Title: The Mercy of Gulls
Author: Tray Ellis
Length: 4,200 words
Publisher: Torquere Press
Genre: m/m fantasy romance
Sean escapes to the edge of a lake to lament his broken heart after a break-up. His damaged soul is as cold as the October lake and winds, and his keen sorrow is a siren call to something out there, something that comes for him. They’re irrevocably drawn together, and Sean’s wounded heart thrills to the offer of an entirely new kind of freedom.
This story was more fairy tale/fantasy than Halloween horror. It tells of Sean whose lover of 8 years dumps him out of the blue. Broken-hearted and almost suicidal, Sean, sits at the side of a lake in the cold of an October day, his heart in pieces as he tries to think what to do next. As he sits there a gull lands next to him, and something extraordinary happens.
One area where this story excelled was at producing a haunting setting through the use of the weather and the cries of the gulls. The weather is clear but cold and this reflected Sean’s absolute despair at the sudden change in his life. His lover’s betrayal was so out of the blue that Sean is in that numb stage of grief where he is unable to think about anything properly. The cold seeps into his bones but doesn’t seem to affect him. I found this to be a very powerful way of showing Sean’s situation and I felt a great deal of sympathy for him.
** Spoilers next **
The paranormal aspect of the book was also well handled in the description of the gull man. He’s a man but he’s also a gull with feathers and the eyes of a bird, but I could see how Sean still found him attractive. My only pause came when the gull man kisses Sean and he is described as having a taste like water. At that point I was thinking that he was more likely to have a mouth that tasted of fish, so that rather killed the moment for me! I could see how the gull man’s proposal was appealing to Sean but part of me worried that he was making a serious decision at a very vulnerable time, so whilst the ending could be seen as a sort of HEA, it left a slight bitter taste in my mouth.
Overall, this was a highly unusual take on shifter stories, packed with mournful emotion but which still managed to provide a hint of a special romance. Those looking from something different from the vampires, werewolves and zombies this Halloween may just find this a pleasant surprise.