Paperback: 280 pages
Publisher: Samhain Publishing, Ltd.
Publication Date: April 5, 2016
Blood Sacrifices, the new collection from Samhain Publishing, isn’t my first go round with the work of Brian Moreland. In fact two of the three novellas collected here The Witching House and Darkness Rising, as well as the short story, The Girl from the Blood Coven, are some of the previous stories I’ve read by Brian. I’ve reviewed Darkness Rising before so I’m not going to talk too much about that one here. Suffice it to say I got a great deal of enjoyment out of that book, as I have out of all of Moreland’s work.
As is my wont, I’m not going to synopsize this thing here. It would take up way too much space and I couldn’t do it any better than the one that’s posted on Amazon. That full synopsis is pasted in at the end of this review if you want to read it. What I am going to do is tell you why I enjoyed every story in this book, not to mention the previous work I’ve read by Moreland.
If you asked me to tell you what is the common thread that makes all of Brian’s stories work, what makes them satisfying and entertaining every time, I can sum it up in three alliterative words. Fast. Fun. Freaky. You don’t sit down to a Brian Moreland story and savor it in small bites, you devour it. Whether it’s a voraciously hungry, carnivorous haunted house as in The Girl From the Blood Coven/The Witching House, or a blood thirsty cult and ancient gods as in The Vagrants, Moreland brings the blood and the action in healthy, unceasing doses.
“The house that ate people stood within a coven of pine trees like an ancient god being worshipped. The high branches touched its shingled roof with reverence. Towering three stories, the rock house was far from being a flawless god. The moss-covered stones that cobbled its walls were pocked from years of rot and abandon. Fungus and creeper vines had spread across its facade, leafy tentacles invading cracks where boards covered the windows. The glass within their frames had long ago shattered.”
That opening hook to The Witching House is typical of Moreland’s captivating voice and informal, almost conversational style. He moves his stories along at a steady, sometimes dizzying clip, much of his work seeming like one long string of action scenes and interesting dialogue that helps to keep you invested in the story. And that paragraph quoted above isn’t unique. Every book he writes is rife with that kind of engaging, hard to walk away from prose that Brian is so proficient at. As a sampling of his consistency, consider the following two samples, starting with the intro to The Vagrants:
“The darkness beneath Boston was calling him. No one walking along Tremont Street seemed to hear the whispers coming from the grates and gutters, but Rex Rigby heard them. Their raspy voices sounded like a dozen people whispering all at once. He cupped his hands over ears, but it didn’t stop the madness. They had chosen him. And they weren’t going to quit until he joined them in the cold, black core of the earth.”
and again, from the beginning paragraph of Darkness Rising (from the prologue):
“Deep in the Oregon woods, the lake watched in silence as the woman crawled across the muddy banks, dragging her wounded legs. A switchblade jutted from the back of one thigh. Moonlight glinted off the exposed bone of her hip. Hair, caked with blood and dirt, clung to the woman’s face as she clawed her way into the shallow water. She found her husband, or what was left of him, floating facedown near the shore. Hugging his butchered torso, she wailed, an animal cry that echoed across the valley.”
Moreland writes with cinematic flair, peppering his work with strong visuals and edge-of-your-seat action. And his characters, in both The Witching House and The Vagrants, are outstanding, fully developed and real. I loved Sarah in The Witching House, her seemingly frail, timid personality shielding a toughness inside reminiscent of final girls like Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) from Halloween and Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) from Nightmare on Elm Street. And it’s true of pretty much all Moreland’s work that the combined elements of non-stop action and excellent characterization are what drives his stories and keeps you invested in them.
As it turns out, my favorite story in this collection is the only one I hadn’t previously read, The Vagrants. While all the stories are fantastic, this one is a cut above. The protagonist, Daniel Finley, is remarkably well developed and the story is horrifying on two different fronts. One is the strange cult that is trying to pressure Daniel into joining them, and the other is the Irish mob that is threatening to do harm to him and his loved ones if he doesn’t meet their demands. This story stands out as my favorite for the simple fact that it is such an incredibly chilling tale it had me on the edge of my seat throughout. Add in a healthy dose of elder gods and you have one hell of a good horror story.
If you’re looking for deep thinking, literary horror, Brian Moreland’s books aren’t for you. But if you’re looking for balls to the wall action, characters you care about, and horrifying scenarios, you need look no further than the work of Brian Moreland. Blood Sacrifices is an excellent sampling of Brian’s work and the first book I would recommend as a starting point if you’re starting to read him for the first time. Definitely check out this fantastic, fast-paced collection and follow the links below to check out all of Moreland’s work.
About Brian Moreland:
Brian Moreland is a best-selling and award-winning author of novels and short stories in the horror and supernatural suspense genre. In 2007, his novel Shadows in the Mist, a Nazi occult thriller set during World War II, won a gold medal for Best Horror Novel in an international contest. The novel went on to be published in Austria and Germany under the title Schattenkrieger.
Shadows in the Mist, Dead of Winter, and The Devil’s Woods are his currently available novels, as well as his Kindle short-story The Girl from the Blood Coven and the novella it led into called The Witching House. Now, he has released the full-length The Devil’s Woods. His novella, The Vagrants, was released in 2014, and another, Darkness Rising, in 2015.
He loves hiking, kayaking, watching sports, dancing, and making guacamole. Brian lives in Dallas, Texas where he is diligently writing his next horror novel. When not working on his books or books for other writers, Brian edits documentaries and TV commercials around the globe. He produced a World War II documentary in Normandy, France, and worked at two military bases in Iraq with a film crew.
Blood Sacrifices synopsis:
Some evils require sacrifices.
From the author of Dead of Winter and The Devil’s Woods come four tales of blood-tingling horror.
The Girl from the Blood Coven
In this short prequel to The Witching House, when Abigail Blackwood claims her hippy commune family has been massacred, Sheriff Travis Keagan and his deputies investigate. They discover there’s more than weed smoking going on at Blevins House. Much more.
The Witching House
Sarah Donovan is scared of just about everything, but she helps her adventurous boyfriend investigate the old, abandoned Blevins House, scene of a forty-year-old unsolved massacre. Little do they know the house is hungry for fresh prey. . .
When Marty Weaver encounters three killers who like to play sadistic games with their victims, his own scarred past is unearthed. And when his pain is triggered, blood will flow. . .and hell will rise.
Beneath the city of Boston, evil is gathering. While living under a bridge with the homeless, journalist Daniel Finley witnessed something that nearly cost him his sanity. Now, with a book published about the experience, he’s caught between the Irish mafia and a deranged cult preparing to shed blood on the street.