Editorial Review: Black River Lantern By Alex Grass
Black River Lantern has its fair share of blood and gore, but it is the psychological horror elements that really set it apart.
Eddie Marivicos works for his cruel father in the family carnival where his mind-reading powers make him the star attraction. For Eddie, the unwanted power is a curse and he would love nothing more than to stop the constant barrage of thoughts he hears. Eddie knows there is no escaping from his father, but then he meets an escort named Lexi and discovers that she is the only person whose thoughts he cannot hear.
Horror is a tricky genre as it requires the author to conjure up images and scenarios that make readers feel unsettled, unnerved, and uncomfortable. When not done properly the story can lack suspense, but thankfully Alex Grass has a way with words that ensures this doesn't happen. Carnivals are generally creepy and the one run by Papa Marivicos is no exception. Not only does he run the place like a labor camp, but he is feared by his employees for more than just his cruelty. Let's just say that Eddie isn't the only one with inhuman abilities in this story.
While most of the story is from the perspective of Eddie as he tries to deal with the bad hand that life has dealt him, there are also other narrators, such as Dr. Chain. Initially, it's not very clear what his relevance to the tale will be, but his views are a lot more humorous than Eddie's and bring some lightheartedness to the story. Even an unscrupulous businesswoman named Clara becomes involved when she sets her sights on the town of Kayjigville thinking she can make some easy money. Through her eyes, readers get to see why Papa Marivicos is not a man to be trifled with and to what lengths he will go to ensure his carnival stays the premier attraction in town.
Black River Lantern has its fair share of blood and gore, but it is the psychological horror elements that really set it apart. It's hard not to sympathize with Eddie over his circumstances, but things become even darker when elements of his past are revealed. The book also takes some unexpected detours into Lovecraftian territory, but these elements actually fit in nicely with the overall story.
Because of the large cast of characters and twisting storyline, Black River Lantern is a book that demands your full attention while reading. It can also be tough to read because the author doesn't pull any punches. There are a few moments where readers along with the characters have the rug pulled out from under them just when it seems like things were looking up. Black River Lantern could easily have ended up confusing or disjointed, but the author does a great job pulling everything together in a compelling manner. It is definitely more than just a typical horror novel, so brace yourself for an emotional roller-coaster before delving into this dark, twisted tale.