From Rebecca and Dracula to the more recent hit Mexican Gothic, gothic horror has cemented its position in popular culture thanks to its ability to frighten and horrify us in a foreboding setting. After all, nothing says excellent literature than a book that keeps you awake at night with all the lights on! This year, there are plenty of new books set in spooky castles, remote countrysides, or deserted estates that fit this description perfectly.
Expect necromancy, Frankenstein-ish monsters, bloodthirsty plants, malicious spirits, and a whole lot of revenge. So if that’s your thing, let’s get started!
Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz (January 18, Wednesday Books)
It’s 1817 in Edinburgh, and Lady Hazel Sinnet enjoys spending her time reading medical texts. Of course, that isn’t proper conduct but her mother is too preoccupied with her younger brother, the heir to Hawthornden Castle, to pay attention to her. When she gets the chance to see an operation performed by an esteemed surgeon, Dr. Beecham, she hopes to sneak in and watch. There, she meets Jack Currer, a young commoner who digs up fresh bodies for students and doctors in need of cadavers—a resurrection man.
Her search for knowledge gets her thrown out of Dr. Beecham’s lecture, and she makes a deal with Dr. Beecham—if she passes the medical exam on her own, she’ll be allowed to enroll in the university. There’s something inherently unfair about this—after all, men don’t have to jump through these hoops—but Hazel is determined to rise to the challenge and she even enlists Jack to help her. However, her ambition has become unsafe. The resurrection men are disappearing from the streets and something sinister lurks in the city.
Parallel Hells by Leon Craig (February 17, Sceptre)
In this glorious and twisted collection of short stories, Leon Craig uses folklore and gothic horror to “explore queer identity, love, power and the complicated nature of being human.” The thirteen stories follow a golem whose powers far surpass its Creator’s expectations, a lonely demon who feeds on shame, a woman who plans a Satanic ritual to disconnect from her trauma, and more beings, to analyze the human condition via a queer lens.
The Haunting of Las Lágrimas by W.M. Cleese (February 22, Titan Books)
Seeking distance away from her unworthy family after her beloved grandfather dies, Ursula Kelp travels to Buenos Aires to work as the Head Gardener of a remote, dilapidated estate in the Pampas. The fact that the name of the place means “The Tears”, and that previous gardeners have turned down the job because they believe it’s cursed, does not deter her in the slightest. And she arrives eager to prove she can do the job just as well as, if not better than, any man. A far braver person than me, I have to admit. I personally wouldn’t be caught within a mile of any place named “The Tears”.
Anyway, she discovers that her task is far more difficult than she anticipated; people are hostile towards her, she begins to hear disembodied footsteps, frantic ax chopping sounds, and occasionally feels a phantom touch on her shoulder (I would actually run out screaming at this point but I digress…). The haunted house rumors appear to be true, and Ursula realizes that she is in mortal danger.
Tripping Arcadia by Kit Mayquist (February 22, Dutton)
Okay friends, gather around for a sapphic Gothic horror! After her father is injured and subsequently sacked, Lena is desperate to find a job to help support her family. As a result, she accepts a bizarre offer to work as an assistant to the affluent Verdeau family’s physician, to treat the strange ailments of Jonathan: the poetic, dying heir. Only, the position also requires her to work overnight at the lavish Verdeau parties, where she must ensure that the guests do not overdose and garner unwanted attention from the press. There’s also the little matter of her growing feelings for Audrey, Jonathan’s sister.
But when she learns that the Verdeau patriarch is to blame for her father’s predicament, she decides to exact her vengeance.
Gallant by V.E. Schwab (March 1, Greenwillow Books)
Olivia Prior is an orphan who is forced to live at the drab Merilance School for Girls where she’s tormented because she’s nonverbal and can see ghosts. Naturally, when she receives a letter from an unknown uncle inviting her to visit the family home, Gallant, she leaps at the chance. However, when she arrives, she discovers that her uncle is dead and she has become an unwelcome guest in the mansion. But Gallant has secrets that Olivia is desperate to uncover. One day, she crosses a garden wall and sees a different version of Gallant; a dark, decaying manor with a bloodthirsty garden (!!!!!) ruled by a grotesque creature. Olivia must choose between defending our world against the Master, or staying at his side.
Think, a very creepy Stranger Things with a nonverbal protagonist who may turn over to the evil side.
The Bone Orchard by Sara A. Mueller (March 22, Tor Books)
Charm is the last of the necromancers captured in war and the unwilling mistress of the Emperor who imprisoned her to a local tea house through a mindlock. The inn also functions as a brothel, staffed with women grown from her blood and bones. On his deathbed, the Emperor tasks Charm to uncover which of his sons poisoned him and promises her freedom in exchange. Charm must now choose between carrying out the Emperor’s wishes or pursuing her own vengeance — and risk the collapse of the Empire.
Sara A. Mueller delivers an unflinching narrative about trauma, power dynamics, and the treatment of sex workers. Content warnings include sexual assault, domestic violence, suicide, suicide ideation, and emotional abuse.
When Other People Saw Us, They Saw the Dead edited by Lauren T. Davila (May, Haunt Publishing)
What could be more satisfying than a single gothic horror story? A collection of them! This anthology features original stories from contemporary BIPOC writers. Blending gothic horror, folklore, and fairytale with “notions of home, memory, grief, and belonging, as well as gentrification, white supremacy, and colonization”, these stories explore what it is to be truly haunted.
The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas (May 3, Berkley)
The Hacienda follows Beatriz, a young lady navigating life after her father is executed during the Mexican War of Independence. Spurred on by her desire for security and stability, she accepts a proposal from Don Rodolfo Solórzano—ignoring the rumors about his first wife’s death—and moves to his hacienda in the isolated countryside. Unfortunately, the hacienda is far from a sanctuary and what she discovers is a decaying mansion haunted by an ancient evil, as well as secrets surrounding the death of Rodolfo’s first wife, which she must now uncover.
She turns to the local priest, Padre Andrés—who, strangely, is also a witch, and a hot one too—for assistance in defeating the malicious spirit within. Much like Mexican Gothic, The Hacienda incorporates supernatural aspects to expose the horrors of racism, colonialism, and the damaging casta system.
The Path of Thorns by A.G. Slatter (June 14, Titan Books)
Asher Todd is hired as a governess to the children of the secretive Morwood family. She quickly becomes a valued member of the household, assisting the father, Luther with his research and caring for the grand dame, Lenora. Unknown to the family, Asha’s motivation for taking the job is monstrous revenge. But the Morwood estate holds dangerous creatures who prowl the night, and when she becomes fond of her new life, she is haunted by ghosts of her past who demand retribution.
I’m a huge fan of the “morally grey character seeks revenge but struggles with growing positive sentiments toward their enemy” trope, and the addition of furious ghosts driving on this mission is just… chef’s kiss!
What Moves the Dead by T. Kingfisher (July 12, Tor Nightfire)
The Hugo Award-winning author delivers a twisted retelling of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic The Fall of the House of Usher. Alex Easton, a war veteran, receives an urgent letter from Madeline Usher, the sister of their former comrade Roderick. When they arrive at the Ushers’ house, they discover that it has been overrun by wild fungi and possessed animals, Madeline is dying, and Roderick is hearing strange voices. Alex must work with an English mycologist and a bewildered American doctor to discover what’s happening before they’re all destroyed.
The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (July 19, Del Rey)
Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s latest release is a reimagining of The Island of Doctor Moreau set in nineteenth-century Mexico. On a remote estate in the Yucatán peninsula, multiple lives intertwine. Carlota Moreau is the daughter of a mad scientist who created a group of sentient part-human, part-animal hybrids. Montgomery Laughton is Doctor Moreau’s assistant, who uses alcohol to numb the pain of past trauma while harboring feelings for Carlota. And in the background, is Doctor Moreau’s sponsor, Mr. Lizalde, a Spaniard with the hopes of using the hybrids to subjugate the Mexican rebels.
When Mr. Lizalde’s charming son, Eduardo Lizalde arrives at the estate, he sets in motion a chain of events that will change their lives forever. Motivated by her attraction to Eduardo, Carlota begins to chafe against her father’s constraints and questions her place in the world. On the other hand, the hybrids struggle to gain their autonomy and personal identity despite their creator’s wishes. As always, Silvia Moreno-Garcia uses themes of colonialism and oppression to make remarks about our past and present.
Leech by Hiron Ennes (September 27, Tordotcom)
Heads up people, Leech is unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. This surreal debut blends 19th-century Gothic horror with post-apocalyptic science fiction to produce a unique work of fiction. The baron’s doctor dies at an isolated château in the Arctic and his successor arrives to look into the cause of death. But this story is narrated not by the unfortunate replacement but by the Institute, a parasite that controls the minds of human doctors. However, another parasite is rapidly spreading through the baron’s castle, exposing its secrets, and a conflict between the two leeches might herald humanity’s demise.
A chilling debut, Hiron Ennes’ Leech challenges our understanding of self-discovery, bodily autonomy, and consent. You don’t want to miss this one. Preorder it asap! And if you can’t wait for it to come out, let their insightful interview tide you over for a while.
The Depths by Nicole Lesperance (October 4, Razorbill)
After her mother remarries, seventeen-year-old Addie is forced to accompany her mother on her honeymoon to a beautiful, remote island. However, the island’s beauty is overshadowed by its dark secrets: wandering ghosts, bloodthirsty flowers, and a deep pool where no one feels pain. Worst of all, Addie realizes that the island may never let her go. Okay, so I love this blurb so much! First, bloodthirsty flowers? YES! And a remote, haunted island? Sign me up!
Taiwo Balogun is a blogger and freelance writer who specializes in books and movies. Her writing has been featured in Marie Claire and Teen Vogue, among others. When she’s not creating content, you can find her on Twitter @alifestylenerd9 chatting about her latest read or the new TV series she’s binge-watching