When I first started The Bearded Scribe in 2012, Elizabeth pointed me to a website, called NetGalley, where I could obtain Advance Reader Copies directly from publishers. I occasionally receive emails alerting me of titles in which I might be interested, and last month one such email landed in my inbox.
Most of the titles didn't capture my interest; none, really, save one: a new horror. Although I am not much for the gory side of horror, I do enjoy a well-written scary tale and the darker side of fantasy. Mix in a bit of divine intervention and some paranormal flavoring, and you have a chilling recipe for a delectable ghoul-ash...
That is the case of the today's Book Spotlight, Mirror of the Nameless by Luke Walker.
Three gods rule over Dave Anderson's world, but theirs isn't a peaceful reign. They're not you're typical deities, either, and Dave goes through each day much like everyone else around him: idly, accepting the Hell in which he now lives, and hoping he's not chosen as the next sacrifice.
But his daughter, Ashleigh, doesn't live life so idly, and she's determined to find a way to end the terrifying reign of the three monster gods. She believes she's discovered clues in the writings of a nobody author, ones which point to a weapon that could free the world from the terror in which its forced to exist.
Dave joins Ashleigh's boyfriend, Tom, in search of the same clues in order to find his daughter before the authorities and three vengeful gods do.
Gems for Writers:
Metaphor & Sociopolitical Commentary. I originally chose World Building as the title of this Gem, but changed it halfway through writing its description. The world presented in Luke Walker's novel is beautifully—albeit disturbingly—created; it's a world which I hope I will never see. It's horrific and down-right frightening, and it's not just the three monstrous gods that rule over it. The reality of it, despite the fantastical elements, is the scariest aspect of them all.
Perhaps I'm reading into the plotline a bit, but I sensed a metaphorical theme resonating throughout the book. The three gods—abominations, really—that have claimed authority over the world seem to represent more than just deities to be feared. The 'true' god has been forgotten; it even remains nameless to hammer in this point. The new 'gods' have replaced the old one, and they have been so accepted by the world that some even offer themselves as sacrifices to them.
This is obviously just my interpretation of Walker's story, and I could be blatantly wrong, but I got the impression that Walker was using the gods to represent sins ever-present in today's society: gluttony, greed, and sloth. He even goes as far as incorporating the political and militaristic structure into the mix, and how their involvement is to ensure that these gods—sins—are readily fed, much like today's capitalistic oligarchy.
Description. Walker's descriptions of a quasi-dystopian England sets the stage for the book. He does as excellent of a job describing the derelict state of the cityscape and countryside as he does with sustaining the readers of certain descriptions until the moment is upon them. A prime example of this is with the three gods. The readers are not told exactly what the gods look like until it is relevant; instead, Walker describes the effects these gods have on the setting and the people within it when they are near or present—every blood-curdling detail.
POV & Narrative. I haven't read many titles in which the author uses the First Person POV to tell the story (Joseph Nassise does a wonderful job of this in his Jeremiah Hunt Chronicles), but this is the first one I've read in which the author has ONLY used it.
The tale is told from the POV of Dave Anderson and Dave Anderson only. By doing this, every single word comes directly from one person; we never get inside the heads of any other character, but that doesn't mean we do not get to know any of them, either.
The author uses a lot of specific dialect and grammar so that we really get a feel for the narrator. We begin to really get inside Dave's head, and we can almost sense what he is about to say or do because we get to know him so well. Normally I'm not a fan of the overabundance of "dialect" in narrative, but Walker does a wonderful job with it.
Pebbles to Polish:
Weak Characterization. Although Walker does a wonderful job with Dave Anderson's character, the character of Tom (the boyfriend of Dave's daughter, Ashleigh) lacks a bit. This might be due to the POV, but I'm not sure. We are told how Tom feels, how he acts, and how he reacts, all from the POV of Dave; we never truly get inside Tom's head, and for this reason, some of Tom's characterizations seem very out of character. For example, his attitude toward Dave after one of the tragic events is a bit off; he stands up for himself, and he is angry, caustic, and resentful. Yet, in the next scene, Tom backs down and is submissive toward Dave when there is no reason for him to do so. This is the scene where he should have stood up to his girlfriend's father.
Tacked-On Ending. The ending, for me, was where this story lacked. I was waiting for an explosion, and all I got was a fizzle. On top of this disappointment, it felt like the author didn't know where to go with the plot and decided to write the most unpredicted one possible just to be unpredictable. I understand that not all stories have happy endings—as this is a horror, I wouldn't expect one. But sometimes predictable and insightful are more powerful and explosive than a twist-ending.
I struggled with this rating because I thoroughly enjoyed the book; from start to finish, it only took me a combined five-or-so hours. It was very well-written: the pacing was awesome, the action scenes were amazingly executed (with a few nice surprises), and the details presented perfectly creeped me out enough to keep turning the pages (well, flicking through them on my Kindle).
The ending, as I said above, was weak; it is why I can only give this 3.5 stars. Walker writes beautifully, but it was reading his prose—poetry, even, at times—only to suffer the ending that warranted the lower rating. Had it been better executed, I would have given this title the 4 or 4.5 this writing deserves.
Embrace the Darkness,
***Mirror of the Nameless (2013), by Luke Walker, is published by and copyright DarkFuse. It is available in stores, online (see above), and from your local public library.
***Per FTC Regulations: I received a free Advance Reading Copy (ARC) from the author/publisher and was not compensated in any way, monetarily or otherwise, for this review.