Shepherd’s Warning – Review

Shepherd's Warning

Shepherd’s Warning by Cailyn Lloyd

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Shepherd’s Warning by Cailyn Lloyd
Review of a NetGalley eARC.

This is a haunted house story in the vein of The Shining or The Amityville Horror (which is referenced explicitly in the text). The McKenzie family: Lucas and Laura, with Lucas’s brother Nathan and his wife Ashley, along with Lucas and Laura’s granddaughter Leah, arrive at the brothers’ inherited house in the Wisconsin countryside. A grand old Tudor mansion, they decide to renovate it for HGTV, but things soon take a terrifying turn. As you would expect from a horror novel.

This first book from Lloyd shows its influences on its sleeve, while working in a lot of unusual takes that would make for something refreshingly new, if so much of it wasn’t just confusing.

The Old English spells, the nearly immortal wizard, the circularity of the events are all interesting and unique. They add flavor to the book and would help it stand out a lot from the crowd, if the rest of the pacing and structure stood up to them. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like they did.

Events unfold in an awkward way, with things that seem really important at the time just fading away. For example, in one scene a young contractor falls off the roof, breaking his arm and impaling himself on a rusty piece of metal. This event IS NEVER MENTIONED AGAIN by the main characters, and only vaguely referenced by a side character (a “ghost” that made it happen). Not only that, but people continue to work on the roof without taking any safety precautions, and indeed someone falls again.

Then there’s the idea that they are renovating the house for a TV show. This dominates the situation for the first few chapters, then it’s just… Gone. No more cameras, no more interviews, no repercussions. Which could be code for the whole book: lots of things happen with no real impact.

The pacing is overall quite uneven. The book opens with a couple of big events, but then nothing really happens until halfway through. There is a lot of pointless running around, and I’ll be honest–all the “L” names warped it into one big, blonde blur.

There is also an odd insistence on specificity, especially regarding brand names, that almost reads like advertising. The main characters don’t drink beer, they drink Spotted Cow (which halfway through the book becomes italicized); the 1,000 year-old wizard doesn’t drink port, he drinks Old Tawny port; Laura doesn’t use a genealogy website, she uses Ancestry.com; Tom Wolff doesn’t wear a trucker’s cap, he wears a Purina cap. It stands out in an odd way, rather than adding any kind of realism or immediacy.

These all seem like minor points, but they build up until the text becomes a struggle. And it doesn’t help that the essential conflict centers, once again, on the corruption of the father figure through his repressed Id. Ugh. Does the father grow distant from his family because of his inability to deal with loss? Yep. Does the father fall into dissolution through alcohol? Yep! Does the father betray his wife, who just wants him to get help, and call her concern nagging and prying? Bingo! At least he wasn’t a writer.

Overall, I really struggled to finish this book, and once I did I wasn’t satisfied.



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Announcing Kthulhu Reich!

I am very proud to announce the publication of my first book-length translation, Kthulhu Reich, by Asamatsu Ken, translated by Jim Rion, published by Kurodahan Press.

Official Blurb:

World War II was a world-spanning conflict that engulfed dozens of countries, a maelstrom that dragged whole nations, religions, and millions of people to their deaths.

But it was fought with more than merely guns and machines…

Even before the War was begun in earnest, Nazi Germany had sent expeditions to the darkest hiding places of the world: to shadowed Africa, to the towering peaks of Tibet, and even to the frigid wastes of Antarctica.

Their goal was to locate occult weaponry and “aid” for the glory of the Third Reich.

And they were successful.

But were those they sought truly allies? Or were they the old Gods themselves, waiting for their chance to remold the world of Man in their own image once again?

Ken Asamatsu presents another fantastic novel of the War, the Cthulhu Mythos, and humanity trapped in the middle.

(NB: This isn’t exactly what I’d call a novel. It’s a loosely connected set of individual short stories.)

The Author:

Born in 1956 in Sapporo, Hokkaido. Graduated Toyo University to work at Kokusho Kankōkai, famous in Japan as the publisher of Lovecraft and many other works of horror and fantasy. Debut work as an author was Makyō no Gen’ei (Echoes of Ancient Cults), in 1986. He continues to be active in a wide range of activities, including writing extensively in the weird historical and horror genres. While remaining extremely interested in the Cthulhu Mythos, lately he has been concentrating on weird historicals set in the Muromachi period (1333-1573).

In 2005 his Higashiyamadono Oniwa (Higashiyamadono Villa Garden) was a finalist for the annual award of the Mystery Writers of Japan, Inc. in the short story genre.

He has also made considerable contribution to Japanese fiction as an anthologist, proposing a number of collections successfully published in Japan. The Lairs of the Hidden Gods, which won high praise in the original Japan, is now available from Kurodahan Press.

This book was nutso to translate. It sits at the nexus of Indiana Jones, Lovecraft, and Japanese nonsense with just a touch of Philip K. Dick-level paranoia. There are shoggoths, deathless wizards, vampires, and Jack the Ripper. There are magic rituals, ancient demons, and the Lance of Longinus. There are heroic spies and bloody betrayals.

Content Warning: there are actual Nazis (and proto-Nazis) acting like Nazis in this book, although the text only mentions the holocaust itself briefly. In addition, there can be an uncomfortable space where Nazis are protagonists against otherworldly evil. The author is NOT in any way shape or form a nazi sympathizer. Neither am I. The book also depicts the murders of Jack the Ripper rather graphically.

For those looking to buy (THANK YOU! Kurodahan is a tiny publisher, and every purchase helps keep them pumping out hidden Japanese gems like this. And, of course, the author and I also appreciate the support as well.) Here are links:

Amazon

Kindle

Barnes & Noble