Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Bryan Smith
Published by Leisure Books
It’s been nearly four years since Bryan Smith came on the horror scene with his impressive debut novel, “>House of Blood (review). Like all good things in this genre, a sequel was inevitable; unlike most things in this genre, I’m happy to say that Queen of Blood is at least as good as, if not better than, its predecessor.
It’s about the same amount of time in the book when we rejoin the survivors of the House. Dream Weaver has married and quickly divorced Chad (also from the first book) and is now learning about some very scary new abilities she has. Chad, for his part, has moved on and is now making a life with a new girl, Alyson, whom he knows very little about.
The events at the House of Blood made national news at the time, but now their 15 minutes in the limelight have faded, and each are really facing down their own issues. Dream’s been going hard and strong on the liquor to try and keep her demons at bay, something she realizes she’s failing miserably at when the resurrected corpse of her former best friend, Alicia, shows up out of nowhere, still sporting the wounds that killed her and rotting away but very much alive thanks to Dream. She tells the girl that there’s a new House run by a new master, Ms. Wickman, once a close apprentice of The Master who was instrumental in his overthrow at the end of the first book.
Meanwhile, Chad is reunited with his former mentor from when he was trapped in the House, a man named Lazarus by the press but known to his friends as Jim. I’m not going to say anything outright, since Smith never does, but it’s pretty clear this guy is a long-thought-dead rock star of a very famous band…
As soon as Jim shows up, Alyson makes a call, and pretty soon all their lives are turned upside down. Meanwhile at the new House of Blood, the balance of power is shifting left and right, from one hot woman to the next (the death of Ms. Wickman has to be read to be believed), Dream has gathered some cronies who are making their way to the House to do some serious damage, and things are unraveling quickly all over. And seriously, that’s not even scratching the surface of all the things going down in Queen either. It’s a fucked-up, crazy ride.
Queen of Blood is a great follow-up to House, taking all the elements that worked so well in the first book and ramping them up. Not just the gore or the violence, though there’s plenty of both, but the characterizations Smith is so adept at as well. He has weaved a very intricate tale with multiple levels of deception and sadism and managed to have it all make sense and be a helluva lot of fun at the same time. No easy task, I’m sure.
For example, whereas the first book started off somewhat normal and took a fantastical turn early on, since we’re already in that world, there’s the darkest magic going down from Page One. One of the usurpers to The Master’s throne decides to build a city outside the walls of the house, which from the outside looks like a ramshackle hut but inside is huge and leads to an alien landscape. The city is built on atrocities to keep the Death Gods happy, so between sexual and physical punishment, Smith is able to get what I’m sure were some nasty demons out of his head and onto the page, though never in any way that actually horrified too much; something about his writing style made it almost easy to read about these horrible things being done to others. Of course, that could just be me…
The only drawback I would give Queen of Blood is that you really have to read the first book to understand this one. Not to enjoy it, mind you, but to get who these characters are to one another. I hadn’t read House since it was first published so I was confused at times myself. Not that it’s a bad thing to read House of Blood, though; it’s an excellent book.
I’m glad to see Smith followed up so well on “>The Freakshow (review), his last Leisure publication, and is only improving as an author as he goes along. Hopefully we’ll just keep seeing more and more of him in the coming months. Those of you really hungry for a fun, gory, fast-paced, true horror novel will want to pick up Queen of Blood ASAP.
4 1/2 out of 5
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