Sunday, 25 July 2010

Review of Bryan Smith - Soultaker

At first glance this book might seem worrying for a true horror fan. We have a coven of witches based in an American high school. It sounds like it might be heading for the Twilight with broomsticks territory. You know the kind of thing - three hundred pages of teen angst and rampaging hormones with occasional glimpses of the supernatural thrown in.

Thankfully though, this isn't. This is horror, real horror. It might be set in a school, but these aren't girly-girl witches trying to use their powers for good, and worrying whether the Quarterback looked at them in class. This teenage coven is pure evil, no doubt about it. They are intent on using their powers to control and kill.

The story itself is not exactly original. Myra Lewis is the new girl in town, the demonic coven leader and alluring goth-girl (a bit stereotypical having a goth witch). Within weeks of arriving in school she's recruited many of the in-crowd girls, and they've began terrorising the rest of the school - including the staff.

Against her is Jake McAllister, back in town to stop his brother his brother throwing his life away - and totally unaware his brother Trey is in the thrall of Myra. Together with a few new-made allies - the usual batch of outsiders that end up fighting bad guys in these books - Jack determines to defeat the forces of darkness.

So in pure story terms this is a case of been there already. But this is not about originality. This book gives you every element you could want in a horror tale - pure unadulterated evil, a hopelessly outgunned, mismatched bunch of good guys fighting seeming insurmountable odds, gore, sex, some plot twists and then some more gore.

Books like this succeed because they don't give you time to stop and look around. It doesn't take long to get into the action - within a handful of pages Smith takes us into a sex magick ritual in a forest clearing. This sets the pace for the book as a whole, for throughout its three hundred pages there is no pause, no unnecessary character building background tales to break up the (blood-) flow. This is horror as it used to be, as it should be.

Bryan Smith is one of a growing band of newer horror writers that are pumping the genre full of gallons of fresh blood. Reading his books makes you realise why you read horror in the first place.

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