Tuesday, January 27, 2009


It’s getting hard to review books by Bryan Smith; I’ve almost run out of adjectives to express how much I like his work. He started out strong with House of Blood, improved even beyond that debut with Deathbringer and Freakshow, and seemed to have reached the top with Queen of Blood. It’s unusual for an author to write that many books and continue to get better every time, but I’m very pleased to say Soultaker is his best book yet.

Horror writer Jake McAllister returns to his hometown of Rockville, Tennessee when his younger brother gets into trouble and finds a supernatural evil has taken hold. A Lamia, the mythological child-eating demon, has taken up residence. Every hundred years, the lamia must feed on a large quantity of young souls, and it’s time for the Harvest. As the lives of the residents of Rockville unravel around him, Jake and a small, rag-tag group fight to stop the lamia from killing hundreds and feeding on their essence.

The lamia, who takes the form of a beautiful young woman, is sadistic and powerful. She recruits a large number f accomplices, who serve her in return for great rewards. The human characters are well-drawn, with a deft use of backstory to flesh them out. As he always seems to manage, Smith shows us graphic violence without sacrificing the essential elements of a good story. It’s early in the year, but this is the best book I’ve read in 2009, and it will take something pretty remarkable to surpass it.

The setup of a horror writer returning to his hometown to find the things he writes about are real is a well-used one, going back at least as far as Salem’s Lot, and I imagine further. I bring this up not because I think it’s a flaw (there’s a reason it has been used so many times – it works) but because when Jake is finally made aware of what’s going on, his immediate reaction is that it’s a cliché. This delighted me.

I don’t want to say too much about the plot of the book, since it goes in some directions you can’t predict, so I’ll just leave you with this: If you haven’t read Soultaker, and every other book by Bryan Smith, you should do so immediately.

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