Blood Games by Richard Laymon
This 1992 horror novel is a classic. Helen, Cora, Vivian, Finley and Abilene are former college friends who meet up every year for an adventure. This year Helen takes them to the deserted backwoods Totem Pole Lodge that has a sinister past. As the women discover the Lodge isn’t as deserted as they thought, flashbacks reveal their days in the toxic environment of Belmore University. This is an excellent survival horror tale of friendship and the morbid pull of danger. This is the only good novel from the author of such dross as ‘Flesh’, ‘The Cellar’, ‘Resurrection Dreams’, ‘Darkness, Tell Us’ and ‘Midnight’s Lair’.
“They kidnapped Andy ‘Wildman’ Wilde during their sophomore year.”
“I wondered what that smell was,”
“You should’ve smelled that sucker.”
“They want to come in.”
King Breaker by Rowena Cory Daniells
This is the aggressively boring conclusion to the wildly uneven ‘The Chronicles of King Rolen’s Kin’ (the inept ‘The King’s Bastard’, the good ‘The Uncrowned King’ and the pacy ‘The Usurper’). Byren is determined that the ridiculously named villain Cobalt will pay for usurping the Rolencian throne. But his plan to overthrow Cobalt is sabotaged by his idiot younger brother Fyn who steals Byren’s betrothed and his spoilt moronic dumb sister Prio who gets a staggeringly boring plot where she whines and is not effective all the damn time.
Cobalt bullies his sheep like followers. Byren’s dead twin brother Lence is not missed. Byren is desired by the boring mountain girl Florin and his best buddy Orrade. Byren may be bicurious, but won’t acknowledge it even to himself. There are weddings, people do the right thing at cost to themselves and this has downbeat ending. The characters with the exception of Byren are overflowing with arrogance and authoritarianism. So there is no joy in victory and it is all dark misery. This book has a glimmer of an interesting plot but is an unworkable mess that hates you and dares you to keep reading. But what did you expect from the author of the dire ‘The Outcast Chronicles’.
“She didn’t understand why Cobalt wanted to hold another feast. After all, how many feasts did it take to legitimise his rule?”
“If the minstrel was to be believed, Cobalt had saved the kingdom single-handedly from a cruel dictator and his arrogant sons.”
“You noble women make life hard for yourselves.”
“Byren stepped over a bloody patch on the marble.”
“But Byren said he didn’t-”
“Apparently he did enough.”
“There are rumours about me, and they implicate Byren.”
“No, Piro. Haven’t you done enough damage?”
“The price you pay to play Duelling Kingdoms is too high.”
“My sister grew hungry for a crown and look what happened to her!”