Reviewed by Johnny Butane
Written by Nate Kenyon
Published by Leisure Books
Debut novels are always a tricky thing, and I envy no one who has to get their first book out of their system. You have no voice yet, no real history to potential readers; in a way you’re a blank slate, but instead of being written upon, you’re going to be written about once the public gets their eyes on your tale.
Nate Kenyon wrote Bloodstone a few years back and has spent a lot of time since then trying to get it out to as many people as he could during its original small-press run. Eventually he hooked up with Leisure, purveyors of mass market horror books, and found a good way to get this great story in front of as many eyes as possible.
Bloodstone follows a tortured man, Billy Smith, who kidnaps a woman that looks exactly like a girl he’s been dreaming endlessly about for months, seeing her face everywhere he looks. Billy’s a drifter, never really having a home, but once he finds this girl, Angel, he realizes he is meant for one particular place, and she’s meant to come with him.
That place is White Falls, Maine, a small town with a dark history that’s never discussed by its denizens, most of the residents believing the worst the town will see is over now that the murderous Ronnie Taylor has been locked up for over a decade. Little do they know that Ronnie’s angst-ridden, alcoholic son Jeb is ready to follow in his father’s footsteps, down to donning the titular amulet that causes all sorts of problems for anyone who comes in contact with it.
Soon Angel and Billy arrive in White Falls, knowing their journey is at an end because the horrible visions that (they discover early on) have been plaguing them both have lessened the closer they get. They know they’ve been drawn here, but the reasons for it are beyond them both. The best they can do is start looking into the local history and trying to figure out how they’re both connected to the town and its horrific past.
The first thing that struck me about Bloodstone that sets it apart from most horror books I’ve been reading recently is that all of our main characters come to the story dealing with some pretty terrible things from their past; Billy spent ten years in jail for killing a woman and her two children while driving drunk, Angel was a junkie whore on the beaches of Miami when Billy met her, and Jeb’s felt as if the entire world was out to get him ever since witnessing his father brutally murder his mother in front of his own eyes. These are characters who have done some very bad things in their time and are still paying for it, so the role they will play in the fate of White Falls is never assured because we’re given the impression that at any time, one of these three can snap and do horrible things.
That’s a refreshing change from characters that start out normal and are thrust into a horrible situation; these leads have been expecting something bad to happen to them most of their lives.
This allows Bloodstone to start out very ominous and never really let up on that atmosphere, which is important when you want to make sure your readers are always on edge. Kenyon manages to build this tension throughout the book in a very natural way and shows the storytelling skills of someone who’s been at it a lot longer than he actually has.
Not that Bloodstone is a perfect novel; there are still some logic gaps and a bit of a sappy romance (though one with a very uncomfortable payoff). Hell, Kenyon manages to put in one of my most hated clichés in horror novels: characters going to the local library or historical society to learn more about the creepy town they find themselves in. I don’t care how necessary it is; that just bugs the hell out of me.
But the positives of Bloodstone — the solid story, three-dimensional characters, well-placed gore — outweigh the book’s negatives, most of which can be chalked up to the simple fact that hey, it’s the guy’s first book.
Check out Bloodstone for a strong debut novel and look for more from Kenyon very soon. You can also hear him read a snippet from the book in his “>Dreadtime Story!
3 1/2 out of 5
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