Stoker and Wells: Order of the Golden Dawn – a Good fun but not perfect romp (3.5 Cthulhu)
The review copy of Stoker and Wells: Order of the Golden Dawn came in the mail and I was stoked. I love Dracula. I love Time Machine. I love both writers and to see the imagined meeting between the two is something I look forward to. There’s a lot to unpack here, so let’s get started!
Stoker and Wells–two lethal weapons
The story is interesting–a ‘What if?’ if you will. What if two of the biggest influences on horror met? What if Dracula and the Time Machine were real? What sort of stain would that leave on someone? The premise explores those fundamental questions and more.
The character of Stoker seems to be that of the older proper statesman. The forever guardian of the arts whose attention to detail is put to use to prop another artist up. He’s the artist who never let himself flourish–never took that big leap forward. He’s Murtaugh (this will make sense in a bit). We see him opposite of Wells in more than just screen time.
Wells looks like a Casanova type (almost literally since the introduction to him is an homage to the David Tennant Casanova). He is the hyper brash counterpart to Stoker–he’s the Riggs.
You put them together and you get a lethal weapon ride to the future. For the most part, this works. I loved the dynamic between the two and the growth they show at the end. The art goes a long way to make this happen (as seen below, looking at Stoker you know a lot about him just by the lines). The story line is interesting as a ‘What if?’ and it brings enough room for sequels. All is not rosy in time travel, though.
Good but some quirks…
Some parts of the story have somewhat fatal logic flaws that stop the flow of the text. For example, I can buy that Stoker is a Murtaugh and Wells is a Riggs, but the Casanova homage is a bit far. Other plot points like the albino eyed underground dwellers being able to see perfectly OK in the light stood out, too. The throwback towards Dragonlance plots for the Dracula line seemed as a forced ‘wrap things up nicely’ style that didn’t exactly work.
Graphically, some of the aspect ratios seem a bit drawn out, but I did like the use of the gutters and white space. Some of the action sequences seemed awkward but I’m not sure if that’s a graphic issue or writing. For example, the multitude of creatures attacking two rather ordinary humans results in the humans rather easily dispatching everyone. I think if we saw the pair have a real challenge to get through and not walk away nearly unscathed it would have put more weight on the story and that could have been done graphically.
Overall, it’s a good–but not perfect–fun romp. I enjoyed it and I’m grateful to the team sending me a review copy. I think they have a good series on their hands and one that can introduce Dracula and the Time Machine to a whole new generation of readers. I give this 3.5 out of 5 Cthulhu.
Go check it out for yourself and let me know what you think. It’s worth the price tag as the quality of work and storytelling are both well done. You can pick up the printed copy here. (3.5 / 5)
THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE STORY OF BRAM STOKER AND H.G. WELLS! …give or take 48 hours. In London of 1894, a 20-something screw-up named H.G. Wells and a 40-something theater manager named Bram Stoker meet and have a thrilling, frightening, and extraordinary adventure that causes both men to finally step into the lives they were meant to live! It is this shared journey that leads to the creative inspiration for each writer’s first great success – THE TIME MACHINE and DRACULA! From their amazon page
Brutality, Motherhood, and Art: Nightbitch Review
“In the distance, she heard her husband in the backyard call for her , but she was not that woman anymore, that mother and wife. She was Nightbitch, and she was fucking amazing. It seemed she had been waiting for this for a very, very long time.” -pg 89, Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder
Nightbitch is the debut novel of Rachel Yoder about a stay-at-home mother coming to terms with the loneliness and brutality of motherhood. The main character, only referred to as The Mother, begins to undergo a frightening change as she sinks deeper into a depressive state. She transforms into Nightbitch, an animalistic creature full of anger, bloodlust, and freedom. The Mother must utilize the help of a strange book and a group of multi-level marketing mommies to harness her newfound strength before she loses herself or her family.
The novel is a stunning commentary on the everyday violence of motherhood centered within the context of werewolf and mystical woman mythos. The Mother spends much of the book contemplating her future and the abandonment of her dreams. Specifically, she grapples with the loss of her ability to create art, her longtime passion. On a larger scale, Nightbitch examines how many women are asked to stop being individuals after having children and only become mothers–existing only in the presence of their child. The message is clear, poignant, dark, and at times, hilarious. The prose and structure of the book are abnormal, however, it works with the overall messaging and plot.
As far as negatives go, Nightbitch was pretty ambiguous. This was by design, and created an aura of magical mysticism around many of the characters and events. The Mother is the definition of an unreliable narrator. However, towards the end of the book, I would have liked a little more clarity in what certain characters knew.
Nightbitch is a must read for any parent. As a non-parent, I highly recommend it for those interested in feminist horror or more avant-garde approaches to horror narratives. Those who don’t like books with heavy introspection or ambiguous storytelling may enjoy something else, however I still think it is an interesting read nonetheless.(4.4 / 5)
Gothic, Ghosts, and Tlachiqueros: The Hacienda Review
“Dread washed over me. Had she been sitting there, watching me sleep, the whole night? Her skin gleamed like candle wax in the light; then she grinned and whatever color her eyes had been before, now they turned red. In an instant, her skin transformed, dried and desiccated into leather, and her teeth grew long and needle sharp.” -pg 214, The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas
The Hacienda is a gothic horror novel by Isabel Cañas set in the wake of Mexico’s War for Independence. The debut novel by Cañas, it delivers a classic haunted house tale with a twist of Mexican high society. Recently made homeless by the execution of her father, Beatriz marries Don Solórzano to escape her cruel treatment by her relatives. However, once she joins him on his estate, she finds that the promise of a new life holds dark secrets and darker spirits. She enlists the help of a priest, Andrés, to uncover both. Together, they find the home has more dangers than they bargained for. And more threats both supernatural and far too material await every corner.
I adored The Hacienda from start to finish. Cañas’s prose was accessible but full of deep imagery. While told from the perspective of both Beatriz and Andrés, neither outweighed the other. The perspectives were interesting and the transition between the two was well executed throughout the novel. I usually don’t seek out romantic books, but I loved the romantic and sexual tension between the two main characters. Specifically since the romantic tension developed within both perspectives, the relationship’s “will-they-won’t-they” felt both plausible and full of stakes. And of course, The Hacienda was spooky! I loved the way the spirits manifested and the impact that had on the characters.
My only minor criticisms would be the resolution was fairly quick and mostly offscreen. Though maybe I’m just saying that because I wanted to keep reading, even after the book ended! I also found myself slightly annoyed at the characters for not picking up on some of the more obvious clues to what had happened in the house.
A thoroughly enjoyable gothic (and dare I say, romantic) novel that kept me on the edge of my seat, I highly recommend The Hacienda. If you enjoy haunted house tales, you will enjoy this book.(4.8 / 5)
Preorder Isabel Cañas’s new book Vampires of El Norte now!
“The Family Game” Glimpses Into The 1%
Are their traditions innocent or are they darker than they seem?
Harry, short for Harriet, is a British writer gaining popularity after the publishing of her first novel. She meets Edward, a member of the widely known Holbeck family, and the two strike up a relationship. The Holbecks are high powered executives, running family businesses that bring in massive amounts of wealth. When Harry learns she is pregnant, the couple decide that it is finally time for her to meet the family.
During her first meeting with the family, Edward’s father, Robert gives Harry a vintage tape that he says holds a story that he’d like her to listen to. As Harry listens to the tape, she begins to believe that the Holbecks have done some very bad things.
As she continues visiting the family, their strange traditions are revealed to her. The games that they play traditionally involve darkness and fear. Can Harriet find out the truth about the mysterious Holbecks?
Catherine Steadman outdoes herself in The Family Game. She creates such a mysterious family in the Holbecks and their dynamics are intriguing. Readers will follow Harry as she tries to determine the truth about Robert’s misdoings. The cast of family characters are a wonder to watch. We’ve all always wondered what the extremely rich live like. Harry shows us their virtues and misdeeds.
The novel really remarks on the power of wealth and the wealthy’s ability to commit audacious crimes and pay for them to go away. Robert, as the patriarch of the family, is a prime example of such. As Harry begins to discover that Robert may be confessing to a series of murders on the cassette tape, she must decide how to proceed. She knows that the power that Robert holds cannot be taken lightly.
As Harry navigates potentially deadly Christmas traditions, she races for the truth, unable to forget once she finds it. Harry is such a compelling character – a developing mother willing to risk life and limb to protect her unborn baby. Harry is brave and unapologetic and is a true testament on how to write a female main character.
It was very difficult for me to decide between 4 and 5 Cthulus, so we will call it 4.5. This is a novel I highly recommend thriller lovers check out. (4.5 / 5)