: TALES OF LOVE & OTHER HORRORS

Livia Llewellyn's Engines of Desire: Tales of Love & Other Horrors is a unique and unforgettable collection of dark fantasy and horror stories, which will linger in the reader's mind long after reading them. The stories in this collection are both disturbing and thought-provoking and they demand quite a lot of attention from the reader for they aren't easy and light stories.

As a big fan of quality horror and dark fantasy, I must confess that I fell in love with this collection. I read these stories twice, because I wanted to enjoy Livia Llewellyn's fine prose and the strange atmosphere of the stories as much as I could. I think it was good to read these stories twice, because now I can fully appreciate the beauty and cruelty of them (I usually read good stories twice).

This collection contains an introduction by Laird Barron and ten stories:

  • Horses
  • At the Edge of Ellensburg
  • Teslated Salihan Evergreen
  • The Engine of Desire
  • Jetsam
  • The Four Hundred Thousand
  • Brimstone Orange
  • Take Your Daughter to Work
  • Omphalos (original to this collection)
  • Her Deepness

After reading this collection I can say that horror literature has reached a new golden age. It's amazing how many good new authors (Laird Barron, Barbara Roden etc.) have emerged during the recent years. Now it's time for Livia Llewellyn to step into the spotlight and gain praise from critics and readers, because she deserves to be praised.

I think it's good to say a few words about modern horror and how it differs from classic horror before I write anything else. What separates modern horror from classic horror is the way things are handled and described: modern horror is often much more brutal and realistic than classic horror, but there's also plenty of psychological depth, which makes the stories complex (I think it's also necessary to mention that some modern horror stories are sexually explicit and contain hardcore sex). Some authors can't write this kind of stories, but Livia Llewellyn excels in creating complex and brutal stories with psychological depth. Some of her stories are very brutal and realistic, but they never fail to impress the reader with their complex structure (I think it's great that there are new authors like Livia Llewellyn who are capable of writing this kind of thought-provoking speculative fiction). What's really great is that Livia Llewellyn infuses horror with dark fantasy and science fiction elements, because these elements make her stories different.

As we all know, love, sex and desire are beautiful and wonderful things, but in this collection they get a whole new meaning. Livia Llewellyn shows us how destructive a force love can be and how it can lead to ruin and self-degradation. Her stories aren't pretty, but sharp and fearsome with lots of raw emotions. She writes skillfully about new kind of evergreen trees, sexual desires, postapocalyptic happenings and several other things in a shocking, but beautiful way (the images she creates with her words are brutal, explicit and disturbing, but they're also strangely beautiful, compelling and seductive). She doesn't flinch when she writes about death, sex and desire, but goes full speed ahead and reveals what horrors lie in wait in our subconscious mind. When dark fantasy, modern horror, sexual desire and psychological horror meet this way, the result is magical and electrifying.

Livia Llewellyn creates interesting characters which feel alive. Her characters are realistic and they have emotions, desires and sexual yearnings which make them behave in certain ways that may be self-destructive and/or liberating. The explicit nature of the stories allows the reader to see what happens to the characters and how things develop and blossom into full bloom.

Here's a few words about the introduction and the stories (I'll try not to reveal too much of the stories):

  • "Love, Sex, and the Heat Death of the Universe" by Laird Barron is a wonderful and insightful introduction to this collection.
  • "At the Edge of Ellensburg" is the most sexually explicit and shocking story in this collection. It's a story about a woman who has sex with a stranger. After their first meeting she almost desperately wants to get more sex from him. This story contains several hardcore sex scenes, which will probably shock most readers, but they're an important part of the story and allow the reader to see how the woman is blinded by her misplaced love/desire and how she degrades herself.
  • "Jetsam" is a story about a woman who can't remember what has happened. The ending of this story is simply fantastic, because everything is gradually revealed to the reader.
  • "Teslated Salihan Evergreen" is a fascinating story about a new kind of trees that lull prepubescent girls into their trunks to serve as wombs for new trees. Although this story is only a 2-page story, it's a brilliant story.
  • "Brimstone Orange" is another fine example of a mini story. It's a fascinating story about a girl and a fruit tree.
  • "Horses" and "The Four Hundred Thousand" are different kind of stories, because they're actually science fiction stories, which contain elements of horror and dark fantasy. Livia Llewellyn has written both stories extremely well, because she has managed to create the right kind of unpleasant and thrilling atmosphere.
  • "The Engine of Desire" is a powerful and unforgettable story about a housewife and her feelings.
  • "Take Your Daughters to Work" is a captivating short story for all readers who like H. P. Lovecraft's stories. This story impressed me by its strange atmosphere and beautiful prose.
  • "Omphalos" is a fantastic and different kind of a story about a vacation and a camping trip. I was very impressed by this story (it's definitely one of the best new stories I've read during the last couple of years).
  • "Her Deepness" is a marvellous and well written dark fantasy novella. (This novella can be read online at Subterranean Press' website. It's a good novella and it gives the reader a taste of Livia Llewellyn's fine prose and marvellous imagination, so do yourself a favour and read it.)

Laird Barron has already praised this collection by saying that it "will be one of the finest horror/dark fantasy collection debuts in a long, long time". I totally agree with him, because in my opinion Livia Llewellyn is a gifted new author, who can write disturbing and fascinating stories, which are difficult to forget. She isn't afraid to shock her readers with imaginative, but brutally realistic visions about death, sex and love – in her stories these three ingredients go hand in hand and wondrous and horrifying things happen. I think it's fair to say that this collection is pure ecstasy for all lovers of dark, disturbing and challenging speculative fiction.

If you like challenging dark fantasy and horror fiction, you must read Engines of Desire: Tales of Love & Other Horrors, because you'll be sorry if you don't. If you're familiar with dark fiction and know what kind of stories are out there, you'll be impressed by this collection, because Livia Llewellyn has her own writing style and she writes fluently about all kinds of things. If you're looking for "something different" and "something new", look no further because you've just found what you've been looking for. This collection is a stunning accomplishment, so make sure that you'll read it.

Highly recommended!

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