Monday, July 17, 2017

Devil's Call by J. Danielle Dorn

Cody has read a horror western novel published by Inkshares.

The idea of blending the horror and western genres is something that has fascinated me ever since I was a young kid, so when I was offered the chance to read Devil's Call, a book that was being described as a "western horror revenge tale", "The Revenant with witches", it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up.

Devil's Call is writer J. Danielle Dorn's debut novel, and press materials mention that Dorn "works at Best Buy by day and writes fiction by night". One imagines that Dorn has picked up a copy of every western movie that has passed through her particular Best Buy, because she displays an incredible ability to write a glimpse into Old West life. Whether or not anything contained within Devil's Call is historically accurate I couldn't say, but I never doubted what Dorn was telling me for a second, her descriptions of her characters' experiences in the 1800s were so vivid.

I suspect the author has watched her share of Quentin Tarantino movies as well, and not just his westerns. References to gut shots and the line "Panic hit me like a bucket of water" brought to mind Reservoir Dogs.

The novel is written in first person and presented as if it's a letter being written by a mother to her young daughter - this mother just happens to be a witch, a family trait that stretches back to the days when her ancestors were being strung up and burned alive in Scotland for practicing witchcraft. This letter may be the last thing she'll ever write to her daughter, and it's the story of what happened when she rode across the country to avenge the murder of her husband, her daughter's father.

The mother, whose name is Li Lian, also covers her life up until the vengeful ride, so we get to learn all about her childhood and how she met the love of her life. The first five chapters of the book's twenty are the back story and the set-up. The remaining chapters take us through the aftermath of the murder and the mission of revenge.

As I began reading the book, I knew the protagonist would have supernatural abilities through her witchcraft, but I assumed she would be going up against average western story villains. Her husband's killers are introduced as highwaymen; that was along the lines of my expectations. But Dorn then added an interesting twist by giving the triggerman twisted abilities of his own - at one point he's able to make a girl mutilate herself - and a vendetta against Li Lian and her family of witches. I would have been fine with the villains being regular criminals, but making the lead villain ("The Man in Black") something out of the ordinary was a clever idea that makes for a climax that's even more intriguing and involving than I anticipated.

Devil's Call is a very impressive debut for Dorn, a well written fast read that takes you on a fun, bloody ride through the Old West for exactly 250 pages. I would recommend this book to fans of both westerns and horror, as it's a great blend of the two that works either way you approach it. If you already like the idea of horror westerns as much as I do, all the better.

Published by Inkshares, Devil's Call is available right now. The publisher is close to closing a deal for the novel to be adapted for television, and that's definitely a show I would like to watch.

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