I've been on a bit of a horror kick lately. Splatterpunk, cosmic horror, military horror, dark fantasy and creature horror... you name it, I've probably delved into it. So when Dark Rite popped up onto my eReader as a recommended purchase two things immediately sprang to mind. Firstly, how the fuck did I miss this? Baxter and Wood are among my favourite authors in the game right now... I should be all over their work! And secondly, a couple of bucks for an impressive sounding horror novella? Bargain!
So after purchasing Dark Rite I decided to drop into it for a couple of chapters (just to get a feel for it). Three hours later and I was still hooked.
Dark Rite tells the story of a town with a dark and mysterious past. When the protagonist comes to town to sort out the affairs of his recently deceased father he stumbles across more than he bargained for. The town harbours a terrifying secret, and within that secret a dark power is rising.
Sound familiar? It should. It has has been done plenty of times before. But where Dark Rite succeeds whilst others fail is in the way it is told.
This novella has so many great things going for it. The prose is tight and free flowing, and every character fleshed out and interesting. I adored the mood of the story, and the creepy undertones that Wood and Baxter explore throughout the novella left me with chills at the best of times. The fight scenes were all realistic and accurate (this is a norm writers like Wood and Baxter), and the 'hammer horror' tropes included a perfect combination of fun, weird, and the mundane. The story chugs along at a rapid pace, and builds wonderfully to a climax that genuinely had me gripped by what was unfolding before my eyes. And holy shit... there was a moment at the end where I roared with laughter and grinned like an evil Cheshire cat... trust me you know what I'm talking about when you read the book.
However, what impressed me the most with Dark Rite was its seamless nature. Collaborations, by their very nature, are usually hard to get right. Each author has their own particular style and voice which can make collaborative works jarring and hard to read at times. Not so with Dark Rite. I genuinely struggled to work out who was writing at times. It was the smoothest collaboration I've ever read, and I can understand why both authors have now written another novel together.
Was Dark Rite perfect? No. There were a couple of typos and inconsistencies that could have been addressed before it was published, and I would have loved to have seen a much deeper exploration of the history of the town and its magical and supernatural heritage. All in all though Dark Rite is a wonderful little package that left me considerably chilled and richly entertained.
Small town horror and black magic told in a seamless and terrifying way, Dark Rite is a tale that will leave you both shaken and delighted.
4 out of 5 stars.
For more information and purchase details, go here.