After my review of Tales from The Crucible, Aconyte reached out to set me up with a new copy of Wrath if N’Kai by Josh Reynolds.
So here are some disclaimers which are always important to put out there first. I am a friend of Josh on Facebook, and whilst we aren’t beat buds, we do interact with each other and I consider him a class person, and I have very much enjoyed his work with Black Library.
Secondly I have a casual work contact with Asmodee to demonstrate board games for them in stores and at conventions. Asmodee being the parent company of Aconyte the publisher.
I am going to try my best to not let these things cloud my judgement in this review, but I accept that subconsciously it might.
So Arkham Horror is not a game I have actually played, I fancy it, but me and the Cthulhu mythos have never been quite on the same wavelength.
I have never read any H.P. Lovecraft books, my first exposure to them was at a small convention in London when I was about 12, it was actually a convention for Corps of Drums, not even speculative fiction.
Basically an older chap was reading a book and it lead into a discussion lead by a BAME person about the issues of racism in his work, and even the chap reading the book was pretty clear that there was some nasty racism in some of his work.
As I said I have never read any, that discussion put me off, but I have read stuff by other authors, never a novel, usually short stories and played games set in the mythos. I have so many Cthulhu expansions for games that one would think I am a huge fan.
I can play all of Munchkin Cthulhu, get all the references and jokes, but as I said never read a single Lovecraft story.
It’s a gap in my knowledge that I am actually going to try and fill, I was recently gifted an audiobook of the complete fiction of Lovecraft, so am considering giving that a listen, but I will admit the racism is something that I will be on edge about.
What is Arkham Horror
Anyway that put to one side, let’s look at this book, by first looking at the game Arkham Horror which is a cooperative game, originally designed by Richard Launius, and is now in its third edition which was released in 2019.
It’s published by Fantasy Flight Games, a subsidiary of Asmodee, and is set in 1926 in the town of Arkham, Massachusetts. Each player takes on the role of an investigator, who are working to stop the Ancient Ones, eldritch horrors which lurk in the void beyond space and time.
It’s a 1-6 player game and you work together to gather clues and defeat the evil of the Ancient Ones and save the world.
As I said I haven’t actually played Arkham Horror but I do own its spin off Elder Sign the cooperative dice game.
It’s a 1920 whodunit told mostly from the perspective of master thief Countess Alessandra Zorzi who arrives in the town of Arkham, hired by a mysterious cabal to steal a newly discovered mummy.
The eldritch prologue sets you up for some occult horror, but the book largely steered clear of that, which given that the protagonist is not that familiar with the intricacies of the occult makes sense.
The setting is deep and rich, with gangsters and bootleggers, all speaking with 1920s US slang. It’s a real atmospheric period piece that evokes the days of prohibition, with just a hint of eldritch terror and added tommy guns.
Alessandra herself is a very three dimensional character and extremely well developed beyond the trope of the aristocratic thief. We see her backstory teased out over the book, learning more about her as we go though, and as I said, she is more than just the trope.
Her driver Pepper was actually my favourite character in the story, they have their own secret, although this is revealed early on. They are full of spunk and as mentioned by a gangster they deal with, moxie.
It’s a really fast paced book, that I literally devoured over two sittings, one that got me 20% of the way in and the rest in an evening that kept me reading until 3am! I was just utterly drawn in by the story with its twists and turns.
As I said I haven’t played Arkham Horror, but I have played Elder Sign and I recognised lots of elements of that games story mechanics in this book.
And given my surface knowledge of Lovecrafts work, I did recognise a few little nods to those within the story that will please those who are more familiar.
There is a bit of a creep factor in there, and there were certainly bits that had my skin crawling just a little, but not so much to put me off. It’s very light in terms of horror, which makes it very accessible.
Personally I loved this book, it was a throughly enjoyable story which whilst grounded in the Cthulhu mythos, did not delve into it too deeply, nor did it require me to have more than passing knowledge.
In fact I think if a layperson was to pick up this book and read it, they would get on with it perfectly fine without knowing a thing about the mythos.
This book was great and for me it was a fantastic read. I particularly enjoyed a strong female protagonist who at no point needed any romantic entanglements, and the pulpy 1920s nature of the story was just delightful.
I really hope that the countess and Pepper return to Arkham for some more adventures, this is kind of hinted at, but please Josh, do it!
- Mood:- Shattered
- Caffeinated Beverages Consumed:- 8
- In My Ears:- Uma Thurman by Fall Out Boy
- Game Last Played:- Codenames Pictures
- Book Last Read:- Wrath of N’Kai by Josh Reynolds
- Movie/TV Show Last Watched:- Treadstone
- Current State of Projects:- Furies 50% done, Sigmarite Mausoleum started, Dreadblade Harrows steeds about 15% done