★★★ 3.5 Stars
Genre: Horror / Supernatural
Publication Date: 1989
Publisher: Leisure Books
Rich in atmos and mystery, poor in consistency. By the third act, the intensity and intrigue has doused itself in gasoline and rolled around on a bunch of lit matches. Literally.
I think at some point the horror novel got infected with this notion that it would rather like to be a melodramatic romance novel, but it can’t. So it dolls itself up in a romantic fashion, but still has the twisted sickness of horror dangling off its flesh. It’s actually more disturbing because it tries to inject itself with romance, not less.
Revolving around a woman named Judith whose fate has been twisted by a mysterious group of women who practice occult arts, the plot becomes deeply strange and taboo early on. The pettiness and vile nature of two people being so ingrained that it lasts past a lifetime is a concept I like, and I also found the themes of the same bizarre violence being replayed throughout generations to be pretty effectively creepy.
A 1989 copy I found with silver title graphics.
Characterization is surprisingly good, at least at first… though it confounds me how adamantly the characters refuse to believe in the supernatural. Judith especially! What does it take exactly to make Judith believe in or ghosts? Do they have to tap-dance on her skull? Pull their faces off like in Beetlejuice? She speaks directly to a ghost multiple, multiple times and is even attacked by a ghost, but of course they can’t possibly be ghosts, not to her! It’s more likely to Judith that they’re “psychic projections” or “telepathy” or “Cthulhu” or whatever. Judith will literally trust anybody who says kind things to her, and that’s not a savvy quality in a horror heroine. It’s frustrating and gets her assaulted, stalked and nearly murdered several times.
Rant about the heroine aside, the writing is vivid and sharp-paced, and other than the idiotic denial of supernatural things whenever they happen, the main characters have fairly well-fleshed-out personalities. The imagery is disgustingly beautiful and it does keep you intrigued enough to want to keep reading it, and the merging of forbidden magic and murder mystery is cool, I have to say.