Tag Archives: Ragnarok Publications

Devourer Of Souls

Late last year, Kevin Lucia delivered a wonderful collection called Things Slip Through, a great gathering of tales presented in a wholly unique way. The voice of Lucia’s writing is old school—think early King or later Bradbury. So obviously, I was quite anxious to read this novella, Devourer of Souls, which is actually a pair of longer stories which are stitched together by a similar framing device as those in Things Slip Through.

You know the old saying: “If it ain’t broke…”

Devourer of Souls starts with two men meeting in a diner. They are members of a sort of coalition in the Clifton Heights area, a group of men who meet once in a while to keep one another apprised of the weird shit that seems to be bubbling under the Rockwellian surface of their town.

The first half is a great tale called “Sophan.” A group of boys and an outcast dying to be drawn into a strange and ancient game of chance called Sophan, a tile game offered to one of the boys at a rummage sale. During the last breaths of summer, one boy is consumed by hatred and bigotry while his friend is called to fix things. A father is haunted by the ghosts of war and another by his good fortune to have returned and moved on. Lucia does a great job of bringing these characters to life. The emotions are realistically rendered and easily relatable, he keeps them simple but something that we can all recognize, honestly written and stronger for it.

“The Man in Yellow” is the second feature, and it is just a good as the opening act. Set in another flyspeck town that neighbors Clifton Heights, this story involves a young man on the cusp of adulthood, angry at the world and the God he isn’t sure is out there. He and his friend discover that faith can be a monster when a new minister arrives in town. A charismatic stranger in a bright yellow suit and an ancient agenda. This one has a decidedly darker tone than “Sophan,” and given the brooding cloud of faith and/or lack thereof that hangs over it, it isn’t surprising. .

Lucia’s strong characters and smartly simple and realistic dialogue are one of the many things that propel his writing along the rails. His pacing is good and he knows how to tell a good story without a lot of fat. Too many times writer’s bog down their stories with unnecessary jewelry and gloss when a simple story—simply told—is what is needed. Lucia gives us a refreshing old-school style—not that he can’t throw down the words, but he understands that the story needs to be the star.

Devourer of Souls is available through Ragnarok Publications.

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Nameless: The Darkness Comes (The Bone Angel Trilogy, Book One)

Nameless: The Darkness Comes. the new novel by former Shock Totem editor Mercedes M. Yardley, tells the story of Luna Masterson, a young woman cursed with the ability to see demons.  It’s bad enough to know that demons exist at all, but in Luna’s world, they’re everywhere; walking down a city street, going to the store, even just looking out the window, she’s bound to run into demons anywhere she goes.  And it gets worse: much like Cole Sear in The Sixth Sense, the demons know that Luna can see them; they want to cause her trouble and pain–and they’ll never leave her alone.  In this novel, the first book of The Bone Angel Trilogy, Luna is seeking some kind of balance, or even happiness, in her haunted life; meanwhile, her unbelieving brother is fighting for custody over his baby daughter from his venomous ex, and Luna has just met a charming, mysterious man who doesn’t doubt or even question her unique ability.  With the demons restlessly clawing into Luna’s world, the big question is: will she ever be able to live a normal life?

I find myself often shying away from badass-chicks-versus-the-supernatural books, because more often than not, their synopses seem to spell out a cookie-cutter pattern reminiscent of a certain Vampire Slayer.  So it was that when I sat down with Nameless: The Darkness Comes, I was narrow-eyed with suspicion that it would be no exception to that phenomenon.  However, Mrs. Yardley had a few surprises up her sleeve, and what could’ve been a terribly cliché read was instead involving, suspenseful, and with a hefty dose of quirky thrown in for good measure.

With a good sense of description (vivid, yet not beating the reader over the head with exposition and/or detail), Mrs. Yardley keeps the narrative taut and fast-paced. Luna is (as one would expect) tough-as-nails, and always ready to flip the birdie at any foe, be they supernatural or more familiarly human.  More refreshing, however, is the fact that she’s vulnerable; and I’m not just talking about sympathetic feelings here and there; I mean she is capable of getting scared, sad, tired, and even…injured.  In fact, she gets her ass handed to her on a couple of occasions in this book, emotionally as well as physically; it took me by sheer surprise to see Mrs. Yardley not pull any punches, and it made a few scenes truly memorable, and even haunting.  (One particularly grisly sequence even made my heart jump up into my throat, but I won’t spoil it here.)

I do have to admit that there was one element at work in this novel which was a frequent issue for me, and that was the dialogue.  Now, I don’t mind characters that talk in hip dialect; even if it’s not mind-blowing prose, I can just write it off as a characteristic at work.  However, when I’m reading about terrifying supernatural forces, I don’t want to hear demonic entities speaking like snarky hipsters; and while it worked to an extent in a few some scenes of bickering between Luna and other characters, it was often a bit of a distraction for me, as it really took some of the seriousness out of some otherwise tense scenes.

As someone who isn’t really a fan of this subgenre/niche, I have to say that overall, Nameless: The Darkness Comes was a pretty fun, and sometimes surprising, read.  And if a series featuring a tough woman battling supernatural evil is your kind of bag, then you’re in for a real treat.

Available through Ragnarok Publications.

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