Today I’m here with the first blog tour of 2022, and I am delighted to be helping to kick off the Random Things Tour for Mestiza Blood by V. Castro which is out from Flame Tree Publishing later this month. This was a stunning collection that caught me completely by surprise.
Disclaimer – I received a copy in exchange for an honest review, all thoughts are my own.
From the lauded author of The Queen of the Cicadas (which picked up starred reviews from PW, Kirkus and Booklist who called her “a dynamic and innovative voice”) comes a short story collection of nightmares, dreams, desire and visions focused on the Chicana experience. V.Castro weaves urban legend, folklore, life experience and heartache in this personal journey beginning in south Texas: a bar where a devil dances the night away; a street fight in a neighborhood that may not have been a fight after all; a vengeful chola at the beginning of the apocalypse; mind swapping in the not so far future; satan who falls and finds herself in a brothel in Amsterdam; the keys to Mictlan given to a woman after she dies during a pandemic. The collection finishes with two longer tales: The Final Porn Star is a twist on the final girl trope and slasher, with a creature from Mexican folklore; and Truck Stop is an erotic horror romance with two hearts: a video store and a truck stop.
So, as it turns out I was completely unprepared for what this collection was – in the best way possible, because wow did I love Mestiza Blood. Now, it should be noted that this collection is graphic in every sense of the world, and unflinching in its approach – we have gore and violence which are visceral in every sense, erotica and body horror – so this is certainly not the collection for the faint at heart, because Mestiza Blood dives into the dark and keeps going.
I loved it.
As with any collection, some stories resonated more than others. However, Castro has created a stand-out collection here, and even those that didn’t resonate so strongly wormed their way into my brain, and I was glued to this book from cover to cover. Part of this was due to the writing. Castro has a style that is both beautiful and raw and brutal, and the way she uses all the senses to capture the essence of horror and the stories she is telling brings the stories to life in a way that it feels as though you could blink and find yourself there. And I was pulled into this collection from the very first page.
‘My tears drip from my mouth and they taste like blood. For years, mud and garbage have weighed down my body to keep me trapped in this wet, dark grave. The tips of my fingers and toes have been nibbled away by fish swimming past my body. They all steal a little morsel of me before scurrying away.’
Night of the Living Dead Chola
There are familiar horror themes in this collection, from the classic idea of the survivor girl to revenge and supernatural twists, but you would be mistaken if you thought that this collection was familiar. Castro takes those themes and takes them apart to build them anew from the inside out, which is part of why this collection has such impact, it’s fresh, it’s raw and it’s different. As the summary says this collection focused on the Chicana experience, both through the folklore and life experience that was drawn on and the narrators themselves, which gives this collection another layer – a voice that is strong and undeniable. It is also a collection with women very much at the helm. This is their experiences, their survival, their grief and revenge, and strength – and I loved it.
‘I didn’t survive ‘that day, I died and just went to a place between life and death. But everybody’s luck changes. God can’t ignore all prayers.’
Cam Girl Sally
Overall, I did find that the longest stories in the collection – ‘Truck Stop’ and ‘The Final Porn Star’ were the strongest, because there was a little more room for development, and I particularly loved ‘The Final Pornstar’ as it combined so many elements that I loved. That is not to say Castro doesn’t hit home with the shorter stories, and I think one of my favourites was in fact the very first one ‘The Night of the Living Dead Chola’ which was just captivating from the start, and my only complaint was that I wanted more. In fact, maybe that is my only complaint with the collection as a whole – I wanted more. Each story was so consuming, so completely and utterly enrapturing, that it always felt like a shock to the system when I reached the end of one – as though I needed each to keep going, only to find myself promptly drawn into the next story.
My other favourites from this collection are ‘The Latin Queens of Mictlan’ which caught me in its imagery from the very start, and ‘Pentagram Peepshow’ and ‘Dancehall Devil’, both of which I’ve gone back and read a couple of times since.
Mestiza blood is a breathtaking collection of stories, visceral, hard-hitting and compelling, and yet at the same time, wonderfully empowering. Survival is earned at any cost. Demons are fought, both internal and external. The characters are unapologetic about eeking out a living against the horrors. It’s raw and emotive, bloody and violent, bizarre in places and undeniably sexy in others. This was my first read of Castro’s work, but it certainly won’t be the last, because what she has woven here, between folklore and reality, and everything in between is absolutely stunning – and I can’t recommend this collection highly enough, albeit with the reminder that this is a mature, unflinching book.
Violet Castro was born in San Antonio, Texas to Mexican American parents. Since Violet was a child, she wrote short horror stories and was always fascinated with dark fiction beginning with Mexican folklore and the urban legends of Texas. At eighteen Violet left Texas for Philadelphia to attend Drexel University where she received her Bachelor of Science in Political Science and History. Violet now lives with her family in the U.K. writing and travelling with her children. She tries to return to the US twice ayear to see her parents, three sisters and extended family.
For More information about her books and other publications, please visit
http://www.vvcastro.com. You can also follow her on Twitter and Instagram
If you’ve read it, or read it in the future, please feel free to shout at me about this fantastic book.