With a librarian among the heroes and dark rituals among the underclass, this book is set firmly in the vein of H. P. Lovecraft and Robert W. Chambers. However, LeTendre has not sought to mimic the purple prose of the original Mythos stories, freeing the story to also stand as modern horror.
The book is set in a slightly more decayed version of Springfield, Massachusetts, and revolves around two sets of friends (Frank and Rob, and Amy and Sam) who hit it off in a bar. When Sam’s side job as a freelance journalist exposes her to a strange symbol she starts to experience waking nightmares and condition only exacerbated by anonymous telephone calls about the King In Yellow. Initially just happy to have possibly found dates for the Halloween staff party the friends soon find they might be each others only chance to avoid both madness and the death.
The reader’s introduction to the protagonists, from their preparations to go to the bar to their trip to Frank and Rob’s flat, both efficiently portrays their distinct characters and provides a normal positive image, making the subsequent descent into horror all the more emotive. This balancing of normality and horror continues throughout the story.
Unlike the brooding horror Chamber’s King in Yellow, the reader is shown real evidence of the supernatural earlier in the plot. This fits well with the greater scepticism of the modern age as people see but do not believe. However – despite the overall freshness brought by adopting modern style and beliefs – some of the prose is slightly over-explained, leaving some scenes less tense than they could be.
As befits a modern setting there is a greater level of both technology and firearms on both sides. While it would seem unrealistic for the firearms to be missing, some of the technology is both powerful and plausible which runs counter to the theme of otherworldly magic. Whether it detracts more than it adds will depend on each reader’s love of classic Lovecraftian horror.
Overall I enjoyed it greatly. I would recommend it all fans of indescribable horrors, whether or not they are familiar with the The King In Yellow.
I received a free copy in exchange for a fair review.