Book Review: Corbin’s Catacombs
Reviewed by Toni Woodruff
A dark and eerie museum designed to give you nightmares
James Pack is at it again with another creepy cast of characters and another tour of fear and despair. Recognized by Pack as “an ossuary of poetry,” this book allows readers to wander in physical space through its poems—guided by a sort of curator named Mademoiselle Iphigenia Corbin. With each new piece, a new horrific detail is unveiled about the world—from djinns to werewolves to clowns to the fear you didn’t know you had.
Mademoiselle Corbin is an excellent guide. A creature called a Baku, she emits her own sense of doom in a way, and yet she’s simultaneously inviting; she’s getting what she desires just by you being there, since she consumes the nightmares of mortal creatures. I love the frame that this poetry collection utilizes with the walk through a sort of house of horror.
“Don’t let your nightmares keep you up at night.”
Some of these poems instill a great sense of fear and creativity. “The New Toy” describes toys being torn, broken, beaten, forgotten, before a fire breaks out that burns everything—and there seems to be a spooky force behind the fire, too, admitting of its master, “if I cannot play with him / neither can you.”
There are also some wonderfully creepy images in here, like in “Hoberdy’s Lantern,” “when he carved me / he cut a face in me / scooped my insides / placing a candle there / and I became / a lantern with a face.” Images like these linger, create physical characters that instill fear just by being visible.
Some of these poems come with sharp introspection about what monsters can be, too. “The Monster That Ate My Mommy” alludes to a very real problem in a young character’s life—that which attributed to his mother’s demise. I love the ways in which the monsters of the real world creep into the frame of this fantastical tour.
Many of these poems are quite simple. This could make it appealing to early horror readers, perhaps as early as Middle Grade. Young adult readers who are enthralled with all things horror could like this one, too.
However, the simplicity of the poems works to its demise sometimes. The rhymes can feel transparent and easy, sometimes clumsily arrived at. And the poems can end quite abruptly too, introducing a character and describing them but never really delving into the spooky. This can make the collection feel rushed and only touched upon rather than truly immersive.
In the end, I’m glad I picked up Corbin’s Catacombs. This dark atmosphere is a good one to dive into during short blips of time for reading.
Genre: Poetry / Horror
Print Length: 44 pages
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