Written by Bryan Smith
Published by Leisure Books
Sometimes the premise of a novel, when laid out in the simplest possible terms so the readers will be intrigued enough to pick the book up, can be a bit too deceiving and lead to disappointment with the final tale. Such was almost the case with House of Blood, the latest release from Leisure Books. I say “almost” because, at the end of the day, it’s still a damn good book…it’s just not what I was expecting.
House of Blood concerns five friends on their way back from an aborted attempt to recapture their college glory days in Florida. One of the friends, Dream, discovered her boyfriend in some compromising positions with another man, so they beat a quick retreat back to their home of Nashville, with tempers in the car on the way home flaring and everyone at one another’s throats.
Needing a break Dream, also the driver, pulls off the interstate to take a chance to get out and scream for a bit, and things just go from bad to worse from there. One of their friends is brutally killed in the woods near the road, another, Chad, lets out some long-pent up frustrations and wanders off alone, and the remaining three girls quickly realize they’re nowhere near any form of civilization.
They come upon a house, set up against a mountain and ruled by a man who introduces himself as Edward King. In reality, we learn through the congruent tale of another man trying to escape said house, this man is The Master; a creature that is unlike anything else here on earth, who rules his home through torture and fear. The man recognizes Dream as a girl who is unaware of her own power, and he quickly seduces her to try and use to his advantage. Because even though The Master is nearly immortal, his time on our plain is running short, his power is weakening, and he knows his Gods are unhappy with him. He must atone.
Meanwhile, Chad has been picked up and lead into another section of the house…Below. There, he learns of a vast conspiracy to overthrow The Master, and a destiny he never imagined.
So you can see how, after reading the back of the book, which makes it out to be an almost Texas Chainsaw Massacre-esque ordeal, the much larger reality could be a bit…confusing at first.
Smith, however, is simply an amazing writer, with a gift for character insight that makes the people of House of Blood seem so real you feel like you know them by book’s end. His prose is flowing, with a style that indicates intelligence about and empathy for the characters he has created. The initial outline of the plot is so surface-level it’s not even funny, and Smith’s skills as a writer take you deep inside a tale of centuries old evil unlike any I had read before.
One way he has of immersing you in this tragedy is by giving parallel plotlines through the point of view of different characters. While Dream is struggling with the feelings she suddenly has for The Master and her consideration of becoming his queen of torture and death for his remaining time on earth, we follow Chad’s growth from a self-centered prick to a real man, which a purpose and a reason to fight for what he believes. The only plotline that seemed somewhat out of place was that of Eddie, the aforementioned slave who is making his escape at the beginning of the book. He is caught by one of The Master’s Apprentices, who lets him in on the conspiracy as well and basically bangs his brains out for a good portion of the novel’s running time. He really seems to serve little purpose outside of the events that take place in the final act, but Smith makes his side of things no less riveting for their apparent lack of connection with the overall picture.
To summarize, this is a book whose whole is truly more than the sum of its parts, and Smith is a talent to be reckoned with. House of Blood rises above it’s almost generic plot outline to tell a story you’re likely to have no idea the outcome of. Smith has tapped into something original, not to mention created a mythology that could be continued and expanded upon over the course of several books if he choose to do so. However, he strikes me as a talent with too many original ideas floating around to be able to continue coming back to one, but time will tell.
4 out of 5
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