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‘Tales From The Cacao Tree’ is the latest installment in the Mind’s Eye Series, a series of anthologies containing poetry and short stories inspired by, and accompanied by, photographs. This fourth book in the series, as you may gather from the title and the delectable cover, is all about chocolate.

Just like the other Mind’s Eye books, ‘Tales From The Cacao Tree’ is an eclectic and enjoyable blend of different genres and writing styles, and as a reader you get to experience chocolate in every imaginable (and unimaginable!) way. There really is a bit of everything here: beautiful and evocative (and sometimes playful) poetry by Ben Ditmars, Helle Gade, and Richard Weatherly, and short stories by Darcia Helle, Maria Savva, Julie Elizabeth Powell, and J. Michael Radcliffe.

Many of the stories inspired by the accompanying chocolaty pictures involve nefarious and violent crimes: so, obviously, chocolate has a dark side…

Each story by the imaginative Julie Elizabeth Powell brings something special from the writer: there’s a tale of gods, goddesses, and chocolate; and a noir-style crime story; but my favourite might just be her enigmatically awesome ‘Another Window’. It gives a whole new and rather otherworldly (or maybe an innerworldly?) perspective on chocolate and cacao.

Maria Savva has written three wonderful short stories for ‘Tales From The Cacao Tree’, and brings her usual perceptive insight into people’s minds and motives – whether criminal or otherwise – to each tale. There’s a story of love lost , one of love found, and a tense murder-mystery called ‘The Chocolate Fiend’ that really stands out for me. There are several likely suspects in this whodunnit, and I really enjoyed the twists and turns of the plot.

Darcia Helle’s three short stories are finely woven, taut and tense tales, each one giving the reader a glimpse of the darker and more troubled regions of the human psyche. I really enjoyed the suspenseful ‘Strangers At The Table’, and ‘Death By Chocolate’ will give you a whole new perspective on chocolate mint sticks…

I already knew that J. Michael Radcliffe is a terrific fantasy-writer, and he does not disappoint here. His three contributions are delectable and exciting slices of fantasy. There’s a love story that goes beyond the usual, and there’s tale of a power-hungry wizard who is really tempted by a very special chocolate bar. My favourite of his three stories might be ‘Choices’, but then who can say no to the combination of chocolate and dragons?

The fantastic photos in the anthology were taken by Helle Gade, Kim Stapf, and Martin David Porter. And reader beware, you will probably end up craving chocolate while you’re reading!

A highly recommended anthology, bringing something sweet, something bitter, some darkness and some light. Good stuff all around.

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