To start off with, let me say that Howling at the Moon is a short story, not a book. So my review on the writers’ end of things will be a little bit shorter than it would normally be since there wasn’t as much in the book to dig into. But we’ll still go over that section, so let’s just dive right in!
Amber offered me a copy of this story when I mentioned I did book reviews on The Fantasy Nook and was looking to build up the content in that area. This was an already published work she had out, and I’m so glad I took her up on the offer of a free copy to review! This short story was over way too fast. I loved it, and I was really sad to see it end. The story drew me in from the start and held my attention through to the finish. The ending is a little bit unexpected, or, at least, it was for me, so I was a bit surprised by it. I had mixed emotions as a reader on the ending side of things. A part of me was glad that things worked out how they did, but another part was worried it might end nowhere good for the characters in the future. But, hey, it’s a short story, so the beauty of the ending is that we don’t know either way what happens as a result. All in all, I would definitely recommend reading the story. You can get a copy through Port & Key’s website or use the Amazon and Kobo links posted there to grab a copy.
Okay, those of you who are still with me are probably here looking to see what you can learn. If you’re just interested in reading the story or, at the very least, want to read it before I spoil it, please don’t read any further! There will be discussion on the story’s techniques and specific details, so please take the time to read the short story if you don’t want it spoiled. Then come back here.
Still here? Okay, let’s get started then!
The main thing I saw that was done extremely well was the twist ending Amber gave the story. At the beginning of the story, we have our protagonist, a witch who bakes cakes and cupcakes, and a woman who comes into the shop. The woman ends up having a tarot reading done by our protagonist, claiming she wants to know if her husband is cheating on her.
At this point in the story, I’m assuming that the main character might somehow help this poor woman or, since I didn’t realize it wasn’t a full-length novel, that the woman was just part of scenes to set up the main story. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Turned out the guy our protagonist was dating was married to the woman who came in for a reading, and they’d split, so the woman was trying to kill him. Now, I’m not entirely sure if she did it because she wanted to make sure that if she couldn’t have him nobody would or if she just did it out of spite and anger. Who knows. But I wasn’t expecting her to actually kill him, using the spelled cake made by the protagonist to fulfill the woman’s wish. The protagonist’s sympathy was misplaced, apparently.
None of this was anything I expected, but I really didn’t expect the finale. The protagonist tries to bring her lover back from the dead, and Circe, the goddess of magic the witches are bound to in this story, agrees upon the condition that our protagonist becomes immortal and acts as her hand to remind the other covens who is really in control. Yup. She ends the story with a shade for a lover, whom she can only see during witching hour, and immortality for herself. Not at all what I was expecting to happen.
But, it worked really well. Amber set it up beautifully, and even though I never saw it coming, it made sense later after I’d finished the story. For those of us trying to achieve a similar effect with our endings, this is a good lesson in doing so. Set up the clues, make them subtle but still there, and then surprise the reader with the ending those clues led to. After you do that, you’ll have the certainty that most readers will understand why the ending was what it was, even if they didn’t expect it at first.