Book Review – Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King

Mr. Mercedes
by Stephen King
Release Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: Scribner

Mr. Mercedes

I have to confess: it has been many, many years since I read a Stephen King novel. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to; on the contrary, I’ve been meaning to catch up on his later works for quite some time now. But for some reason, something always got in the way of me picking one up. Fortunately for me, the fine folks at Scribner asked me if I would like to review King’s latest work, MR. MERCEDES. I jumped at the chance, and I’m very glad I did; this is a heck of a book, and it’s a must-read for fans of King or even thrillers in general.

If you are not familiar with MR. MERCEDES, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Scribner:

In a mega-stakes, high-suspense race against time, three of the most unlikely and winning heroes Stephen King has ever created try to stop a lone killer from blowing up thousands.

In the frigid pre-dawn hours, in a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of desperate unemployed folks are lined up for a spot at a job fair. Without warning, a lone driver plows through the crowd in a stolen Mercedes, running over the innocent, backing up, and charging again. Eight people are killed; fifteen are wounded. The killer escapes.

In another part of town, months later, a retired cop named Bill Hodges is still haunted by the unsolved crime. When he gets a crazed letter from someone who self-identifies as the “perk” and threatens an even more diabolical attack, Hodges wakes up from his depressed and vacant retirement, hell-bent on preventing another tragedy.

Brady Hartsfield lives with his alcoholic mother in the house where he was born. He loved the feel of death under the wheels of the Mercedes, and he wants that rush again. Only Bill Hodges, with a couple of highly unlikely allies, can apprehend the killer before he strikes again. And they have no time to lose, because Brady’s next mission, if it succeeds, will kill or maim thousands.

Mr. Mercedes is a war between good and evil, from the master of suspense whose insight into the mind of this obsessed, insane killer is chilling and unforgettable.

I think the last novel of King’s I read was NEEDFUL THINGS, way back in 1992. He has always been one of my favorite authors, and I have been reading his work since I was a kid. As such, I have high expectations of his books. I’m happy to report he has not lost much of his flair for writing, if any at all.

As with every Stephen King book I’ve read in the past, MR. MERCEDES is written very well and flows nicely. King writes with the confidence and talent of a veteran, which therefore presents a very enjoyable read. He has a natural propensity for realistic dialogue, which gives the story even more credibility. Combine that with a knack for creating damaged and believable characters, and you can see why he is considered by many to be a master storyteller.

The story itself is disturbing and filled with thrills. I don’t want to divulge too much, but this is a fast-paced tale that might surprise some readers with the way it plays out. I didn’t see a couple of things inside the plot coming, which was a nice treat when they caught me off guard.

My sole complaint about MR. MERCEDES is that, although it is fast-paced for the most part, there are a couple of parts that seem to drag a bit. I won’t go into detail because I don’t want to ruin anything, but those of you who have already read this book will understand what I mean. Thankfully, this only happens twice, and the sections do not last long at all.

I don’t think I would classify MR. MERCEDES as horror per se, but I would definitely say it is a thriller. When I think of King and ‘horror’, I tend to think of titles like IT, CARRIE, SALEM’S LOT, and CUJO. This classification is not a bad thing at all, as it shows King can write in different sub-genres. But I feel it is worth pointing out.

Still, MR. MERCEDES is a huge win for me, and I’m glad to say I am back to reading King’s work once more. I understand this book is the first volume in a projected trilogy, so I can’t wait to see where he goes from here. MR. MERCEDES is available now in a variety of formats, so give it a look for sure.

MSB

Movie Review – The Ong Bak Trilogy (2014)

The Ong Bak Blu-ray Trilogy
Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior
Directed by Prachya Pinkaew
Ong Bak 2
Directed by Tony Jaa & Panna Rittikrai
Ong Bak 3
Directed by Tony Jaa & Panna Rittikrai
Courtesy of Magnet Releasing
Original Release Dates:
-Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior – 2003
-Ong Bak 2 – 2008
-Ong Bak 3 – 2010
Trilogy Blu-ray Release Date: July 29, 2014

Ong Bak

When it comes to martial arts movies, I want to be blown away by the fight scenes, but there needs to be a story in there as well. If there are tons of fight sequences just for the sake of fighting, my interest wanes. Fortunately, the Ong Bak trilogy has plenty of fighting and drama both. The fine folks at Magnet Releasing saw fit to group all three films together and issue them on Blu-ray in a special package. The result is an excellent collection that will be a welcome addition to any film-lover’s library.

If you are not familiar with these films, here are the plot synopses courtesy of Magnet Releasing:

Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior
Tony Jaa, the fighting superstar “destined for film’s martial arts pantheon,” (New York Daily News) electrifies as a religious young warrior who swears an oath of peace. But when a gangster steals the head of Ong-Bak, his village’s deity, Ting heads for Bangkok to get it back. In a film Time Magazine calls “exhilarating” with relentless, fever-pitched action free of stunt doubles and special effects, Jaa performs some of the most awesome physical feats ever seen on film.

Ong Bak 2
Martial arts superstar Tony Jaa stars in and directs this epic tale of revenge set hundreds of years in the past. Featuring a huge cast and hordes of elephants, this prequel takes Jaa’s skills to the next level, showcasing him as a master of a wide range of martial arts styles – while proving him to be a promising director as well.

Ong Bak 3
Martial arts legend Tony Jaa returns with more insane kicks & mind-blowing stunts in the finale to the ONG BAK trilogy, facing his ultimate challenge: a deadly showdown with a fierce supernatural warrior.

I had never seen any of the ONG BAK films prior to receiving this trilogy, so it was a real treat to be able to sit down and watch them in a single marathon. And seeing them in HD makes the action much more engaging; I love to see every jaw-dropping stunt and bone-crushing kick in crystal-clear clarity.

Each film is shot well and looks great onscreen. The production values look high, although the sets are, for the most part, very low-key. This is not a negative at all; on the contrary, it’s nice to see action films taking place outside of big-city venues.

The acting in each ONG BAK film is pretty good overall as well. Actor/director Tony Jaa is an amazing talent, and I hope to see much more of his work in the future; he is one of the few action stars that can actually act, so seeing him onscreen is always enjoyable, even when he is not breaking limbs and cracking skulls.

If I were forced to pick a favorite out of The Ong Bak Trilogy, I would have to say the first one is the one that jumps out at me. While the action is excellent in all three films, the first ONG BAK feels like it has more heart and more drama to it. I will definitely go back and revisit it again.

The Ong Bak Trilogy is a big win for me, and I highly recommend giving it a shot. Even if you don’t want to buy all three films at once, at least check out the first one; if you do, chances are you’ll be eager to snatch the Blu-ray trilogy up afterwards. This set is available now.

MSB

Book Review – Darkness Ad Infinitum (Villipede Horror Anthology I)

Darkness Ad Infinitum (Villipede Horror Anthology I)
by Various Authors
Release Date: May 26, 2014
Publisher: Villipede Publications

darkness

I can finally state with utmost certainty that I have officially read the best horror anthology of 2014 thus far: DARKNESS AD INFINITUM, the first horror anthology from Villipede Publications. This collection of masterfully crafted tales will keep you up at night, trembling under your covers as you pray for daylight. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed every single story this much in a single anthology; I even reread a couple of them just for fun after I had finished the book! That is a true testament to the abundance of talent contained within this collection.

If you are not familiar with DARKNESS AD INFINITUM, here is the book’s synopsis courtesy of Villipede Publications:

Villipede Publications’ first horror and dark speculative fiction anthology will tenderly caress your amygdalae and viciously twist your imagination. With fifteen short stories and four poems from both established and upcoming authors, this haunting collection will force readers to reevaluate their thoughts on what darkness really is: something we’re all born of yet perpetually trying to flee; a malevolent force that desires our servitude or destruction–or something that simply wishes to lock us in its cold, scaly, fathomless grip. Or perhaps, even, it’s an asylum for our jittery minds and confused hearts–a place of solace where humans may patiently inspect their primal natures and desires…a place where the barriers between monster and man begin to shift and break down. The authors’ origins span the breadth of the globe: the UK, Greece, Australia, Sweden, the US–and their stories are just as diverse. While the styles and subject matter of the stories may differ greatly, what is consistent is the dedication each author has harnessed to create unique fiction and scenarios of bewitching caliber. Holding Darkness Ad Infinitum in your trembling hands, you may find yourself faced with a simple ultimatum: Do you turn around and embrace the darkness of your own free will…or will it embrace you first?

Just writing this review gets me juiced to read this anthology again. Even now, two days after I finished it, a couple of the stories are still resonating with me. Talk about residual effects!

Every story in DARKNESS AD INFINITUM is woven together by a master artist who has taken great care in the construction of his or her masterpiece. These tales are written very well and are intertwined in a sense, thanks to an overarching storyline that is set up at the beginning of the book. I love this concept, as it reminds me of horror film anthologies such as V/H/S.

The book itself looks amazing as well; the cover art is courtesy of Wednesday Wolf, and it is nothing short of terrifying. While simplistic in design, it strikes a primal nerve within the brain that has the same power as a punch to the throat. The interior design is elegant and unnerving, a true compliment to the stories themselves. You will enjoy looking at and inside this book as much as you will enjoy reading it.

I have a hard time trying to figure out a favorite story in this collection; they are all that good. One I have to mention is the first story, “Longboat” by Becky Regalado. In this tale, a sailor who has been set adrift on a line in the longboat thanks to his drunken ways, watches in horror as strange creatures overtake the main ship. But the creatures are more than they seem…and the horror of the truth will force him into a drastic decision. The dark atmosphere Regalado sets within the story is simply stunning; it is pitched and lonely, exactly the way I would assume being alone in a vast ocean must be like. Regalado is definitely a writer to watch out for.

As is every author in this collection, for that matter. DARKNESS AD INFINITUM is one hell of an anthology, and I recommend every one of my readers get a copy immediately. You won’t be disappointed. And if you are, then you simply must hate good horror fiction.

MSB

Movie Review – Labyrinth (2012)

Labyrinth
Directed by Christopher Smith
Courtesy of Lionsgate
Original Release Date: 2012
Release Date: July 15, 2014

Labyrinth.DVD.skew

No, this is not a review for the 80s David Bowie film that features Jim Henson’s creature-creations (which is a good, fun film, by the way). This is a review of the 2012 miniseries based on the bestselling book written by Kate Mosse. The book is historical fiction with a slight sci-fi element, and it is an excellent read. If you’re a fan of the book, you will certainly want to give this screen adaptation a look.

If you are not familiar with LABYRINTH, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Lionsgate:

Heart-pounding adventure, shadowy intrigues and dangerous passions ignite this epic story about two women—separated by centuries—who share a destiny to protect the secrets of the legendary Holy Grail.

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m a sucker for good historical fiction. In fact, one of my favorite books of all time is PILLARS OF THE EARTH by Ken Follett. But if an author or filmmaker can weave believable time travel into the mix, my interest is definitely piqued. Such was the case with LABYRINTH. I knew this was a must-see the minute I found out it was in production; the book is very impressive, and I was interested to see how well it could be adapted for the screen. I’m happy to report that this is a hearty adaptation, and although not perfect, it is definitely worth a watch.

LABYRINTH is shot well and looks good onscreen. The production value looks high, which is evident from the detailed costumes and set pieces. Although this is a miniseries, the budget appears pretty high even so.

The acting is great, with John Hurt and Tom Felton headlining a great cast. Jessica Brown Findlay and Vanessa Kirby do an excellent job of playing off one another, and I have to particularly give a shout out to Tony Curran, who portrays Guy D’Evreux; I have loved Curran’s work for many years, ever since I saw him in THE 13TH WARRIOR many years ago, and he does a stellar job once again here.

My sole complaint about this screen adaptation of LABYRINTH is that it is a bit slow at times. Whereas the book is paced very well and moves at a nice clip, this film feels as if it drags in parts around the middle, which made my mind wander a bit. Thankfully, this does not happen so much that it ruins the film.

Still, LABYRINTH is a heck of a film, and I recommend giving it a look. It is available now in a variety of formats, so check it out.

MSB

Book Review – Target America by Scott McEwen with Thomas Koloniar

Target America: A Sniper Elite Novel
by Scott McEwen & Thomas Koloniar
Release Date: June 3, 2014
Publisher: Touchstone

target america

Snipers are truly amazing people. Not only are they skilled in precision shooting at long distances, but they are masters of patience and self-control. I would daresay they are some of the ‘best of the best’ when it comes to military personnel. The main character in TARGET AMERICA, Gil Shannon, is a Navy SEAL sniper who exemplifies these traits, although he is a bit on the wilder side. But when faced with certain defeat, Shannon always finds a way to pull through. Yet, will he this time?

If you are not familiar with TARGET AMERICA, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Touchstone:

From the coauthor of the #1 New York Times bestseller American Sniper comes a heart-pounding military thriller in which the fabled domestic Special Ops Black unit is activated in order to stop a group of Chechen terrorists from launching a pair of “suitcase” nukes somewhere in America.

When Chechen terrorists manage to smuggle a Cold War era Russian nuke across the Mexican-American border, the President is forced to reactivate the only unit capable of stopping them: Navy SEAL sniper Gil Shannon and his brash team of SEALs and Delta Force fighters. First introduced in Sniper Elite: One Way Trip, hailed by Publishers Weekly as a “meaty thriller” with “snappy dialogue and well-timed humor,” Shannon and his team were run out of the military after defying direct orders and instead choosing to save the life of one of their own.

In Target America, Gil and his team, many of whom had gone rogue, are reunited as an off-the-books Special Ops unit that must race against the clock to save the country from nuclear destruction. #1 New York Times bestselling author Scott McEwen once again delivers a gripping and fast-paced adventure that illuminates the shadow world of clandestine military operations.

This is the second book in this series, however you do not have to read the first one to know who the characters are and what happened previously. The authors do a great job of subtly inserting previous mission data with what is currently going on in the story. I really like this aspect, as I have not read the previous book…however, after reading this one, I am definitely going back to do so.

TARGET AMERICA is written well and flows at a nice, smooth pace. The tone is semi-serious, yet there’s enough darkly humorous banter between the team to help offset some of the tension. I would imagine this is exactly the way real Spec Ops teams interact both on and off the battlefield. This realism is a huge draw for the book, and it’s a big part of what makes it so entertaining.

Speaking of the characters, they are rich and well-defined. Hardened, veteran military men who still have an edge…but who also have wit and wisdom. These guys are not one-dimensional grunts who just salute and march off; each character has personality and individual traits that make them memorable in the mind of the reader.

The storyline in TARGET AMERICA is rife with tension and thrills, not to mention a few nice, hardcore battles. The scenario that plays out is one that could very well happen in the future; the authors do a superb job of fleshing out this chilling concept, almost to the point of frightening realism. This is another major aspect of what makes the book so good.

If I were forced to find a flaw with TARGET AMERICA, I could not; it is simply that good of a book. Needless to say, I highly recommend this title. Give it a look for sure.

MSB

Book Review – Restless Nights: 13 Tales of the Macabre by Michael S. Albert

Restless Nights: 13 Tales of the Macabre
by Michael S. Albert
Release Date: March 7, 2014
Publisher: No Frills Buffalo Press

restless nights

I’ve said it countless times before, and I’ll say it again now: I sure do love short horror stories! Just about anybody can write a book-length story…it’s not difficult to fill page after page with what you’re trying to convey. But when an author tackles a short story, the rules change; the story has to be concise yet entertaining. Thus, it takes quite a bit of talent to master the short tale. If an author can do that, then the first step towards success has been taken. Such is the case with RESTLESS NIGHTS. Author Michael S. Albert showcases his up-and-coming skills with a collection of shorts that will leave you chilled to the bone!

If you are not familiar with RESTLESS NIGHTS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of No Frills Buffalo:

Restless Nights: 13 Tales of the Macabre is a single author collection of thirteen stories of dark suspense and horror by author Dr. Michael Albert, a pathologist from Orchard Park, N.Y. The stories are a grim reflection of the fundamental fears and anxieties that are hidden but never vanquished from the human psyche. The author will travel with you into the mind of a brutal serial killer as well as guide you through an autopsy carried out alone by a pathologist in the dead of night. You will experience the terror of a family isolated in a remote farmhouse during a severe thunderstorm as an axe murderer lurks in their neck of the woods. Experience the fear as a group of young boys break into a funeral home late one night in order to see a “real dead body.” The author is a master of unexpected endings and twisted plots. The stories cover the gamut from animated corpses to a black ops military mission gone wrong and an insurance scam which leads to tragedy. One tale includes a visit to an asylum which houses a particularly nasty serial killer. The Party deals with the morally challenging ideas of euthanasia and suicide in a dying cancer patient. For a genre that often lapses into formula, this collection is as refreshing as it is unsettling.

RESTLESS NIGHTS is the perfect title for this collection; I lost three hours of sleep the other night while I was finishing it up. It was well worth it, too. This is a top notch anthology that you will want to read more than once.

The stories in RESTLESS NIGHTS are written well and only contain a couple of minor editing flaws (I think I found two misused words in the whole book…like ‘me’ instead of ‘my’, etc.). The premises are unique for the most part, and I have to commend Albert for his Twilight Zone-like endings on a couple. These made me actually smile when I finished reading them.

My favorite story has to be “The Wager”. In this story, a group of friends makes a bet as to who will live the longest; whoever wins will get a large sum of money. But the final survivor is not quite what he seems…and the news he receives at the end of the story is very fitting. I like the tone of this story and the way it unravels.

RESTLESS NIGHTS is a great anthology, and I recommend it to anyone who likes shorts and/or horror. It is available now in physical and e-book forms.

MSB

Movie Review – NeverLake (2014)

Neverlake
Directed by Riccardo Paoletti
Courtesy of Onemore Pictures
Release Date: (Varies)
at Redbox – July 29, 2014
at Amazon – August 19, 2014
at Walmart – September 30, 2014

Neverlake-DVD-Artwork-Riccardo-Paoletti

I love it when a horror film can capture the dark, eerie tones of the old Hammer films. Hammer was renowned for its ability to conjure foreboding atmospheres in the most common of places, therefore when a modern-day director can do that, it’s a true testament to his or her talents. Such is the case with NEVERLAKE. Director Riccardo Paoletti draws on age-old mysticism and folklore to help set the tone of his film…and the result is an effective horror flick that entertains on several levels.

If you are not familiar with NEVERLAKE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Onemore Pictures:

A teenager visiting her estranged father in Italy stumbles across the Neverlake, an ancient lake said to be guarded by the spirits of the dead. There she befriends a peculiar group of children who are each plagued by strange injuries. As she uncovers the horrific secrets behind the lake – and her new friends – she becomes haunted by disturbing visions that connect to her own mysterious past. However, the ghosts of the past may be more dangerous than she ever thought possible.

I honestly didn’t expect much from this film going into it. Not that I thought it was going to be bad or anything, but the premise didn’t engage me as much as others have. But thankfully, I was WAY off base. NEVERLAKE is a fun and haunting film that every horror fan should check out soon.

NEVERLAKE is shot well and looks very good onscreen. I particularly like the sweeping landscape shots interspersed throughout; they are a huge help in setting the tone for the film, and they also highlight the beautiful Italian countryside in which the film is shot and set.

The acting is solid with several enjoyable performances. Daisy Keeping, who plays the lead character, is entertaining and a name to look for in the future. I hope to see more of her work soon. The rest of the cast does a good job as well, including Martin Kashirokov as Peter and David Brandon as Dr. Brook.

But although NEVERLAKE is entertaining and visually excellent, it does have a couple of flaws. First and foremost, the plot takes a while to get moving. The movie clocks in at only 86 minutes, however the opening scenes are slow, which slows the tension from building. Secondly, some of the storyline later on gets a tad confusing, especially when the horrifying medical discovery is made…in connection with the three thousand year old spirits. This concept actually took me a few minutes to digest.

However, NEVERLAKE is a creepy film with lots of surrealistic and beautiful imagery. Despite its minor negatives, it is definitely one to see. The film has a varied release schedule, so be sure to catch it at one of the locations above.

MSB

Movie Review – SX_Tape (2014)

Sx_Tape
Directed by Bernard Rose
Courtesy of Well Go USA
Release Date: July 15, 2014

sx_tape

When you have a director who has made an iconic horror movie in the past, you certainly have to check out his future projects. After all, lightning has struck more than once for many directors in Hollywood. So when I realized Bernard Rose, director of the infamous CANDYMAN back in the early 90s, was making a new film, I knew I had to jump on it. CANDYMAN was a nice dose of terror, and I hoped Rose could pull off the same with this one. Unfortunately, SX_TAPE falls way short of anything resembling horror, and the result is a lackluster film that is as confusing as it ridiculous.

If you are not familiar with SX_TAPE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Well Go USA:

BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU PLAY. From the director of CANDYMAN and the producers of PARANORMAL ACTIVITY comes a found-footage nightmare of lust, possession, and destruction. Jill’s an artist. Ian’s a filmmaker. And their love life is off the chain. There’s no experience too wild, no dare too dangerous—not even when Jill lets Ian strap her to a gurney in the abandoned hospital they’re scoping out for their next art show. But he shouldn’t have left her alone. Not even as a joke. Now, Jill’s hookup with horror has awakened something in that place. Something with a lust for more than flesh.

I wanted so badly to like this film. The fine folks at Well Go keep putting out hit after hit after hit…but I guess every company misses the mark every now and then. Sadly, such is the case with this film.

SX_TAPE is shot in the typical found-footage style, with a personalized POV and shaky camera angles. This is not a bad thing at all, as those two aspects are a big part of what make found-footage films so fun. But the rest of the film fails in every other area, and thus forces the movie to sink into oblivion territory.

The acting is ok, although the characters themselves are arrogant and annoying. They go out of their way to push societal limits and see how stupid they can be without getting busted. Like having sex in the dressing room of a nice clothing store; they do get caught, which forces them to run, but they end up stealing something as they leave! See the kind of people they are? So why in the world would I care about them when bad things start happening? This is a huge flaw in the film, even more so when two of their friends show up. If I can’t connect with the main characters or feel anything for them, why should I continue to watch?

The plot of SX_TAPE is a ho-hum storyline that we’ve seen in countless films. I wish screenwriters would move out of the abandoned-hospital setting and into something original. Not to mention the shooting location of the film…I swear I’ve seen that same building used in four other horror films.

Which brings us to the storyline itself. Much of it doesn’t make sense, and what does is not very good. There are many questions that struck me when I was watching. When Jill starts begging Ian to take her home, why would he turn around and follow her back into the hospital once their friends show up? And why would her friends want to go in there when they see how upset Jill is?

Pushing that aside, the final scene makes NO sense whatsoever. It tries to be shocking, and I suppose it technically is…however it doesn’t fit with anything else in the movie. I shook my head when the credits started rolling and was actually glad to see the movie end.

SX_TAPE is not a film I can recommend, unless you are starving for rehashed found-footage concepts. I am disappointed with director Rose, and I hope he chooses better material in the future. This film is available now if you want to give it a look.

MSB

The cult classic TRANCERS is now available on Blu-ray!

If you’re a fan of 80s cinema, then you’ll love this news! The fine folks at Full Moon have digitally remastered TRANCERS, and it is available on Blu-ray for the first time ever. Now with amazing widescreen color correction, 5.1 surround sound, and a ton of extras, this Blu-ray will be a must-have for science-fiction fans!

Check out this excerpt from one of the featurettes:

Also included on the Blu-ray are:

* Audio Commentary by Tim Thomserson and Charles Band
* Daniel Griffith’s Trancers Featurette
* Rare Interview with Tim Thomerson, Helen Hunt, and Megan Ward
* Complete Trancers: City of Lost Angels Segment from the Pulsepounders Trilogy
* Rare Stills Gallery
* Rare Full Moon Trailers

Get your copy today, before they are all sold out!! Visit Full Moon Direct for more information.

MSB

Book Review – The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness

The Book of Life
by Deborah Harkness
Release Date: July 15, 2014
Publisher: Viking

The Book of Life

When I first heard about the All Souls series a while back, I knew I had to give it a shot. I love witches and vampires both, but only as long as neither have teen angst to go along with them. Deborah Harkness tackles both with originality and flair. And this final book in the series is an excellent end to a thrilling ride.

If you are not familiar with THE BOOK OF LIFE, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Viking:

After traveling through time in Shadow of Night, the second book in Deborah Harkness’s enchanting series, historian and witch Diana Bishop and vampire scientist Matthew Clairmont return to the present to face new crises and old enemies. At Matthew’s ancestral home at Sept-Tours, they reunite with the cast of characters from A Discovery of Witches—with one significant exception. But the real threat to their future has yet to be revealed, and when it is, the search for Ashmole 782 and its missing pages takes on even more urgency. In the trilogy’s final volume, Harkness deepens her themes of power and passion, family and caring, past deeds and their present consequences. In ancestral homes and university laboratories, using ancient knowledge and modern science, from the hills of the Auvergne to the palaces of Venice and beyond, the couple at last learn what the witches discovered so many centuries ago.

I have to confess I was a bit nervous going into this series. I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially given the literary world’s preference for sparkly vampires and such at the moment. But my jitters were unfounded; Harkness treats all of her mystical creatures with respect, and the result is an entertaining world that readers will want to visit over and over.

As with the previous two books, THE BOOK OF LIFE is written well and flows at a nice pace. Harkness delivers crisp prose and lean dialogue. I never once found my mind wandering or my eyes scanning ahead. The book logs in at 560+ pages, so this is a huge positive considering its size.

The characters are enjoyable and believable (that is, as believable as witches and vampires can be). I particularly like the banter between certain characters (such as Matthew and Chris) and how they ‘verbally joust’ with one another at times.

My favorite aspect of THE BOOK OF LIFE has to be the story, though. It is rich and lavish with intricacies inside the plot as well as a few subplots that keep you guessing. Harkness does a masterful job of weaving everything together, showcasing her talents as an upper class storyteller. The conclusion is riveting and, just as fans of the series were expecting, fulfilling. I finished the book with a smile on my face, happy with where the characters wound up.

THE BOOK OF LIFE is a definite win for me, and fans of adult urban fantasy should love it. This final book in the series hit store shelves yesterday, so give it a look for sure. And if you aren’t already familiar with the series, it is certainly well worth checking out.

MSB