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Flame Tree Press’s new horror line, with horror editor extraordinaire, Don D’Auria at the helm, is gearing up to bring horror with “AWARD-WINNING AUTHORS & ORIGINAL VOICES” to the masses.

I received the first batch of stories to review last month and have made my way through the first couple by two familiar names: Hunter Shea (We Are Always Watching, The Montauk Monster) and Tim Waggoner (Pandora Drive, The Winter Box) .

Being a huge Leisure Books and Samhain Publishing fan (and sometime author), I’m excited about this new venture with Don and Flame Tree. After reading these two offerings, I think we’re in for a bit of change, and that can definitely be a good thing.

CREATURE by Hunter Shea

The monsters live inside of Kate Woodson. Chronic pain and a host of autoimmune diseases have robbed her of a normal, happy life. Her husband Andrew’s surprise of their dream Maine lake cottage for the summer is the gift of a lifetime. It’s beautiful, remote, idyllic, a place to heal. But they are not alone. Something is in the woods, screeching in the darkness, banging on the house, leaving animals for dead. Just like her body, Kate’s cottage becomes her prison. She and Andrew must fight to survive the creature that lurks in the dead of night. 

 CreatureCreature by Hunter Shea

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

With CREATURE, Hunter Shea shares a horror none of us would choose to face. A very slow burn with one of the most sympathetic characters I’v ever read. The last act of this one features enough savage horror for Shea’s regulars.

Kate is a fabulous character, as is Andrew.  We feel their pain throughout this novel. Shea poured his blood on the pages and while I commend him for this, and it is effective early on, it began to wear on me halfway through. But if you push through, the reveal of the monster is well worth the wait.

The “Creature” had a bit of a fantasy feel for me with how Shea uses it once we discover what’s truly happening, and that bugged me a little but not enough to ruin things for me.  There was just enough gore to satisfy my hunger, but not as much as you’d expect to find in a Shea novel. That’s okay. This story doesn’t call for it.

I give CREATURE 3.5 monstrous stars.

*Recommended for patient horror readers. Takes a while to really deliver, but when it does, watch out!

THE MOUTH OF THE DARK by Tim Waggoner

Jayce’s twenty-year-old daughter Emory is missing, lost in a dark, dangerous realm called Shadow that exists alongside our own reality. An enigmatic woman named Nicola guides Jayce through this bizarre world, and together they search for Emory, facing deadly dog-eaters, crazed killers, homicidal sex toys, and – worst of all – a monstrous being known as the Harvest Man. But no matter what Shadow throws at him, Jayce won’t stop. He’ll do whatever it takes to find his daughter, even if it means becoming a worse monster than the things that are trying to stop him. 

 The Mouth of the DarkThe Mouth of the Dark by Tim Waggoner

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

THE MOUTH OF THE DARK by Bram Stoker winner, Tim Waggoner, is an interesting book. If you’re tired of the same old-same old in your horror stories, this might be just the thing you’re looking for.

There’s a world (Shadow) within our own, where creatures and, sometimes humans, live and thrive. There are exotic shops, a club called, Crimson Splendor (cool name!), and creatures, I said that, right? Weird concoctions like The Napkin Eater, Underborns, and Therons (oh my!).

At the core, is a story about a father (Jayce) in search of his daughter (Emory). Throughout the search, Jayce is introduced to Shadow and all the things Emory has gotten into.
I wouldn’t say this story is for everyone, but if you enjoyed shows like Grimm and Supernatural, you might really dig this one (note-this would be a very hard R rated version of those shows).

I enjoyed the characters well enough and the creativeness in Waggoner’s “Shadow” is amazing, but I think this would have had much more impact as a novella. Like I said, it is very different from anything I’ve read lately (when Waggoner goes weird, he really goes weird-see Pandora Drive). Sometimes, different works, sometimes it fails to connect. That’s how I felt about his particular book. While there’s plenty to like in here, some (key word: some) of it just wasn’t for me.

Overall, a good read.
I give THE MOUTH OF THE DARK 3.5 stars.

Final word:

You can tell I found plenty to enjoy in my first dance with Flame Tree Press. I think these two novels will find plenty of love from a wide range of readers out there. They also are a great lead into two of he books I’m most looking forward to this year: THE SIREN AND THE SPECTER from Jonathan Janz, and THE HOUSE BY THE CEMETERY by John Everson

Stay tuned for those reviews next month!