Horror Review: Blood Sisters (Vampire Stories by Women) edited by Paula Guran

Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this title from the publisher in exchange for review consideration. While I make every attempt to avoid spoilers, please be aware that an ARC synopsis, press release, or review request may disclose details that are not revealed in the published cover blurb.

If you've been reading horror for any length of time, then Paula Guran is likely someone with whom you are instantly familiar. In addition to being the senior editor for Prime Books, she's edited 30+ anthologies since 2010, including the annual Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror. With a pair of New Cthulhu and Zombie anthologies having hit the shelves over the past year, she's finally making a triumphant return to the world of Vampires with Blood Sisters: Vampire Stories by Women.

While themed anthologies like this are always a mixed bag of treats, with stories or authors working differently for each reader, it's the introduction that always fascinates me. Here, Paula Guran traces the evolution of vampire fiction over the ages, taking us through the transitions from man to monster, sinister to sexual, esoteric to erotic, and back again. She gives Stoker, King, and Rice credit for redefining the myth at various stages, but also speaks highly of Newman, Yarbro, Kilpatrick, Hamilton, and more. It's fascinating stuff, especially when you look at it in terms of how and when the mythology was transformed.

This is a surprisingly diverse collection of tales, stretching across three decades of vampire fiction - from Chelsea Quinn Yarbro's “Renewal” (1982) through Lucy Snyder “Magdala Amygdala” (2012) - and running the gamut from terrifying to tantalizing. Yes, there are themes of feminism and female empowerment in some of the stories, but that's not the focus here. Paula Guran isn't so much interested in what vampires say about women, as what women have to say about vampires.

Given that this is a collection of previously published tales, vampire aficionados will likely have already come across many (if not most) of the stories contained here. Old favorites for me that I took time to revisit included:

In Memory of…” by Nancy Kilpatrick
La Dame” by Tanith Lee
This Town Ain’t Big Enough” by Tanya Huff
Vampire King of the Goth Chicks” by Nancy A. Collins

As for those stories I hadn't before encountered, the few that made the strongest impression for me were:

Shipwrecks Above” by CaitlĂ­n R. Kiernan
The Unicorn Tapestry” by Suzy McKee Charnas
Selling Houses” by Laurell K. Hamilton
Needles” by Elizabeth Bear

If you're a fan of vampire fiction, then give Blood Sisters: Vampire Stories by Women a read. Paula Guran knows here stuff and has a definite eye for what stories to include (and why). I particularly liked the way she arranged the stories here, not alphabetically or by publication date, by the time period in which they take place. If you're of a mind to read them in order, the stories here will take you from the distant past to the not-so-distant future, with multiple stops in between.

Paperback, 480 pages
Published May 5th 2015 by Night Shade Books


  1. Smart way to arrange them. And she's certainly put together a lot of anthologies.


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