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Thursday, April 5, 2018

What I’m Reading: The Demons of King Solomon and The Hollow Tree

Today I have 2 reviews that just published to Booklist Online. They are already out. As usual, I cite the published review but the text here on the blog is my draft copy [which is always longer than the review] and I add more information here on the blog too. Enjoy.

The Demons of King Solomon.

Mayberry, Jonathan (author) and Seanan McGuire (author) and others and French, Aaron (editor).
Dec. 2017. 374p. JournalStone, paperback, $21.95  (9781947654082)
First published April 4, 2018 (Booklist Online).

King Solomon is an important and respected figure in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but there is also a darker mythology that surrounds his legacy, stories which have survived in print about how God let him harness the power of demons in order to build the first temple in Jerusalem. Acclaimed editor, French takes the occult legend of Solomon’s demons and, using the model of his best selling collection, The Gods of H.P. Lovecraft, presents a frightening and intriguing collection of horror tales by some of today’s most popular and talented practitioners including, Jonathan Maberry, Seanan McGuire, Richard Chizmar, and Scott Sigler. Each author was given one of Solomon’s demons to frame his or her own terrifying tale, but it is the additional historical commentary on the story behind each demon by the religious scholar, Richard Smoley, which enhances the fear and fun of this entire collection. For example in “The Floor of the Basement is the Roof of Hell,” Stephen Graham Jones takes Asmodeus, the “destroyer,” known for terrorizing newlyweds and opening up the gateway to a race of humans who live under the earth and places him as a contractor in modern America, working for a married couple who need their basement excavated. The story is unsettling from the start, the extra information we have from Smoley serves to  intensify everything Jones throws at us. Demons have been haunting our stories since the dawn of time, and with this collection, readers can travel back to some of our earliest accounts of the occult and drag them kicking and screaming into the present. Read it because you like a specific author, read it for the history lesson or read it for the demons that lurk on every page; just make sure to read it. You will be enlightened and frightened.
Further Appeal:  The important thing here is that while the stories themselves are excellent, it is the commentary that makes this book even more enjoyable, both as a learning experience and in that it intensifies the feelings of fear and terror embedded each story. The more you know about the demon, the scarier each story is, and then add to this the overarching point that these demons were literally believed to be true during their time, and wowza.

Themed collections can be hit or miss. This one is a hit.

Three Words That Describe This Book: religious history, enlightening, frightening

Readalikes: There are so many options linked in the review. Anything by any of the authors appearing in this volume who you enjoyed is also a good choice. Here is a link to list of authors on Goodreads where you can easily locate more titles.

Finally, and this is sort of a side note, but it fits here, Stephen Graham Jones is my current overall favorite author. I will read everything he writes without knowing what it is about over all others.

The Hollow Tree.

Brogden, James (author).
Feb. 2018. 448p. Titan, paperback, $14.95 (9781785654404); e-book (9781785654411)
First published April 4, 2018 (Booklist Online).

In his latest novel, Brit Brogden [Hekla’s Children] blends the sinister undertones of a local urban legend with the creepiness of phantom limb pain into an action packed, supernatural thriller, filled with heart. Rachel and Tom, are a young married couple, not without their problems, but overall, quite happy, until a freak accident leaves Rachel without her left hand. Struggling to adjust to her new normal, Rachel not only has intense pain in her missing hand, but she also has nightmares about a woman, stuffed inside an old oak tree, in the woods, not far from her home, dreams so vivid that she can hear the woman calling to her, telling Rachel that she is not dead. When Rachel and Tom visit the place from her dreams, they learn the legend of Oak Mary, an unidentified corpse found there during WWII.This story invades their lives as Rachel’s missing hand become a bridge into “the umbra,” a space beyond the living. She reaches in and uses her “hand” to pull Mary back into our world, but others are trying to drag Mary back where she belongs entangling Rachel in a supernatural fight for her life. Told mostly from Rachel’s perspective the story fluidly moves between our modern world and the past, between the world of the living and the dead. The strong world building, ominous tone, and family secrets will keep readers turning the pages, but they will stay for Rachel, her struggle, perseverance, and strength. How far will she reach back to find out the truth about Mary, who she really was, and Rachel’s place in her story, and at what price to her own well being or Tom’s? Hand this novel off to fans of Dean Koontz or backlist favorite The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue, all intense, speculative stories with strong characters and plenty of intrigue.

Further Appeal: This full version of my review is jammed packed with appeal. I loved this story. It grabbed me and held me down on the couch reading. I’m not kidding. I was cancelled everything else I was doing the day to finish this book. Brogden is very good at writing terrifying, dark fantasy with strong world building, great characters, and lots of suspense. And his plots are so original.

Three Words That Describe This Book:  ominous, historical intrigue, suspenseful

Readalikes: Besides titles mentioned above and Heklas Children I would also suggest two books from 2017: Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough and Mary Rose by Geoffrey Girard. Those links lead to my reviews with even more readalikes.

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