coverPrint Length: 268 pages
Publisher: Necro Publications
Publication Date: April 24, 2015

BLOOD SAVAGES synopsis: A failed paramilitary assault on a nest of vampires gives a group of monster hunters called the Blackguards a terrifying glimpse of how deadly the bloodsuckers really are. Now, hunted by the ones they failed to kill and on the run from the law, they’re forced to puzzle together the mystery of a strange carcass from colonial times that their ruthless billionaire nemesis will stop at nothing to possess. With one of their own bitten and mutating into a deadly creature of the night, they race against time as they travel the back roads of the Carolinas in a desperate attempt to save her life. But their journey toward salvation will lead to darker places than they ever could have imagined. Blood Savages is the first novel in the Blackguards series about a misfit band of Southern heroes with extraordinary abilities. But these ain’t your high-browed superheroes flying invisible jet planes, living in fancy mansions, and sporting glittery spandex getups. The Blackguards drink too much, they tote guns, they drive muscle cars and beat-up trucks. None of them can claim a squeaky clean past and some ain’t even exactly human. But one thing’s for certain; they’ll stand against the denizens of the underworld and the corrupt men that seek to harness its dark powers, fighting the battles that no one else can. Because, down South, sometimes the heroes are the monsters.

When it comes to the strange fiction of D. Alexander Ward, this isn’t my first rodeo. A short while back I reviewed his newest work, Beneath Ash & Bone. That book was, to put it in professional terms, a hoot. The story was exciting and well told, the characters, his protagonist in particular, fantastically well developed, and the plot was interesting enough to hold my attention. But what really stood out about that work in my memory was the pure, unfaltering entertainment factor. So when I decided to take on Blood Savagesvolume one of his Blackguards series, I was both excited and tentative. Could this book compete with such a stellar entry as Beneath Ash & Bone? Why yes, yes it could.

“The growl of the ’77 Cutlass’s souped-up engine was damn near loud enough to drown out the screams of agony from the young girl bleeding out in the back seat. They were running no less than eighty-five miles an hour, the scrubby pines and uneven vistas of the South Carolina up-country flying by like a smear of bug guts on the windshield. Danny Byrne tightened his grip on the steering wheel.”

The first paragraph of the book sets the pace for the entire thing and makes a promise: this is going to be a hair-raising thrill ride of a story. Then it goes on to deliver that promise admirably.

There are so many great things about this book that it’s hard to know where to start. If I went into great detail about every single thing that made it work for me, you’d be sleeping before I got to the end of it. So, as usual, I’m going to hit on the very strongest aspects of the book and leave the rest for you to discover for the most part. Ward has such a strong grasp of the elements of story, possibly stemming from his work as an editor, and that understanding infuses his stories with brilliant, almost cinematic flavor. I find myself often mesmerized by his three dimensional settings, razor sharp dialogue and his ability to avoid straying from the plot, his theme–often themes, plural–always readily evident and well drawn.

But in the case of Blood Savages the strongest and most impressive elements are twofold. First, as was the case with Beneath Ash & Bone, is his masterful character development. You’d think that a story populated with a centuries old shapeshifter, a half-human half-alien hybrid, and a voodoo priestess might come across trite, with high fantasy elements and paperdoll characters, but that isn’t so with Blood Savages. These characters, good and bad, are as real as they come in a novel of this type. They’re fully fleshed, with excellent backstories developed through forward motion and in depth flashbacks, and their interactions are realistic and often hilarious, particularly in the cases of Danny Boy and Dixon (possibly my favorites of the bunch). I literally loved these characters, even the villains, and I’m already jonesing for more of their exploits and antics.

Next up–possibly the strongest aspect of the book–is the incredible pacing. This story moves forward at back-breaking speeds achieved through the use of whiplash action, short, lightning quick tidbits of story fed out in bitesize chapters, and that razor sharp, natural flowing dialogue that Ward has such a strong mastery of. Even during the flashback character building sections, the pacing never lets up and you’ll find yourself caught up in the mire of bloody, violent and surprise ridden climax without knowing quite how you got there so fast. D. Alexander Ward knows how to tell a story and he knows how to wind it up with a throat-punch finale that leaves you breathless and wanting more. And believe me, you will want more.

Already a well established, talented editor in the genre, Ward is repeatedly proving himself to be a damn good horror author, turning out some of the most purely entertaining work in speculative fiction today. If enjoyment and escape is your aim, then D. Alexander Ward’s game-changing horror/fantasy/adventure stories are your answer. If you haven’t read his work yet, you’re cheating yourself. Start with Blood Savages, move on to Beneath Ash & Bone and check out his Amazon author page to learn more about him and purchase everything he publishes.

Purchase Blood Savages here
Purchase Beneath Ash & Bone here (review here)