Written by T. G. Arsenault
Published by Five Star Press
Drive past an old cemetery and look at the stones. Some might have flowers beside them, but the rest seem empty and alone, those interred beneath them quiet and forgotten. In T. G. Arsenault’s book Forgotten Souls, the dead do not rest, as those forgotten are fodder in an evil scheme by the devil himself.
The story centers around a librarian named Andrea, who has the curious ability to speak to the dead. Holding the chipped pieces of their gravestones, she listens to their life (and death) stories. Into her life comes a young boy named Darren with similar talents. Over the course of three chapters, the boy ages eight years, graduates high school, and discovers he has no real ambition. The librarian convinces the boy to go with her on a road trip, visiting cemeteries and the forgotten souls that lay within them. Pushed along by cryptic warnings about an impending invasion from hell, the two set off on a mission to save the world.
While Arsenault’s premise has promise, the execution leaves much to be desired. Through the first third of the book, the plot moves at a snail’s pace. It hints at horrific things to come but never truly delivers. It also includes examples of broad clichés. From the devil with slicked back hair and a goatee to the Norman Bates-like innkeeper, there are many elements that take away from the story. Added in are a few scenes that seem out of place in the story, and what comes out is a book that is, at times, difficult to read.
That is not to say the story is all bad. There are some genuine moments of fright provided by flashes from the netherworld and the pits of hell into the two main characters’ minds. Arsenault also has a gift for description, as is evidenced by the creatures that climb from under the ground to wreak havoc on the earth. Reading his description of the creatures without skin is enough to give most readers a bad case of the chills.
While not without merit, Forgotten Souls misses the mark of horror. Though there are a few moments that can cause a genuine thrill, more are moments of tedium that distract from the book’s central message, that the dead should never be forgotten.
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