Author ~ Dorian Dawes
Publisher ~ Manifold Press
Published ~ 1st February 2017
Genre ~ Contemporary Fiction, Supernatural, Horror
Every community has a dark side, a sordid past that's kept to hushed whispers and out of the ears of prying tourists - and Harbinger Island has the darkest shades of them all. Professor Bartleby Prouse is obsessed with the secrets and occult conspiracies surrounding the island's myriad of unsolved murders and mysteries. He'll have to use every bit of magic and cunning at his disposal if he is to protect his students after they unwittingly draw the attention of one of the island's most insidious cults.
A collection of character-driven stories which combine dark fantasy and horror elements within a modern setting. The diverse cast of LGBT+ individuals come from various backgrounds, and the stories examine the prejudices they experience in their day-to-day lives along with the supernatural horrors they face.
How can I describe Harbinger Island? Lovecraft for teens would probably cover it. I’m not sure of the kind of reception it will have among a predominantly romance-reading audience. This is not a romance.
Fortunately, I am a fan of H. P. Lovecraft, having read his work and played “Call of Cthulhu” rpg for many years. Harbinger Island contains all the classic Lovecraft themes, such as mental illness, nihilism, supernatural parents, a sense of hopelessness and helplessness, invasive evil, and a love for icky substances. While other horror writers focus on shadows, gore and violence, Lovecraft, and Dawes, paints beautifully creepy landscapes and situations then saturate them with ichor and sprinkle them with tentacles ( I bet at first read you read that as testicles)
Harbinger Island is one hell of a place – literally. A core group of seven, including among them two trans males, two lesbians, two gay men, four witches, two historians and some absolutely adorable familiars, find themselves within a very short space of time, dragged into a fight against ancient evil. There is also a large supporting cast, goodies and baddies which sometimes gets confusing.
In typical Lovecraft-ian fashion, the body count is high and our young (and not-so-young) heroes and heroines face danger at every turn - from their own parents to deadly cults and an ancient being who wants his boyfriend back. The very soil of the island seems to be oozing black ichor and every building is haunted, especially those out in the country where whole families were murdered or killed themselves. Travelling all over the island and taking on the demons one cult, haunting, familiar at a time our band of brothers are led a merry dance trying to get to the heart of the mystery once and for all.
Purists will hate the head-hopping that goes on – a lot – but for me it makes the story richer and I noticed it because I’m conditioned into it, but once I broke the conditioning and submerged myself into the story I barely noticed.
It’s not all good news, because there were times when I thought “oh not again” when our friends find themselves in danger, or see ghastly images, or stumble across another dead body. There were also times that were slower than I would like. The prologue didn’t really do it for me and I wasn’t sure I’d like the style of writing. I felt at one point that I was wading through the thick, black sludge produced in great quantities in later chapters. However, once the story started to bounce it carried me along at a heart-stopping pace.
There were characters I never warmed to, but others I was rooting for with every shred of my being, terrified at every turn they’d be the next one strung up on wire. At one time or another. I think every one of them had their head on the block.
This was a real sit the edge of the seat, keep your eye on the shadows and trust absolutely no one book. After a slow start, I thoroughly enjoyed it and can recommend it to anyone who has a love for creeping horror, ritualistic murder and things with more tentacles than they’ve any business to have – oh and a damn sexy, green gorgon with scales.
I should warn you that the book ended with a hell of a cliffhanger – kind of. The story arc is complete and the main issues resolved, for now, but there are clear signs that the end is just the beginning, so I’m looking for at least a sequel.
Connect with Dorian Dawes