Bonus Book Review Saturday–woot! Today’s masterpiece is the ONLY book I have reviewed that I can honestly say deserves a five-star rating. Considering how picky I am, this is a MAJOR feat!

 

The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree

After coming home from a stint in Afghanistan, veteran Ross Brigham learns that his father has passed away. Dearly departed Dad was a famous fantasy novelist, and the 300 fans that show up for the funeral demand that Ross finish E. R. Brigham’s long-running magnum opus.

Ross and two of the author’s devotees investigate his untimely death and discover that he might have been murdered…and the time-bending gunslingers of Dad’s steampunk novels might be real.

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My Review: 5 Stars

The intro to the book took a few pages to get me hooked, but once I was interested, it held my attention for the majority of the book. There few a few parts that bored me, but overall the story was VERY solid.

The writing style was very enjoyable. It was one of those books that intrigued me so much I forgot that I was supposed to be reviewing it. I found almost no typos, no grammatical mistakes, and no errors. All in all, it got about 99% in terms of writing style!

I LOVED how the writer creates the two stories at the same time. First, there’s the story of the main character–Ross. Then he creates the story of this other world, Destin, and the Dark Tower-esque characters that live there. The story within a story was highly enjoyable.

The real-world setting was excellent, and the characters had my interest all the way up until they traveled to the other world. Once they get to the new world, the book started to lose my interest.

The new world was a bit hard to follow, as the writer didn’t quite set it up as in-depth as he could have. The world-building in this book was lacking a bit. It was almost as if we were supposed to have read the novels mentioned in the book, so we should know what the world is like. I found it a bit hard to enjoy it once they reached the new world, as I didn’t really get much of a sense of the overall world.

What really stuck in my craw was the book’s climax, or what should have been the climax. There’s a lot of dramatic tension building up to this big moment, but that moment is set about 75% of the way into the book. The last 25% of the book are slow–a huge letdown considering the buildup of the rest of the book. The characters spend their time training, learning new things, and basically living their lives, but no real STORY to keep you on the edge of your seat.

 

Here’s a Taste:

I crept closer to one of the stalls, and found a rack of tarnished jewelry. Some of it was scattered across the counter. I let my hand rake softly over it, my fingertips brushing against semiprecious stones I still had trouble believing. I saw no deep blue minerals, none of the gold-flecked lapis lazuli I had become familiar with in the desert the previous year.

I was surprised, however, when my rumination was interrupted by the shock of cold gunmetal. Lying underneath the necklaces and earrings was an ancient revolver.

I picked it up and opened the cylinder, relieved to find cartridges in four of the six chambers. “I found a gun,” I told Sawyer, hurrying to show him. When I tilted it so that he could see it, the pistol’s polished flank reflected the moonlight in a flash of cold white that blinded my right eye for a second. The afterimage had a strange shape in it.

I took a closer look at the nickel-plated surface and saw a tiny coat-of-arms behind the cylinder, below the hammer. “Look at this weird shield on the side of it.”

Sawyer nodded, panning the camera around. “Keep it ready, man. This place, it’s…there’s something here. Somebody is watching us. We’re not safe. We’re not safe. We’re not alone.”

I eased back the hammer until it caught, and held it in the three-point stance I remembered from my MP days carrying a nine-millimeter Beretta. It’d been years since I’d had anything to do with a sidearm, but standing there holding it brought back the feeling as if it had been just yesterday that I was taking my place at the firing line of the M9 range on Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. Move your selector switch from safe, and watch…your lane, said the range safety in the back of my mind.

I sensed movement in the corner of my eye and my head jerked to regard it, but the window I’d noticed, far above the street, was only a black hole. Something else made me turn and point the six gun at an empty doorway.

An electronic bink told me that Sawyer was doing something with the camera. His face, limned with pale green, gradually fell as he stood there, replaying the video he’d been recording since we brought the mirror to the church. His features flashed from anxious clarity to astonished fear. He rewound the video, then wordlessly turned the camera around and pointed the viewfinder at me.

On the screen, we were creeping down the alley again. The camera hovered here and there, rising to higher vantage points for a quick peek into the windows looking down on the thin space. The video-Sawyer approached a window and held the camera over his head. The windowsill sank out of sight and the lens was thrust into a blackness that resolved into a blur of green, which focused until I could see the interior of the room beyond.

Inside was a table, set with bowls, cups, and dishes, ostensibly arrayed with food long since rendered decrepit. A painting hung on the wall, one corner ripped and dog-eared. A dusty bookshelf stood to the left, littered with the detritus of a life of memories: framed photos, figurines. The video was too grainy to make out any meaningful details from the pictures.

The camera panned to the right. I immediately noticed something in that corner of the room, on the other side of the table.

A man-like figure lurked there, hunched over, nearly shapeless, a ghost made of cobwebs.

As the infrared light of the camcorder’s nightvision illuminated it, the shape slowly turned to look at the camera. It was dressed in the deteriorating remnants of some sort of linen robe. A chill shot through me as it began to creep toward the window before video-Sawyer walked away with the camera.

I checked the pistol again and slapped the cylinder back into place.

“I think I might know what that is,” said Sawyer. “And it’s not good.”

“What is it?” I asked, my eyes canting in his direction. There was a white-faced figure standing behind him.

I raised the gun and pointed it over his shoulder. Sawyer must have thought I was aiming at him, so he dove out of the way. As soon as he hit the ground, he started scrambling away from the creature.

It was clad in a gauzy shroud, and had a pale face that resembled a white hockey mask, only with a long nose and crowned with large, triangular ears. I thought of plague masks I’d seen doctors wear in pictures of medieval Britain during the time of the Black Death. It studied us with lifeless, yet intense black eyes. Simple markings had been fingerpainted across its cheeks and brow in some dark ichor.

“It’s a Wilder,” said Sawyer, getting to his feet and hiding behind me, pointing the camera at the thing. “One of the Bemo-Epneme. You’re not going to believe why, or how, I know that.”

“What?” I asked, backing away as it came closer.

My hand, and the gun in it, was beginning to tremble. The “Wilder” continued to move toward us on nimble feet, gliding-floating like a spectre. As it drew near, I could hear the being behind the mask breathing, hissing venomously. Ice crashed through my veins.

I caught a flicker of movement in my peripheral vision. I looked up and saw that more of them were easing out of the windows of the buildings around us like paper Halloween ghosts. They looked like barn owls, staring at us with those horrible black eye sockets.

“These creatures,” said Sawyer. “They’re from your father’s books. I have no idea why we’re here looking at them. And that gun ain’t gonna do us any good. There are way too many of them and only two of us. We gotta run.

I looked over my shoulder at him.

Sawyer roared, his voice reverberating in the hollow plaza, “Run! OR DIE!”

 

About the Author:

Sam is a U.S. veteran with very little money and far too much free time, which is now spent telling lies about time-bending cowboys and brainwashing witches. He lives in a shack in the woods in Summerville, GA, where he writes books, drinks moonshine out of a clay jug, and plays music with spoons.

You might be able to pigeonhole him in the “fantasy” and “horror” genres, but really he just uses them as backdrops. His stories are mostly studies of the human condition and the power of love and friendship–and a character that’s truly human can transcend the boundaries of its genre.

In 2014 he won Reddit.com/r/Fantasy’s Stabby Awards 2014 Self-Published Book of the Year.

 

Find the book on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BJCLMFU/

Visit Sam’s website: http://theusualmadman.net/

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