Oubliette, Vanta M Black

Oubliette, Vanta M Black

Oubliette: A Forgotten Little Place

Veronica’s interior design business is failing when she gets a call from France early one morning. The call is the opportunity of a lifetime – an offer to renovate an ancient chateau in the Loire Valley, the traditional holiday destination of French royalty, all expenses paid. Veronica and her sister, Nikki, both agree that a few months working on a French chateau sounds like just what a couple of poor American girls need. What neither of them realises is that the Chateau du Feu Ardent isn’t just a medieval French castle, but more a thin veneer over a yawning pit of history.

Oubliette: A Forgotten Little Place is a nicely-paced urban fantasy spiced with just enough horror to keep a reader’s attention. The characters are a particularly strong point of this book: Nikki, especially, shines as a trashy, selfish type, guaranteed to get a reader response. The utter normality of the characters, and their typically American complacency, is a particularly nice offset to the horror aspects of the plot. It’s a classic plot construct because it works, and this story is no exception. Vanta M. Black has done an excellent job of weaving in the cameo stories of the castle’s past inhabitants and keeping all the various storylines in sync for the final twist. I can recommend this book to anyone who likes their legends with a little darkness.

Bloodwalker, L X Cain

Bloodwalker, L X Cain

Bloodwalker

Bloodwalker picks up the folklore of the Skomori, a legendary Romanian clan whose women traditionally lay out the dead. Sylvie is eighteen and facing an arranged marriage to a man she’s never met, late at the age of eighteen. Sylvie has faced a lot of challenges as an apprentice bloodwalker; despite her knowledge, laying-outs go awry, she doesn’t share in the bloodwalker ability to see the future, and there are whispers about her in her home village. By long tradition, the Skomori weddings take place in the Zorka circus, presided over by one of the oldest bloodwalkers living. Sylvie is terrified of what Zora will prophesy for her future – but even her wildest nightmares don’t come close.

L X Cain has created a unique story, lifting the curtain to give her readers a view into an area of Europe shrouded in fantastic legends of monsters. With a plot where the supernatural blends seamlessly into a murder mystery, peopled with circus performers, murderous clowns, and the closed, ritual-bound community of the Skomori, Bloodwalker will suck you in from the first page and not let go until the last one. This is a fast-paced, brilliantly-crafted book that touches on everything from folklore to domestic abuse to multi-cultural society, and the characters and settings are fascinatingly plausible. Twisty and gripping, I highly recommend this to enthusiasts of the fantasy and thriller genres alike.

Fall, Leaves, Fall, Mike Driver

Fall, Leaves, Fall, Mike Driver

Fall, Leaves, Fall

Fall, Leaves, Fall begins entirely mundanely, on a wet, gray day, on a bus into the small English town of Cletherwood. James Bridge, let go from his latest job, is going back after twenty years to where all his nightmares play. He’s going home, despite the memories, seeking refuge, with nowhere else to go. The Romans thought that the area around Cletherwood was haunted by malign spirits. As far as James is concerned, that may well be true – but his own ghosts are much more recent.

Mike Driver’s use of characterisation in Fall, Leaves, Fall is outstanding. James is damaged, neurotic, and more than slightly unstable, but he’s also a survivor, and his first-person narration is peppered with small, humanising touches. We’ve all known someone a little bit like James, and the authenticity of that character brings the events unfolding in the plot onto a much more personal level, all of it framed in the wet dreariness of an English town in early winter. The horror elements are drawn in via memories, dreams, and flashbacks, leaving the reader to wonder whether the events are real, or figments of James’s imagination. The mystery is also well done, the first person allowing the author to leave the final twist to be as much a surprise to the reader as to James.