I absorbed this book in about two days, it’s brilliant. If you’ve read my review of the first installment in the World of Lore series, you’ll know I’m a huge fan of the podcast and this book contained some of my absolute favourite tales from the ongoing series, as well as some new, horrifying additions. It’s one thing to read about the monsters humanity has told stories about for millenia to chase away the fear of the unknown, and another entirely to see what happens when the monsters are human. Wicked Mortals is a volume detailing a small glimpse into the endless capacity for human cruelty – from witch hunts to mysterious murders that remained unsolved to this day – and how there are just so many things we may never know about the people around us. There’s only so long we can claim a person’s fate is the work of fairies, or demons, or acts of God before we are forced to accept that sometimes the hand at work is our own. From H.H.Holmes and his painstakingly-designed ‘Castle’ of death to a group of nuns possibly claiming mass-possession just to get a priest they didn’t like executed, there is no stereotype at work in these tales – rich, poor, male, female, shopkeeper or nun, you never know what happens behind closed doors.
Mahnke has this style of writing where even the stories I’ve heard before seem new and exciting. Alongside tales told in the podcast, there are new additions in the mix alongside details not included in the podcasts. No matter how sceptical you might be, Mahnke has a way of drawing you into the stories he tells, of making you question for just a moment – could this woman just have caught fire with no outside source? What makes a relatively isolated young woman suddenly speak multiple languages she has never encountered? If these people really were faking the hauntings that followed them, why didn’t they stop when it began to ruin their lives? Everything is presented logically, Mahnke ever the voice of reason amidst the chaos of the tales he tells, but what if reason has no explanation?
I suppose you’ll need to read the book and decide for yourself.
The illustrations in these books are STUNNING. I feel like I didn’t spend enough time in my last review discussing just how beautiful these books are. I mean just LOOK:
If anything I loved this book more than the first one, which is impressive, possibly because it contains some of my absolute favourite Lore entries. People will find reason to their deeds, no matter how dark. Murdered your neighbour? Well they were a witch, cursing you or your family, they weren’t human – not really, right? Want to swap wives with your coworker for a night? Well angels told you to do it so it’s fine (yes, really). Sometimes, however, there is no reason other than that they wanted to. From nurses who take joy in watching their patients die before them, to the man who inexplicably kept bodies in gasoline drums for years and nobody had any idea…sometimes people are just wicked for no reason other than they want to be, and they’re good at getting away with it.
This one is a definite recommendation from me, even if you’re typically not a fan of non-fiction. It reads well as a series of stories, rather than a list of facts, and it’s thoroughly enjoyable and very, very eerie.
Overall rating: 📖📖📖📖📖 5 books out of 5