I have been provided with an advance copy of the new Arkham Horror book In the Coils of the Labyrinth by David Annadale, 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.
In this story we find Professor Miranda Ventham, seriously ill with TB as she books herself into the Stroud Institute, a new sanatorium with a new modern way to treat the disease and heal the patients of Arkham.
But dreams, bad dreams plague Miranda, and she cannot quite shake the feeling that something is wrong, deeply wrong with the Stroud Institute, especially with its mysterious director, Donovan Stroud.
With help from her friend, the parapsycholist Agatha Crane, they work to unravel the mystery of the Stroud Institute, in an investigation that takes them from Arkham, to Scotland and into the heart of the mysterious labyrinth, and the sinister secrets it holds, that is longing to be set free.
This is a subtle book, there aren’t many cultists or monsters as with most Arkham Horror books, but a look at the blurring between dreams and reality with a smattering of Romantic poetry and a look at 1920s health care.
I have been very critical in the past of David Annadales books, but I must admit his Arkham Horror stuff is very good, in fact its probably his strongest stuff and this shows off what he does well, brilliantly. Its a subtle type of horror, almost insidious and it feels like its getting under your skin.
For me this book feels like an idea way to get into the Arkham Horror series, its not too in depth, but touches on and introduces key concepts in the series and the wider Lovecraft mythos is a way that is very apporachable.
The protagonists are really rather good, and I hope to see their further adventures in the future.
One negative, that very nearly had me give up right at the beginning, the prologue is set in Scotland and the local priest is involved, and the locals refer to him as a Vicar, and that annoyed me, because there is not a chance in hell a Scotsman in any day or age will use that word for a priest, and it did destroy any chance of immersion in that prologue and made me feel like the book was going to have been very poorly researched. It just felt lazy, so please rectify that for the next printing, that needs changing to minister, or rector.
But the thing is, the book is incredible well researched, I found myself checking things about the treatment of TB and yeah, they really did stuff like that, so gah, why do I let myself get obsessed over little things like that!
Regardless of that tiny issue, I really loved this book, incredibly good story and its so well written and flows really well.
4 out of 5 stars!
In the Coils of the Labyrinth is out now as a paperback, eBook or audiobook!