Book review: The Unknown by Phil Price

About The Unknown

It happens every year. A select few disappear, never to return.

From The Falkland Islands to the Himalayas, Puerto Rico to England – people are vanishing without trace or explanation. A young man who’s lost everything stumbles across an ancient secret.

Can he unlock the mystery? Will he find those who need him?

…can he escape the Unknown?

My Thoughts

I rarely read fantasy/horror, but when I stumbled on The Unknown I decided to try it out. I was surprisingly entertained and even didn’t mind the vampires, which is a real credit to Price as I would normally stop reading the moment they appear. Writing with exceptional imagination, Price has a knack for luring his readers into his story world.

There can be no doubt Price ticks all the boxes of the genre. Strange and spooky happenings in far flung lands. A preternatural child with glowing yellow eyes. Vampires. Doors into other worlds. A looming sense of dread. And a black cross edged with silver on a black rope chain. The scene is set for a seriously creepy read.

Good characterisation, and Price is at pains to endear his protagonists to his readers. Effective world building is critical in the genre and Price has crafted a realm that is at once enchanting and menacing and convincing. I certainly lost myself in it.

After an engaging set up, The Unknown is filled with dramatic tension, with new plot lines and twists and plenty going on to hold the attention. Very well thought out, The Unknown is a visual feast and a gripping read. I would recommend to all who enjoy dark fantasy.

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Book review: The Hangman’s Hitch by Donna Maria McCarthy

I am delighted to share my review of The Hangman’s Hitch by Donna Maria McCarthy, a dark and brooding gothic novel from the mistress of 18th century horror. 

The Hangman's Hitch

About The Hangman’s Hitch

If on some cold dark despairing eve, you found yourself far from hope and far from salvation – would you take the hand of the Devil if he offered it?
Would you know it was his?
Frederick Abbotsby Feltsham has just this quandary, yet the path he chooses is one of depravity, devilment and debauchery
Will he survive the immutable Joseph Black?
Or will he find himself despairing, like so many of his past conquests did ?
One heaven, one Hell – each as judgemental as the other
You must choose…

My thoughts

After reading Biddy Trott I have come to anticipate a certain style and wit from Donna Maria McCarthy and I was not disappointed. The Hangman’s Hitch is as dark and ribald and gruesome a novel there ever was.

Meet Freddy, or Frederick Abbotsby Feltsham, a fool, an ignoramus and a coward through and through, whose verbosity and quite ridiculous idiocy is a source of much of the humour in this novel. The antagonist, Joseph, is as despicable as they come, and enjoys nothing more than to apportion scorn and derision upon the sycophantic Freddy, luring him, tricking him, grooming him. Feeling he has no choice but to side with Joseph after being banished from the word of normalcy for his impropriety and cowardice, Freddy condones Joseph’s incessant jibes.

There is no morality at The Hangman’s Hitch. Patrons of this obscure hostelry hang their scruples on a hook outside. Inside, it is no holds barred as Joseph and his cronies enact one brutal scam after another. Just when you think the depravity cannot get any worse, it does.

I thoroughly enjoyed the author’s cutting wit, her characters exuding sarcasm in every utterance. The Hangman’s Hitch is written in old-school prose in keeping with the era, prose that is dense and heavy in dialogue, but don’t be put off! A dialogue-driven composition is not easy to pull off, but McCarthy has, and she has done so with aplomb. I thoroughly recommend this read to those after something different, a story that delves into the darkest corners of the human psyche, one that tests the sympathies of even the most hardened reader.

Book review: The Torcian Chronicles: Defiance by P.J. Reed

I very rarely dip into dark fantasy, so it was a treat to read P. J. Reed’s debut.

“Mesham sits dejectedly in a tiny garret above an inn, as the lands of Torcia fall to the magically-enhanced army of the infamous Mivirian Horde. One of the last surviving ancient warlocks of Torcia, Mesham knows he is marked for death.

The Torcian king knocks on Mesham’s door later that evening and offers him the chance of rejuvenation in return for a seemingly impossible mission into the heart of Mivir. Mesham reluctantly agrees, only to realise the evil of Mivir has spread to the very top of the Torcian government.

As Mesham undertakes his quest to complete the mission, he finds himself hunted by his king, by the mighty Torcian warbands, and by the Horde.

But he cannot fail, for the fate of Mesham’s beloved Torcia rests in his hands.”

 

My thoughts:

The novel opens with a battle scene, more a massacre, providing the reader with a good sense of what is to come as a party of Mirivian Outriders descend on Sicam and his men. Realising the danger of complete annihilation, the Torcian king rejuvenates a decrepit warlock and sends him on a mission to save the kingdom. Mesham gathers around him a motley crew who are forced to defend themselves against all manner of monsters. Nowhere is safe. Even the trees are alive and menacing.

Reed writes well, building her world with the minimum of fuss, drawing in her readers with all the elements of a good dark fantasy novel, not least evocative descriptions of decaying cities and carnage, the horror unrelenting. Reed has created characters that are convincing and vividly portrayed, with enough betrayal, treachery and intrigue to hold the attention, and oodles of action and adventure right to the very end. Reed takes her readers on a frenzied ride through a kind of hell, terrifying, disturbing and jaw-dropping by turns. The magic in the story works well. Imaginative and gripping, with strong writing overall, I would recommend this book to appreciators of the dark fantasy genre. I enjoyed finding the spell list at the end.

 

You can grab your copy here.

 

 

 

 

 

In conversation with author Pamela Morris

Here’s an excerpt of an in-depth interview with author Pamela Morris in which I lay myself bare.

“As a female author of Horror, you quickly come to realize the genre is very much dominated by male writers. I find that odd as women have been in the business of writing Gothic Horror since the 18th century and that a woman, Mary Shelley, penned one of the great masterpieces of horror with her novel Frankenstein.

With that in mind, I am always thrilled to land an interview with a fellow female writer of the genre and this month that woman is Isobel Blackthorn!

  1. Setting a mood for a story is one of the most important parts of writing, but what about setting the mood for yourself as you sit down to write? Do you have a special time and place, or maybe some music you like to put on to get your creative juices flowing for a good session? For years I thought I needed to set the mood for myself in order to write. When all I really needed was to have pen and paper, my sofa and solitude. I have to be alone. Living alone means I am always in the mood for writing and I dip in and out all day long from the moment I wake up until I stop to make dinner. I write at a leisurely pace. I try not to care about output and I don’t mind occasional interruptions. I cannot write anywhere other than my home, which means wherever I happen to be living as I move a lot. Two things put me off writing. Music and barking dogs. Silence is king….”  read the whole interview https://pamelamorrisbooks.com/2018/08/18/author-interview-isobel-blackthorn/

Book review: The Erotic Odyssey of Colton Forshay by James H Longmore

What a naughty and absurdly dark novel this is!

“Colton Forshay dreams himself into a bizarre sexual dystopia, a world in which nothing is as it should be. Sickening sex acts and sexual violence are the norm and in which the currency is deviant sexual acts. At first disturbed, then intrigued – and aroused – by his dreams of this other world, Colton is drawn deeper in and begins to spend more and more time there; so much so that his wife forces him to visit a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist encourages him to explore the dream world – and our hero goes on an odyssey with his dog/son, Eric, to discover the disturbing truth behind his dream world.”

My thoughts:

What could be more normal than a weekend party at a neighbor’s house? James H Longmore’s The Erotic Odyssey of Colton Forshay is anything but. The story opens at a neighborhood barbecue, where a guest is sacrificed in an unimaginably gruesome fashion amidst wanton depravity. Everyone is there, from housewives lounging in the altogether to a teacher from a local high school and a reverend. Colton, mourning the loss of his wife, Alicia, and somewhat disturbed at having fathered a child-dog, Eric, goes along and participates in the orgy.

When Colton wakes from a wet dream beside his real-world wife, Zeenah, she insists he see her psychiatrist to deal with his sex addiction. He agrees, but the therapy is to no avail. Every time he sleeps he returns to the same dreamscape, peppered with characters taken from his waking life. The two realities bleed into each other as Colton’s dreaming takes over his waking reality in what amounts to a bizarre possession.

Things slide downhill in his dreamworld as Colton is coerced into attending an orgy at the Presidential palace, to participate in a version of Devil’s Roulette. The narrative reaches a steamy and grotesque climax as Colton attempts to escape with his life.

The Erotic Odyssey of Colton Forshay follows a traditional story arc, cleverly constructed, the intertwining of the two realities well-executed. Every sort of debauchery is interwoven into the action, the natural realism of the prose underscoring an incisive critique of middle-class suburbia, its shadowy desires laid bare, along with a fascinating insight into the nature of consciousness. Fast-paced, hilarious and unrelenting, with a satisfying twist at the end, Longmore has penned a thoroughly entertaining and intelligent work of bizarro fiction. I recommend this book to lovers of horror and dark erotica, and to those interested in discovering the best the bizarro genre has to offer.

Grab you copy here

Discover James H Longmore here

TWERK – Contract signed with HellBound Books!

I am delighted to announce I have just signed TWERK to HellBound Books for release December 2018.

Based on a flash fiction piece published by Backhand Stories in UK in 2016, TWERK is an steamy romantic thriller set in a Las Vegas strip club. Gripping steamy noir with an amazing soundtrack, the novel provides a behind the scenes, insider view of the working life of a stripper based on extensive, original research.

Big thanks to James Longmore, publisher at HellBound Books, for his guidance in devising the plot. I’m happy to say that HellBound Books, with its gracious, respectful and supportive team, are the perfect home for this special work.

Best news of all, I’m flying to Las Vegas for the launch!

To keep in touch and grab a pre-release copy, subscribe to my mailing list, like my Facebook page, or follow me on Instagram or Twitter.

 

Bloody Good Horror Books 5*****Star review of The Legacy of Old Gran Parks!

I’m delighted to share this exceptionally warm and thoughtful review of The Legacy of Old Gran Parks from seasoned industry reviewer, Renier Palland.

 

“The Legacy of Old Gran Parks” by seasoned author Isobel Blackthorn is a droll, deeply satisfying and very understated horror novel published by HellBound Books. I’ve read some of Blackthorn’s work in the past and I haven’t been kind to her in a couple of reviews. Thank Buddha for her latest novel! “The Legacy of Old Gran Parks” is unique, extremely idiosyncratic and bathed in perfect prose. Blackthorn doesn’t just focus on “writing” a novel – she writes with such eloquence that one finds it difficult to critique her tempo and narrative techniques.

Blackthorn combines vengeance and wit to create a fictional world powered by strong plot machinations and a keen understanding of her characters. She injects her narrative with subtle symbolism and quasi-feminism. This amalgam forms an entirely new perspective on the revenge genre and its counterparts. Blackthorn deconstructs the novel like a set of Legos, then rebuilds both the plot and narrative to create a multi-faceted climax and denouement. This novel is much more than meets the eye. During my initial read-and-review process, I missed some of the finer details. Only after a secondary speed reading did I pick up on Blackthorn’s tongue-in-cheek satire.

The novel is billed as a dark comedy, but I disagree with this label. Blackthorn’s novel is a layered tour-de-force. The themes, although sardonic in their entirety, are actually much more insidious than Blackthorn imagined when she wrote the novel. There’s an element of darkness that broods underneath the hood, leaving you breathless once you actually delve deeper into the narrative.

Blackthorn’s characterisation is spot-on. The characters are perplexing, annoying (intentional) and they suffer from a derisive self-imaging machination. It’s as if the characters know Blackthorn, and they understand that she’s toying with them. This character/author intrusion is an intentional narrative device. Blackthorn poses the characters on an imaginary bookshelf and asks the reader, “So fucking what?” It’s a sign of a great author – someone who understands and knows what they’re doing with their characters and narrative.

Technically, Blackthorn didn’t make a single mistake. There was no verbiage, misused adverb or adjective techniques, or myocardial infarction of the plot. I didn’t have to restart the heart like I do with most novels. Blackthorn’s writing style flows like a river in a barren land. Unobstructed. Understated. Unequalled. As a fellow HellBound author (this does not affect the review), I notice just how great their editing techniques are. Unlike other imprints, where mistakes are made during proofing, HellBound delivers perfect editing. I’m not writing this to praise my own publisher – I’m merely stating my observations.

I once gave Blackthorn a 1 out of 5 rating for another book of hers. After a thorough editing process, I reviewed my critique and changed the rating. I was afraid that Blackthorn had to endure another less-than-average rating, but I am pleased to say that “The Legacy of Old Gran Parks” is her magnum opus.

It is definitely the best novel she’s ever written. And one of the best novels of 2018.

RATING: 5 out of 5

Bloody Good Books Reviews

Wow!!!!

Read more about Gran Parks here

Grab a copy here