I love stories about things that go bump in the night. There is just nothing better than entering into another world full of unknowable dangers and getting lost there.
There is a primal urge, the rush of adrenaline you feel, when the noise—the bump—happens. Maybe the sound is almost just beyond the perception of hearing and your senses, nurtured by millennia of species’ survival, perks up your ears; or maybe it’s the loud crash that startles you and then settles into the silence of the evening, making you question if you ever heard it in the first place. The unknown is a terrifying topic, unless it is neatly contained within the covers of a book.
Something Red by Douglas Nicholas is perhaps the quintessential story of things that go bump in the night. Set in the Dark Ages, a time of superstition, it is darkly atmospheric. The story opens with a young boy, fifteen, named Hob. He is part of a travelling party of four who is led by Maeve, a wise woman proficient with healing herbs and who is perhaps more than slightly magical.
They are on a journey down from the mountains and across the plains. It is early Spring and the cold and bite of winter are far from over. The small party meets other travelers on the road—some on pilgrimage, some looking to return to far-away homes—and continues their journey. But the peacefulness of their lives is beset along the way by a shape in the shadows, maybe a fox, maybe a wolf, that tears at the flesh of men and lays waste and destruction where it goes.
Maeve’s party realizes they are being tracked, and after witnessing the terrible destruction of the unseen creature, seek refuge in the castle of the Sieur de Blanchefontaine. During a few nights of hospitality, the threat of the beast in the shadows comes to a head, and Maeve and her small band are tested in the fire of the conflict.
Douglas Nicholas is an award-winning poet and Something Red reflects his craft. This is his first novel, although he has published several poetry collections, and it is a dynamic read. Full of ambience, Hob’s emotional landscape as he witnesses spectacular things is articulately described.
Nicholas utilizes an economy of description that pulls and teases the reader into the world, and allows the reader to dance along on the text. It is a delightful thing to find a tale that can create that surge of adrenaline, that thump of your pulse in your temples, and Nicholas delivers.
About the Author
Melissa Carle is a Support Specialist with the KC-LSP and thinks life is too short to read a book that doesn't excite you in the first 40 pages. She likes cooking, herb gardening, and, of course, reading and thinks all good books, fiction and non-fiction alike, share one thing in common: they're just a good yarn.