Category Archives: review

Spiders In the Daffodils by Nelson W. Pyles – Review by Lydia Peever

Doc said “everything here is a nightmare,” and that sure does ring a bell. Readers of Pyles’ fiction, specifically his collected works in “Everything Here is a Nightmare” will recognize these characters from the story “Just Enough Rope”. With cover art by Jeanette Andromedea, ‘Spiders in the Daffodils‘ is an expansion on the western theme was long awaited by followers of the author.

We follow the strange journey of Tom Wall from a young man to esteemed Texas Ranger, one of the fastest guns in his jurisdiction. That jurisdiction, fittingly, is wherever he finds himself to be. From thieves and scum to whores, Tom had seen it all, and among the whores he discovers the feisty Veronique. In a blink, he is drawn into her world and her history, and while the two are separated but a blink in time afterward, they cross paths much later. By then he is young enough to start again but retired from Ranger life and she has wound up the sheriff of a small town herself. Together, they hunt down the supernatural forces that have dogged them for years. Now, there is much more at stake with their daughter Josephine in the mix and the little girl has secrets of her own.

As wonderfully juxtaposed as the title images are, the idea of a supernatural creature at home in the Old West mingles well In Pyles’ latest novel. We have our hero, in the gruff Ranger named Tom Wall. As unmovable as he seems, we have the resourceful and lovely Veronique who clings to his emotional cracks then flourishes, blooming into a hero alongside him. Between them, there is romance and mystery set in a world of gunslingers where the heat bakes the earth and whip cracks sting more than horseflesh.

In episode 402 of The 9th Story podcast, alongside Dan Foytik and Jeanette the artist herself, there is talk of the development of ‘Spiders in the Daffodils’ and Pyles reads a short excerpt. This is a two-part interview and discussion with the author that offers valuable insight into where the book came from and unearths gems of the writing process as they talk. With this, we meet Stephan Trask, a formidable foe, which really rounds the story out and introduces the devastation of the monstrous supernatural forces secreted in the saloon backrooms and blasting out of flimsy jail cells across the west.

As the book begins with a young girl subject to depraved gore and vampiric destruction in Romania at the dawn of the 19th century, we are no stranger to the creatures. By the time we have hints they have persisted one hundred years later, we are eager to meet them again. Or fearful, as we should be since even Veronique and Tom hardly know what they are up against. Nelson has created a very pleasing and terrifying amalgam of creatures known and imagined with the strigoi style of long-lived, seemingly immortal creatures that prey upon humans while living mingled among them for centuries. On one hand, we have their incredible strength and bloodlust, and as with any great supra-human lays a certain enchantment, be it beauty or artful guile.

Coming to ‘Spiders in the Daffodils’ for either the horror and adventure serve the reader well with a well-written dose of genre dabbling they may not have bargained for. A happy accident, if you approached Pyles’ work without knowing his style which is rooted in writing great relationships, really knowable characters, visceral gore when needed, and dark tints to the most brightly lit horizons ahead. The story never needlessly meanders so the goals as they unfold are compelling with the whimsy of new creatures along with natural jargon of the time that works wonderfully in this well-tended garden.

Addendum! I’d entirely left out the most wonderful full disclosure here, as Nelson is not only a fellow author and friend, but as original host and creator of The Wicked Library – he is a hero who I am forever in debt to. Giving a voice to my stories and the stories of hundreds more is something special. Not many readers and authors get to pay it forward so far in advance as Nelson. Cheers, for starting one of the premier short horror story shows, and cheers on this book release. Here is to many more, sir!

 

This was a review written of my own free will, with a graciously supplied copy of the e-book by the author. Thank you, Nelson! Otherwise, I have taken a position reviewing books from independent authors. While not all are horror, there is a thread of darkness through them regardless of genre. As with honest paid reviews, there will be personal reaction as well as comparative and critical analysis. If you are an author that would like me to review your work, contact me for rates and a summary of your novel, short story, or collection. 

typicalreview – Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess by Nancy Kilpatrick

In my previous article for Postscripts to Darkness where I review Revenge of the Vampire King, I detail a little of the horror and vampire fiction lineage of Nancy Kilpatrick. Suffice that to say we are in good hands with the second installment of the Thrones of Blood series, “Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess”.

This is envisioned as an epic to total a half dozen books. To say the story started with a bang diminishes the impact of the first book; though oddly, a reader can enter this one to start. Now, the first book should be read, and upon finishing ‘Sacrifice’ one would be beyond intrigued and compelled to see where this all began. Somehow the story of the first one is hinted at just enough that if by chance someone picked this up first, they would not be lost and at the same time the story is not repetitive.

“Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess” stands as the second of the series, released by Crossroad Press in ebook format on September 5, 2017, with the paperback to be out in November. Like the first book, this immediately thrusts the reader into a story of betrothal and betrayal, with dazzling refinement and so much blood.

Taking place eighteen years in the future, we are introduced to Serene. As a princess she is mightily entitled; and as “fifty percent vampir, fifty percent Sapiens, one hundred percent brat,” even more so. Where the series began in ‘Revenge’ with some hard sex, we start here on a much lighter note. This girl is quickly engaged to the King’s second, Wolfsbane, and hastened to take her first feeding. Being privy to the ceremony that is a vampire wedding, Kilpatrick style, is a treat as it is not under threat of death or misery quite so much this time around. We also have an abundance of carnal exploration the couple embarks on beforehand so the union is much sweeter than tasting of blood alone.

This is not without a certain amount of beguilement to sway a bride that was more than reluctant to start, and it also pushes her psyche to teetering on the edge of chaos. The kingdom is under threat as ever. This time around, it is the desire to infiltrate forbidden lands with a plan spearheaded by Serene’s mother Valada – the former hybrid captor who is now Queen and her husband, the Vampir King Moarte.

Gardeners and folklorists will enjoy the naming of various vampires we come to know, as many are named after plants and herbs common in fairytales and mythology. Other names maintain a sinister edge for the most part and never wrest attention from their character. This book feels a little more grounded and relatable than the last since it flirts less with high fantasy and finds itself more in line with gothic horror and regency romance. The naming and cultured speech of our cast keeps us in the same universe easily though.

There was a time, in my opinion, where people turned to horror fiction for raucous taboo sex scenes long before horror erotica was a subsection of the bookstore. There are chapters here that recapture this daring alongside a fast-paced adventure and plenty of gore. The edgy sex is as natural to these creatures as taking blood is, so it never feels so heavily cross-genre with romance or erotica that fans would start to fall off one side or the other. That was where my biggest fear lay in reading the first book, that it would play too gory for those looking for lust and too brutal sexually for those who can handle eviscerations but not exploitations.

This tantalizing mix is something Kilpatrick is quite at home with as she remains the Canadian Queen of horror erotica for that reason. I had described the first book as a “brave piece of fiction for readers seeking a deep plunge into sex, swords and sanguine sensuality,’ and I would reiterate this for the series as it stands.

Without that first paddle to the backside the deep dive into the heart of this princess brat would not be as satisfying as it is. Knowing what we do as a reader about the Queen as mother and her past instills a delicious sense of omniscience for the reader. This is what a reader needs and sticks around for in a series at the core of it all, and Kilpatrick’s second Thrones of Blood book, “Sacrifice of the Hybrid Princess,” gives us that quickly.

Read more at nancykilpatrick.com and pick up the book or start into the series proper at Amazon. These chilling and exciting adventures in Vampir and Sapiens lore are available for e-readers, in paperback and on audible.

 

This was a review written of my own free will, with a graciously supplied copy of the e-book by the author. Thank you, Nancy! Otherwise, I have taken a position reviewing books from independent authors. While not all are horror, there is a thread of darkness through them regardless of genre. As with honest paid reviews, there will be personal reaction as well as comparative and critical analysis. If you are an author that would like me to review your work, contact me for rates and a summary of your novel, short story, or collection. 

typicalreview – Miss Sally: And The Sinners That God Ignores by Robert Joe Stout

 

This is a bleak view of Texas in the 1930s offered by a young girl lost in a dust bowl of sin, confusion, and lust. Bleak may be a polite term as I am sure some readers would find Robert Joe Stout’s 1973 novel “Miss Sally” a trying read. Scenes of torture, rape, and blasphemy run throughout yet the young Sally begins innocently enough – her and her sister spy on an older sibling having sex. The conversations that ensue are enchanting and darling as the girls try to explain for themselves the ins and outs of adulthood. This fuels a dangerous and naïve plan to experiment with sex and local boys. After the domino effect of curiosity takes its toll, she finds herself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Raped by several local boys and teens, Sally is ferried out to the countryside days later not only to recover but to allow the gossip to dry up for a few years. Things go from bad to worse as Sally barely reaches womanhood, but not without a roller coaster of joy and sorrow alike.

There are some very poignant scenes that take place in various revival services. While many around this little girl vacillate between heathen attitudes that do not practise religion at all – which are the most benign – and those who are dangerously enraptured with Christianity in one form or another who come across as the most dangerous and detrimental. The path to her saviour blocked by thorns, and even though she pursues religion right to the end, it would appear to be the cause of so many of her misconceptions and troubles. For a little girl who thinks herself dumb and ugly, she has some deeply philosophical reasons for her actions that keep one interested to see what she will do or say next. An example is when she first assumes she must look like a sinner since everyone at church looks at her as if she has sinned. Since she hasn’t sinned it makes her sad, and certain something must be wrong with her when the entire congregation agrees that everyone has sinned. A very confusing concept for a simple girl barely thirteen years old.

Sally shows no shame in what happened to her, proving to be a very tough little girl taking the world at face value. With the exception being her erstwhile brainwashing at the hands of religious fanatics of the time, she otherwise has a very balanced and non-judgemental core to her. At one point she compares her rape to animal husbandry she helps with on a cousins farm and the insight offered is simplistic but refreshing. Her philosophy is simple throughout and hence, incredibly thought-provoking for a reader brave enough to take “Miss Sally” herself at face value.

There are several scenes of sex in the book, most are not consensual. Some are alluded to but many happen as we are on our journey with this young girl, so the reader is given an unflinching view of brutal treatment by Stout. As a very dark coming of age tale, there is no way around it, so fans of stories like “Go Ask Alice”, “The Girl Next Door,” or the film “The Seasoning House” will understand the merits of being able to see into how much like beasts – or worse – humans can behave. While this is a fictional story it serves as a reminder that worse things happen in life, and anyone we stand beside could endure what little Sally winds up witnessing.

This is a sure four-and-a-half stars, as I was left with one small question that needed addressing.  Aside from the cover art being far too plain, through all of this learning and witnessing sex, rape, torture and confusing religion, fighting families and all – there is no mention of a woman or Sally herself menstruating. That was one point I was waiting to see addressed. Would it fill her with more questions, drive her deeper into her warped sense of righteousness, or had the trauma her body went through so young have damaged her to a point that it was impossible? That seemed to be missed given her age by the end of the novel. Being written in the mid-70s originally – this is a re-release by Robert Joe Stout and we are lucky for it – perhaps that sort of womanly medical truth was too racy a topic among all of the brutality surrounding this young girl.

 

I have taken a position reviewing books from independent authors. While not all are horror, there is a thread of darkness through them regardless of genre. As with honest paid reviews, there will be personal reaction as well as comparative and critical analysis. If you are an author that would like me to review your work, contact me for rates and a summary of your novel, short story, or collection.