Tag: Cthulhu Mythos

Mask of Silver

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Arkham Horror book Mask of Silver by Rosemary Jones, published by Aconyte Books, so here is the honest review I promised in exchange for the book.

So here is an important disclaimer which is always important to put out there first. 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 that cloud my judgement in this review, but I accept that subconsciously it might.

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 Signthe cooperative dice game.

The Story

Like the rest of the Arkham Horror novels, its set in the 1920s specifically 1923 and sees a silent movie being produced in the town of Arkham by horror director Sydney Fitzmaurice (who in my head is Nathan Lane, not sure why, just is).

His costume designer Jeany Lin is the protagonist, and her sister Renee Love is Sydney’s muse and star. Sydney has relocated his company to his home town of Arkham where he is going to film a movie filled with thrills and the occult that will make a fortune for the studio and perhaps a lot more.

The story is a very slow burner, with the majority of the book being character development and just sight hints at the horror to come.

There is a lot of background on the production of silent movies, which in itself is fascinating, you can really tell that Jones has done her research and the book is grounded in realty, which makes it all the more creepy.

As things go wrong and the behaviour of Sydney just isn’t right Jeany investigates his past to discover what is going on in the mansion, why people are being hurt during the production and why does the silver mask haunt her dreams.

Conclusion

This is a slow paced book, but it’s deliberate and thoughtful, a very clever plot that is woven together so very well.

The main characters are well rounded, and extremely believable, the background players less so, but there is enough there that they aren’t just window dressing.

Arkham itself doesn’t my really feature too much as the story is set mostly in the Fitzmaurice mansion on French Hill, with the occasional trip to a nearby diner.

But there is a truly creepy atmosphere in the story, and it makes your skin crawl just a little bit.

Jeany is a wonderful protagonist and she offers a real insight into the contribution of Chinese-Americans to early cinema, a contribution that Jones suggests you read up in the notes after the story.

The end in a way felt rushed, but in many ways was not at all, it’s quite old fashioned in that the book builds up the story and characters so that you care about them, and then concludes quite explosively!

This was a book that I really really enjoyed and it’s a shame it took me so long to read it, but I really do highly recommend it.

A solid 5 stars from me!


The eBook and paperback are out now!


Litany of Dreams

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Arkham Horror book Litany of Dreams by Ari Marmell, published by Aconyte Books, so here is the honest review I promised in exchange for the book.

So here is an important disclaimer which is always important to put out there first. 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 that cloud my judgement in this review, but I accept that subconsciously it might.

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.

The Story

Like the rest of the Arkham Horror novels, its set in the 1920s and in this case revolves around the disappearance of a gifted young student at Miskatonic University as his roommate searches high and low in his friends research for clues to his disappearance, and at the same time struggles against a litany that’s ceaseless in his mind and threatening to drive him into insanity.

The search takes on a new twist when an Inuit search for a stolen relic of his people crosses paths with him, and they find themselves joining forces to get to the bottom of the mystery and unearth a terrifying and ancient horror.

We get to delve a bit deeper into the lore of the Cthulhu mythos in this book than any of the others so far, and we have a very well rounded plot with characters with various motivations joining forces to prevent an apocalyptic event overtaking the world.

Mostly focusing on Elliot and Billy, the story is almost a mismatched buddy novel, crossed with mild horror and a bit of pulp detective thrown in for good measure.

Conclusion

The book was a very enjoyable read and a real page turner, the two main protagonists were very well developed and had just enough of a backstory to keep you interested, but without delving into too much. The motivation of Elliot, felt a little obvious, but when revealed is still highly dramatic and heartbreaking.

Billy seemed a little, well not obvious as to his background, its talked about a lot, the racism he experiences is subtle and all the more awful for that, but his background didn’t come through enough for me, I would have liked to have had this explored a bit more, but he was a very cool character.

Now I do have a negative thing to say, and that is that the female characters felt a tad underserved, we have two, strong and dynamic women in this book, and I felt that none of them got the service they deserved.

The main female character ups and leaves the group in the last quarter of the book and isn’t heard from again, so we have no idea how the events impacted her, or how she dealt with what happened. She didn’t even get in the epilogue and for me that wasn’t good at all.

The other main female character meets a tragic end, and it makes sense for her, what happens to her in the story makes what happens to her in the end seem logical, but with the dropping of the other character from the plot, I dunno, it just didn’t feel the same after I put the book down.

But regardless of this annoyance for me, the book was highly enjoyable and one I read in what felt like record time. The horror is initially slow and building, until the middle of the book when it becomes very real, some of it being almost post-apocalyptic in nature, and some feeling all too close to how things are in the world right now.

Would I recommend this book, yes, absolutely, its a solid 4.5 out of 5 for me, and to be honest had the epilogue resolved that one characters story arc, it would have been a 5.

The eBook is released on the 13th April and the paperback hits the shelves on 24th June.


The Last Ritual

I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Arkham Horror book The Last Ritual by S. A Sidor, published by Aconyte Books, so here is the honest review I promised in exchange for the book.

So here is an important disclaimer which is always important to put out there first. 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 that cloud my judgement in this review, but I accept that subconsciously it might.

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.

The Story

It’s a 1920s novel as an aspiring artist in the town of Arkham as he tried to piece together the puzzle of several very odd occurrences along with his love interest a talented young writer.

Like the previous novel Wrath of N’kai, which I reviewed earlier this year, it has a very rich setting, and there are subtle crossovers as characters common to the setting get a mention.

But we run across bootleggers, odd job men, butlers, privileged rich kids and impoverished artists, as well as the main antagonist, a renowned Spanish surrealists who wishes to open the gate.

On Goodreads I saw an excellent comment by Taylor Hanson, this book is “Lovecraft meets The Great Gatsby”, and that is as good a term I can think of.

The story is told retrospectively as Alden, our protagonist recites the tale to a young reporter, so there is a lot of foreshadowing to a disaster that left him disfigured and scarred.

The book is much slower and quietier than Wrath oif N’kai, but its suitably unsettling, there is an almost blurring of the lines between the possible, and the impossible, between dreams and waking. The creeping dread of the story is very tangible and when finished with it after a session, I felt a discomfort in my mind.

Conclusion

Personally I really enjoyed the book, it was a creepy, yet enjoyable story which whilst grounded in the Cthulhu mythos, like the Wrath of N’kai did not delve into it too deeply, nor did it require me to have more than passing knowledge.

Normally, I don’t go for horror, and this one nicely doesn’t dwell too much on gore, but its absolutely there but mostly happens off screen.

The conclusion felt like it came too quickly, and I did find his efforts to find a missing person in the last couple of chapters, a little lacklustre considering what they meant to Alden.

I would recommend this book, its certainly an entertaining read and does get the heart pumping.


Wrath of N’Kai

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.

The Story

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.

Conclusion

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!


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