The Sanguinarian Id introduces us to Hael, a child found abandoned and left for dead in the woods outside of an asylum in England in the late 1800s. Taken in by the doctors there, they are fascinated by this little girl who remembers little of her past and appears to be supernaturally resilient and strong. They search for but fail to find anyone who knows who she is, which is completely satisfactory to Dr. Strauss and especially Dr. Mendelson, who run the asylum. They have spent much of their time experimenting and torturing their mostly female patients and have devious plans for Hael as well.
This story combines elements of gothic horror with a journey of self-discovery. Hael doesn’t truly understand what she is, but begins to grasp the truth while doing her best to escape her nightmare existence. Despite her efforts to escape the clutches of the mysterious and purely evil Mendelson, it appears that their destinies are firmly intertwined long term.
The first part of the book takes place in Hael’s childhood years, and the author has given it a strong flavor of gothic horror like we get from the classics of the era: Dracula and Frankenstein. The latter half of the book leaps forward a half century when we are thrust into the middle of World War II Germany, where Hael continues her lifelong quest for redemption and revenge.
The story is intriguing, pulling us deeper into the dark underworld Hael both lives in and tries to make sense of-she has been abused, beaten, terrorized, and violated throughout her life. In turn, she has worked to extract revenge on those who have done this to her and those she cares for, while trying to find some sense of self. She lives both in the real world painted black with despair and misery the Nazi’s have unleashed, and in the supernatural world-a world filled with pure blood and half-blood vampires and other monsters far worse.
This is the author’s first novel and in many ways is an impressive bit of storytelling, especially for someone who is barely into adulthood. The depth of research and understanding it must have taken to develop this world and underworld filled with supernatural characters and creatures must have been substantial. The author has developed a vibrant, bloody, dark, grim world and a character that successfully manages to give the reader someone to both respect and care for, while also fearing them and the dark acts they are capable of doing.
There is a fair bit of tell vs. show in this story and the dialog, at points, is a bit awkward. The main character’s use of the word “bitch” on multiple occasions as an insult to her male enemies in the World War II era felt a bit out of place, though that is a minor complaint. There are some awkward turns of phrase here and there while some of the story transitions are abrupt. We go from knowing little to nothing about the monsters that inhabit this world early on in the story, to Kael having extensive knowledge of them later on. We did not get to join her on that journey of discovery and it felt a bit like an opportunity lost.
Despite these quibbles, this is a strong first entry in this potential series of books and a very promising start to the career of the author, who will continue to refine her writing style and sharpen the dialog with the more stories she creates. Her foundation in storytelling is solid and I look forward to seeing more from L.M. Labat in the future.
The Sanguinarian Id can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Sanguinarian-Id-L-M-Labat/dp/1937769445/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=
The Cold Beneath is a tale of doomed high adventure, written from the perspective of the last survivor of a journey, sharing what came to pass in his diary shortly before he plans on willingly embracing his own death at the hands of the tormented crew who traveled with him.
Philip Syntax is a British inventor who has relegated himself to the American south in the latter half of the nineteenth century as a form of self-imposed exile after an invention of his was credited to his former mentor. Arriving at his estate with a proposal for a great journey is Gideon Lightbridge, a former U.S. Colonel and a great explorer who has need of Philip because he is using the very invention Philip had stolen from him years before-a pair clockwork legs that serve the amputee better than his original ones did. Lightbridge wants Philip to maintain the legs in sub-zero temperatures because he plans being the first explorer to make it to the North Pole. They will be traveling in a helium Airship called The Northern Fancy.
Philip regales the reader with the story of his journey, leading up to his ultimate fate at the hands of the crew who were possessed by a strange and nightmarish sickness in the Arctic Northern extremes.
The Cold Beneath is a very entertaining steam punk tale tinged with the flavor of a seaborne mystery. While the crew guides the ship upon the air, it felt almost as if they were on the high seas, though the seas in this book are the frozen wastes of the far north. This is a zombie tale, and much of the fun of this story lies in the creative usage of the undead here, which are blue tinged nightmares that are somewhat Frankenstein-ish in appearance and actions. This is also classic Gothic type horror told in diary form. It would be easy to imagine this story being turned into an old Hammer classic, with devious deeds and plenty of dark mysteries afoot throughout. There is also romance in this story, though even that is intriguing and riddled with twists and turns. The author blends all these different styles together flawlessly and makes them all fit together nicely.
Tonia Brown has created a terrific voice for her narrator that puts the reader in the story and made me appreciate every crisp detail as it is revealed. Philip Syntax is a thoroughly realized character, as are the other members of the crew of The Northern Fancy who play a major part in this tale such as Lightbridge, Albert, the Chief Mechanic, and Geraldine Goode, a former flame of Philip’s and the doctor on board the air ship.
If there is any sort of failing with this tale, perhaps it lies within the diary format. By nature, things are revealed in advance of a full description and the reader knows things, such as the ultimate fate of the crew from the very beginning. Still, surprises abound and as with any good mystery, I found myself guessing at the answers that reveal themselves in a highly satisfactory way within the last few pages of the book.
The Cold Beneath is a great bet for anyone who enjoys Gothic horror, mysteries, steam punk, or intense zombie action. The characters are colorful, the pace is excellent, and the undead are some of the creepiest I’ve seen in quite some time.
The Cold Beneath can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Cold-Beneath-steampunk-zombie-ebook/dp/B0086VRXY6/ref=sr_1_4?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1338389299&sr=1-4