Tag Archives: #DarkLiterature

China, Max; The Sister; Skinnybirds Productions; 2014

My copy of The Sister, is the 2014 edition. Apparently, some of the problems in the 2012 edition have been corrected.

“You should have learned to swim.”

The perfect murders are the ones where the murderer is never discovered. As The Sister is a traditional mystery-thriller, that cannot happen. Having said that, the boiler-suit murderer seems a likely candidate for a murderer who might never have been caught in real life. That has to do with his methods.

When we are introduced to him, we find ourselves in Cornwall during the summer of 1967. The year my sister was born.

“You told Lei you were coming here?” the girl asked. “Are you sure she won’t get lonely and come down to join – us?”

“No. She won’t come here. Like I said, we argued, and now we’re not talking … besides, she is scared of this place, what with all those old stories …?”

20 August 1967 three things happen simultaneously. The Milowski family decides to go on a picnic not far from a haunted site. Something he saw through a telescope unsettles seven-year old Bruce, and he decides to investigate that feeling. He is too young to realize how dangerous following such hunches might be.

At the same time, the above-mentioned Lee follows in the foot-steps of her disappeared boy-friend.

Rescuers found his tent pitched near the mine’s entrance. It was empty, his equipment missing. Unable to find any trace of him outside, the rescue team concluded that he must have decided to sleep in the mine. …

At the same time, at Celtic Deep, Vera begins seeing things, and the first thing she sees is the death about to happen.

All three lives are irrevocably changed, while the boiler-suit serial killer gets to keep on doing what he enjoys most in the world.

In the end, The Sister is mainly about power. The lengths to which we will go to have it and the lengths to which others will go to take it from us. The Sister is also very much about the long-term effects of traumatic events. What Max China writes about different ways of dealing with trauma, reminds me of how I used to deal with my own experiences. I was also reminded of the strength it took to discover how to live with PTSD and to acknowledge the effects of that survival.

China’s serial killer is frightening because he is believable. Watching programs and reading articles about real life serial killers has shown me that the boiler-suit killer would fit right in with them. Vera’s powers are what brings The Sister into the realm of Fantasy fiction. I would not want a stone like the obsidian stone in my life, nor would I wish the slightest ability to see into the future. I liked Vera. She is a woman who chooses to bear burdens that most of us would be unable to carry.

The editing of The Sister is good. It is a relief to read a story where the author understands the words he uses, has a basic understanding of spelling and grammar, seems to have the ability to listen to what editors and beta-readers suggest and understands the music of words. In addition, the characters are believable. While I might not like all of them, they are people I can relate to on some level. Yes. Even boiler-suit man. I also prefer the third-person tool China uses in his telling. Definitely recommended.


Reviews:


The Sister is available at Amazon US and Amazon UK

Jenkins, David Elias: The First Spark (2016)

The First Spark, Independent (2016)
Cover by David Elias Jenkins

Finding a soul-mate is not a given in life. In Free Spark, David Elias Jenkins introduces us to John and Isabella Gaunt who embody what soul-matedness seems to be all about. At first, their soul-matedness was metaphorical. Due to unforeseen circumstances, it later became literal. Their changing relationship brought heartache and a greater purpose in life. Both knew, without a doubt, that their most important contribution to Free Reign would be to bring down Jonas Reach, Emberdark and their bosses. Getting there demands more sacrifice and heartache for both of them. Those opposing them, find a terrifying pair willing to use any and all tools to get their revenge and stop the precursor artifacts that threaten Free Reign’s way of life.

The Watch is Free Reign’s police force. At first, Free Reign’s best, Maeve fights the couple. She misunderstands what they are about. That probably has to do with the level of devastation left behind them. However, once Maeve herself becomes hunted by the same forces John and Isabella are fighting, she realizes that life is even more complicated than she thought. And Maeve is not a naïve character but knows well that certain people “weigh the law down with gold and influence until it snapped.

“The destructive power of the fire elementals had razed the Longshadow district of Free Reign to the ground two hundred years ago. There were still plaques and memorials to the dead from that disaster in the main square.

Yet the very contraption of cogs and wheels that whirs and rattles me down this mountain is powered by that same magic, harnessed and directed to useful purpose. …

“Three sets of headlights glared at her in close formation like the myriad eyes of an arachnid. They separated slightly as the road widened and Maeve could see riders straddling three Angeldarts.” (loc 3939)

Free Reign is a city where magic (thaumaturgy) and technology intertwine into a type of literature called arcanepunk. The title of the story refers to the thaumaturgy that Free Reign is built on. First Spark bleeds magic into the air, ground and water of Free Reign and has made the city a place where strange creatures feel comfortable. Like all cities, Free Reign is a place where cruelty and succor live side by side in a political system that depends on its leaders being as little corrupt as possible.  I know, I know. Impossible.

The First Spark has enough violence to go around, but it is violence with a purpose. I would find it impossible to believe a story about the dregs of society (be they low or high on the social ladder) without violence. The First Spark pretty much shows this darker side of society as it is. I like the job Jenkins has done in blending law and crime, grief and determination and helpful with destructive. The First Spark is a mystery-thriller with lots of action, some violence and pretty broken characters.

Recommended.

The author gave me a copy of The First Spark to review


The First Spark is available on Amazon

Flynn, Sabrina; The Broken God (Legends of Fyrsta III) (2016)

Although The Broken God can be read alone, it is better to read A Thread in the Tangle and King’s Folly first.

Some characters hit me harder than others. In The Broken God that was the boy Zoshi. There really isn’t anything unique about Zoshi. He’s just another “street-rat” among many others. Like street-rats everywhere, hunger, homelessness and poverty are his companions.

“The street rat had survived eight years in the docks, and he knew what danger felt like. This was it. All prickling over his body, making his legs want to run.”

We first met Zoshi in King’s Folly. His plight broke my heart. Zoshi’s story in The Broken God is just as difficult for me to read.

“… The light wavered with his shaking. Zoshi gripped his own arm, trying to keep it still. He was falling, he was sure of it, and his stomach had been left at the cave wall.

Tears slipped down his cheeks and piss seeped down his leg – the smell of courage. It was strangely reassuring in the void of time and space. …”

Courage is like that, and I love that Flynn recognizes this. I also love that one of the bravest people in her story is this 8-year old boy who had just been through one terror and now tries to muddle through his another. All alone, except for the dog/mammoth/crow Crumpet.

Marsais is a mess. Being at least 2000 years old and a seer will do that to you. His mind travels all potential futures and “endless hallways of memory“. Keeping track of when he is has become almost impossible. His meddling left one of his stabilizers behind. Isiilde did not get on the ship with him. Marsais may come to regret that decision; but like all meddlers, he feels he has done what needed to be done. At least Oenghus is with him. Oen is a rock. Yet even stone can crack. Being without his daughter has also destabilized him. But both men have seriously underestimated Isiilde.

“Finally,” she said, “you’re treating me like an equal rather than a pet to be indulged. I will not become one of Syre’s pet nymphs and I am no longer yours.”

A nymph fighting for the humans who view her as an animal is a struggle for Isiilde. Lieutenant Rivan is probably the only one of the Sacred Order who does not. He is also the only man, other than her father, who is not distracted by her presence. Unless you count  challenging his faith. Blind faith is a dangerous thing. It is easy to forget that knowledge must have precedence. Rivan viewing Isiilde as equal to humans makes him heretic in the eyes of his Order.  He is not alone in questioning old beliefs. Captain Acacia Mael keeps on learning that what her Order claims does not add up with what she observes.

In the meantime, healer must become warrior again. Morigan, and the rest of the Isle of the Wise, are beset by betrayal and the Fey. The Fey are phantoms whose whispers invade a person’s mind and leave them incapable of fighting back. Most become mad or die. Morigan does neither. She and Brynhilde are amazing women who do their best for the people they are in charge of.

I think that what I liked most about The Broken God and The Legend of Fyrsta series was that while there were a huge number of endings, there were no happy endings. There were, however, new beginnings. Occasionally, death is postponed and, instead, another chance was given. Not to make things over or better than before, but to continue trying to make a go of it. We can’t really ask for more than that. Except maybe strawberries.

Absolutely loved it. Definitely recommended.

I was asked to review The Broken God by Sabrina Flynn


My reviews of:

  1. A Thread in the Tangle
  2. King’s Folly

Black, Levy; Red Right Hand (2016)

Black, Levy; Red Right Hand; New York, Tor Books, 2016

Some authors write horror too well for my own good. In the case of Mr. Black, this happened before the end of chapter 6. I could not go on. Not since beginning to read Apartment 16 by Adam Nevill have I been this frightened. The time before that was when I was 15 and tried to read Dracula. So, no very often.

It wasn’t the demon dogs who did it for me. They were just gross and gross can be fun, or at least interesting. But good old Elder God, Nyarlathotep, did me in.

Too bad, really, as Mr. Black’s writing was excellent. But, alas, so is my imagination.


The Red Right Hand was given to me to review by Tor Books

Scott, Alan: The “Y” Front Standoff (The Y-Front Chronicles) (2014)

Artist: Saskia Schnell
Illustrator: Saskia Schnell

Once again Alan Scott serves us a plateful of humour with a dash of serious. OMG, that talk-show. “Women Who Bitch With Other Women” remind me of some very popular talk-shows that definitely do not have ASD’s in mind. “Next season’s must-have fashion accessory!” indeed.

Once again, the idiotic government wants to kill their once-upon-a-time tool. This is one of the worst thing about governments around the world. For heavens sake, let SCoT-1 get his well-deserved revenge instead of wasting unnecessary lives trying to stop an unstoppable person – especially with Terminal Flatulence on his side.

I laughed. Out loud. Definitely recommended.


The “Y” Front Chronicles available at amazon.com


My review of The “Y” Front Chronicles

McCoskey, Scott: Bad Mojo Blues (2014)

Bad Mojo Blues by Scott McCoskeyMerriam-Webster defines mojo as: “a power that may seem magical and that allows someone to be very effective, successful, etc.” Bad Mojo is certainly something Marcus suffers from during the three days that we walk with him.

“The cards were screaming at him to hop a plane to anywhere else … Right now they told him to change his fucking direction and fast.”

But Marcus’ father is dying. If not for that, he would have stayed away from his dysfunctional family another ten years. His mom and dad are conservative Christians, his cousin is a blood-bag to a vampire and his sister (who begged him to come home) keeps away from Marcus. He is thought, by his family, to be dirty and evil  because he practices magic.

Marcus’ relatives aren’t the only dysfunctional people we meet. Old friends try to mess with him, and some of their requests are pretty unfriendly. All, in all, the tarot cards seem to have been correct, this time, in their predictions.

Scott McCoskey has written about a mess of a person and done it in a manner that I enjoyed. This is a self-published book and there were flaws, but McCoskey’s style makes up for that. Bad Mojo Blues is a fun crime-filled novella set in an unnamed small town in South-West New Mexico.

Recommended.


Bad Mojo Blues available at amazon.com

Scott, Alan: The “Y” Front Chronicles (2013)

Cover artist: Saskia Schnell
Cover artist: Saskia Schnell

Alan Scott has written a wonderfully funny and dark story about murder and mayhem.

I suppose it could be read as a warning about the consequences of training our soldiers too well. The thought did not enter my mind until the classroom situation. But, yeah, that could work.

A man with his own brand of conscience and his pet hamster, TF. A killer with a pet hamster. Not much like the hamster I used to own and adore. SCoT-01 is a fun and terrifying person I would hope to always keep on my side. His hamster, too.

Definitely recommended.