Short Story Review – At The Periphery by Benjamin Peek

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At The Periphery is another story that has me splitting hairs about what is and is not horror. It is not scary. It does not create an atmosphere of dread or unease. It does incorporate elements of horror. There is a good bit of gore and occult imagery, but the tone is more dark urban fantasy.

Fortunately, I also enjoy dark urban fantasy, and stories about witches especially. We find out that Ali is a witch who is trying to escape her past. She killed her former warlock teacher/abusive boyfriend and she is trying to make her own life and hone her craft. A shadow out of her boyfriend’s past comes to blackmail her. How will Ali magic her way out of this one?

With shockingly little effort as it turns out. The story builds towards a final showdown between Ali and her blackmailer, and we’re not quite sure how she’ll handle it. All this build up kind of evaporates when Ali just casts a spell that solves everything with no complications or drawbacks. The only reason there was any tension in the story is because the audience didn’t know she could do that.

By far the more interesting story to tell would have been the story of Ali escaping from an abusive relationship. The perfect ending to that story would have been Ali casting an all or nothing spell that she’s never tried before to change her skin and get a new identity. I’m not sure if Benjamin Peek ever wrote that story. If he did, I’ll happily read that one. Ali certainly has recurring character potential. Either way, though, when the flash back is more interesting than the main plot, there’s a problem.

With all that said, I did still enjoy the ride. I like the world that Benjamin Peek is creating, and there are a lot of good ideas here. I’d really like to see him build on it.

Final Verdict

This story is so very close to being great, but it needs to raise the stakes a little bit. Check the story out over at Dark Magazine.

6 arbitrary stars out of 10 arbitrary stars.

Ben

I co-host the Words About Books podcast with my writing partner Nate.

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