Review: “Chiaroscuro” by Various Authors


In each online issue of Chiaroscuro (published by Chizine publications) you’ll find a mix of fiction, poetry and book reviews, all with a tinge of the horrifying about them. But Chiaroscuro is no ordinary horror magazine: it has one of the most distinct and refined flavours of any online publication I’ve read.

After much thought I can come up with no better description of what characterises Chiaroscuro than that given by the editor in a post titled “The Secret Of Chiaroscuro“. Here is what he says:

A Chiaroscuro story finds the beauty in the vulgar. It speaks of dark things in beautiful ways. It takes a moment to notice the fireflies merrily dancing within the savage wood. It is a harbinger of the apocalypse who sings of your death with such a lilting voice that you find yourself overcome with joy in the final moments of agonizing death.

And this is, indeed, quite an accurate summary of what the magazine is all about. Chiaroscuro is a magazine of horror, but this isn’t your ordinary everyday horror. This is not blood and guts, screaming, blaring horror, but instead something far more subtle and insidious. Here, the sublime mixes with the appalling, the awe-inspiring becomes twisted.

Take a look at Ilan Lerman’s delightful little story “Unpicking The Stitches” in issue #48 for example. It is packed with descriptions both horrifying and fascinating, repellent and compelling in equal measure. The narrator tells of her relationship with a man full of cloth, and through this reveals her own unsettling connections with needlework. Strange (and even humorous) as it might sound in summary, the story is masterfully executed, always on the side of creepy rather than silly, and never feeling anything less than absolutely real.

The poetry to be found in the same issue is of similar high quality. Stacey Madden’s “I Wish I Could Eat Coals” is my personal favourite. With its romanticised and longing descriptions of the imagined taste of a glowing ember it both tempts and turns the stomach.

Chiaroscuro truly is a unique read, and with all its back issues available for free online, you’re more than likely to find something to tickle your own particular sensibilities. It can be found at

Christopher Frost is a writer from the North of England.