Zakk reviews Hunter of the Dead by Stephen Kozeniewski

“Ex Libris The Eyes of Madness, simple and honest reviews from a simple reader…”


Zakk reviews Hunter of the Dead by Stephen Kozeniewski, 402 pages published by Sinister Grin Press (August 14, 2016)

“His face was hewn from marble, expressionless, and he had one ruined eye. A scar stretched from his forehead to next to his nose, and the eye which had suffered the scratch was red throughout and useless. 

His good eye, though, was the more terrifying of the two. It bore witness to the coldness of nearly a thousand winters. His bad eye suggested he had been wrong once. His remaining orb suggested it would never happen again.”

Synopsis

Someone has begun targeting vampires.

Vampire leaders of the thirteen Houses attribute the string of recent losses to over-zealous vampire hunters. Only Cicatrice, the most ancient and powerful vampire in the world, suspects that the semi-legendary Hunter of the Dead may be the real culprit.

Carter Price, a vampire hunter who despises the way his profession is becoming centralized and corporatized, begins to suspect the Hunter of the Dead is back, too – and no longer distinguishing between vampires and mortals. Against his better judgment, Price agrees to work with Cicatrice.

The uneasy allies attempt to uncover the truth about the Hunter, while a vampire civil war brews in the background. But perhaps most difficult of all, they must contend with their new apprentices, who seem to be falling in love with each other against every rule of man and monster…

“It suddenly struck Nico what was off about the funeral. Machetes dangled at sides, every suit pocket seemed to bulge with a weapon, and wooden stakes seemed to make up disproportionate amounts of ensembles. The mourners were all loaded for bear, like Price. Even Bonaparte wore steel strapped to her side.”

First Thoughts (judging the book by it’s cover)

First off, I haven’t yet had the opportunity to digest a Stephen Kozeniewski read. He comes highly respected and recommended, and taking on an author new-to-me is always exciting. Secondly, the synopsis is solid and intriguing, this book definitely has my interest piqued.

Most importantly, holy shit look at that cover! It looks like it’d fit on an AMAZING 80’s thrash metal album cover. Crank it to eleven and let’s ride!

“Price took a long swig from his flask and passed it to Nico. Nico stared at the inscription on the flask. It read, Exurge domine et judica causum tuam. Something about God judging something.”

Final Impressions (judging the book by it’s content)

Man I really wanted to be into this book, more so than I actually was. Don’t get me wrong, Hunter of the Dead is not a bad read, and I’m positive that I am in the minority here, but I was just not able to fully connect with it. Which is a bit of a bummer considering how stoked I was to read it after seeing the phenomenal cover art.

After an awesome opening chapter featuring the title character ripping through some victims in spectacular fashion things settle down a bit as we are introduced to this universe, a universe on vampire political intrigue and clan warfare. It’s an interesting dynamic played out by a cast of unsavory, but glorious creatures.

Stephen is a great writer and here he crafts a solid horror/ dark fantasy narrative ripe with some solid dialog. Those who know me know that my biggest peeve is clunky, quagmire dialog. It’s the fastest way to lose my interest. In Hunter of the Dead, the cast interacts in a believable manner with grounded relevant dialog. It really is a big deal, supporting the tale rater than bogging it down (or trying to outshine it, rather). The story being told in HotD kept me involved and the cast by and large is captivating, although I never fully developed a bond with any one character in particular. Carter Price, the somewhat disenchanted vampire hunter came the closest to catching my fancy. He has this “blue jeans and mechanic shirt” vibe going, like the everyman vampire hunter, that I dug. and his interactions/ arc with Nico, a young man caught in the fray, an apprentice by happenstance, is entertaining.

The aspect that took the wind out of my sails was the title character, I guess more accurately the lack of the title character, the much ballyhooed Hunter of the Dead. This wraith comes off as more Deus Ex Machina, less mythical savior. A large bulk of the book is spent with characters worried about, arguing the existance of, and plotting against the Hunter, it’s built up so much that the rare appearances feel deflated and forced, at the same time overshadowing the more gratifying, and pleasantly gruesome altercations. I may have missed a little nuance of the character, but I felt the Hunter to be a letdown. Take the Hunter out of the book and I fell that there would be a far more captivating and fluid read. This book feels like it is a portion of a much larger tale, and if there were to be more releases set within this world  I would be more than interested in delving a little deeper, especially if it develops the mythos of the Hunter a bit further.

Mr. Kozeniewski, I will be back to read another of your books. I’m convinced that you are going to knock my socks off with something, I can feel this. And while there’s plenty here that taps into what makes me tick as a reader, unfortunately Hunter of the Dead just wasn’t quite the one to do it.

Recommendation/ Overall Score

Scope out the free preview, see if it speaks to you. If it does, which I think it may very well do so, then by all means check it out. I definitely think that there is something here to appease any fan of dark fiction/ fantasy.

Zakk is a big dumb animal!

**Note: I was offered a complimentary copy of this book from the author and/ or publisher. I am reviewing it voluntarily. These are my honest, unbiased feelings. I did not receive any sort of compensation.


Stephen Kozeniewski, Biography

Stephen Kozeniewski (pronounced “causin’ ooze key”) lives in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded

the Bronze Star. He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s degree is in German.

Praise for Kozeniewski

“I have never enjoyed a writer’s writing as much as I have with Stephen Kozeniewski. I cannot wait to get my hands on HUNTER OF THE DEAD!”

– Phillip Tomasso, author of the VACCINATION series

“Kozeniewski is a rich voice that booms over his peers. I am coming to think of him as the closest thing to the reincarnation or spiritual successor of Ray Bradbury.”

– David Sharp, Horror Underground (now Cinema Bluster)

“Kozeniewski never fails to entertain with his bizarre and cavernous stories.”

– K.P. Ambroziak, author of A PERPETUAL MIMICRY

“I don’t know how he does it, but every one of Kozeniewski’s books offers something totally unique and compelling to the reader.”

– Sharon Stevenson, author of the RAISED and GALLOWS series

“As many people know by now, I am a fan of Kozeniewski, maybe even a bit of a fangirl…It doesn’t matter to me what he is writing, I will read it.”

– Sheilah Randall, Cellar Door Book Reviews

“I’m not usually a standalone novelist sort of fellow but a friend of mine asked me who I thought was the best standalone novelist I read in independent fiction…after a long time, I decided the answer was Stephen Kozeniewski.”

– C.T. Phipps, author of the SUPERVILLAINY SAGA

“What I love most about Kozy’s work is that they’re unique…It’s something fresh and new every time.”

– Shawn Remfrey, Literary Litter


Purchase Links

Amazon

Find Hunter of the Dead and more great horror titles for any taste at the Sinister Grin Press site. Horror That’ll Carve a Smile on Your Face!

Also available in paperback!


Media? Wish to Feature?

If you are a member of the media or a blogger that wishes to review Hunter of the Dead, or feature Stephen, contact Erin Al-Mehairi, publicity and marketing, Sinister Grin Press, at hookofabook(at)hotmail(dot)com.

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