Short Take: “The Worm and His Kings,” Hailey Piper

Rating: 5 out of 5

Hailey Piper’s The Worm and His Kings begins on the streets: Monique Lane, 20 years old, is homeless. Most nights she beds down next to a spot she calls the empty place, where people instinctively never tread. Her girlfriend Donna has gone missing, and she thinks if she stays in Freedom Tunnel, she might figure out where she went. Something called “Gray Hill” is stalking Freedom Tunnel, taking another homeless woman every night. Monique believes it may have taken Donna, so she’s determined to follow it to its lair.

This story has beautiful trans and lesbian rep in it. There are strong themes of sexual identity running throughout, as well as themes of dealing with family when you aren’t what they expected you to be, the strength of love, the desperation to be what you want to be, and acceptance.

The cosmic horror woven throughout is intriguing and engaging: cultists, songs that can alter the universe, universal powers that can break apart the world, creatures from “someplace else,” and a bunch of scary beings you wouldn’t want to meet up with in a dark alley.

This is totally different from Piper’s Benny Rose the Cannibal King, but it’s also every bit as good, if not better!

“The Worm is too much to explain. Oh, the things people will worship.”

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