The Eyes of Madness presents “Simple reviews from a simple reader…”
“Father, have you done something terrible that was also necessary, to prevent something worse?”
Welcome back to Clifton Heights.
In Kevin Lucia’s latest installment of his growing Clifton Heights mythos, Sheriff Chris Baker and Father Ward meet for a Saturday morning breakfast at The Skylark Dinner to once again commiserate over the weird and terrifying secrets surrounding their town. Sheriff Baker shares with Father Ward the story of a journal discovered in the ruins of what was once an elaborate koi pond and flower garden, which regales a tale of regret, buried pain, and unfulfilled debt. Father Ward reveals the story of a tortured man from the nearby town of Tahawus, who visited his confessional seeking solace from a cosmic horror he can never outrun.
“Sophan” – Jake Burns has always been a bit…off. Rude, awkward, sometimes brutish, he’s tolerated by Nate Slocum and his friends because he hits a mean line drive, and because they all know but don’t discuss the abuse he faces at the hands of his troubled father, a Vietnam veteran consumed by his demons. But Jake is suffering something far worse than domestic abuse, and when Nate discovers what, he faces an impossible choice: help Jake and put himself in the path of evil, or abandon him, only to damn himself in the process.
“The Man in Yellow” – Stuart Michael Evans has suffered from cerebral palsy all his life, but he’s made due. Sure, his preacher dad is always yammering about “the healing grace of God” and “God’s will,” saying all he needs is faith and someday he’ll be healed, but Stuart mostly ignores him. Life isn’t perfect, but it isn’t awful either, so Stuart figures he doesn’t need God to heal him, or do anything, for that matter. Everything changes, however, when a renowned faith healer – Reverend Alistair McIlvian – pays a visit to Tahawus’ annual Summer Vacation Bible School. Revival sweeps the town as Reverend McIlvian’s healing touch makes believers out of everyone. But where do these powers come from? God, or something…else?
“I failed Jake. So it’s time to belly up to the bar for one last drink. Time to face the proverbial music, because I lost something that night, too.”
As a huge, longtime fan of “small town horror”, I dug this book quite a bit. As a young horror reader I cut my teeth on books from Stephen King, picking up on the often shared locations Castle Rock & Derry. I then found Charles Grant, who was the authority on small town horror with most of his noverls and stories linked by locations (and residents living ig) Oxrun Station & Greystone Bay. So these tales really take me back to a time where I was first able to find solace from my parents problems (drinking, fighting) in horror fiction. Small town horror is what I connected with, pretty immediately. Familiar locals and characters weaving in and out of different narratives, I loved it, it called to me, and I looked forward to recognizing familiar “friends” who may be dealing with new haunts. So suffice to say that Kevin Lucia’s body of work, by nature, strikes a chord with me as it already feels comfortable, and being reminded of a time where you found the thing you love, well, that ain’t a bad thing at all.
Here, Mr. Lucia does a fantastic job of relating to, and the portraying of, the youthful spirit in the two novellas and wrap around story contained within. Summoning a time where everything is new and wondrous. When we’re pretty confident that we know everything of how the world works. All the while being preyed on by things that really do know how the world works. This town of Clifton Height is tangible, it is mysterious, it is dangerous. A character all it own. Living, breathing.
Devourer of Souls is inhabited by a great cast of characters, mostly youth types… and the occasional predator.The kids (in both shorts) feel like kids. More so they feel like friends. Their actions and decisions are true to their age and the dialog between them is fluid and believable (it’s the foundation of a solid story), the words of those trying to find their identity and their place in this harsh and unnerving world. And that place is in the cross-hairs of some pretty nasty individuals. The old man in Sophan and Reverend Alistair McIlvian in The Man in Yellow are fantastic baddies. Experiencing the back and fourth between these characters and their corresponding group of youths made for a highly enjoyable reading experience. Especially the first interaction in Sophan between the old man and Jake.The scene is tense and riveting. There is a level of discomfort presented that had me on edge for a little while afterward.
If I had to give Devourer of Souls any kind of constructive criticism, I’d say that I would have like to have the wraparound tale to have a little more substance to it other than a group of friends sharing the stories. It’s a small thing, really. But let me say that I am a fan. Anything and everything involving the town, I’m in, wholeheartedly. I greatly look forward to the next opportunity to visit, by way of moonlight, the town of Clifton Heights. Look through the mirror, darkly, and beware because not everything is as it seems and sometimes, just sometimes, things slip through. Are you ready to see the sights?
“Ah. Finally, the correct question.”
Overall score: 4.5/ 5
Zakk is a big dumb animal!
**Note: While I received a digital review copy of this book from the publisher, I purchased it from a previous release. Either way,this is an honest review and these are my unbiased feelings.