I like my horror much the way I like my whisky - high quality, straight up, excellent from the beginning to the end, and leaving me wanting more. I can be all over the board when it comes to horror that I like. The biggest thing is suspension of disbelief. If I'm not buying into the story, it's a struggle to get through. That's why dark fantasy is a tough one for me to choke down. Most of the stuff that I encounter is so comic book-ish, it's hard for me to swallow, like cheap whiskey. So, when I was asked to read and review Stephanie Wytovich's dark fantasy tale, The Eighth, I was apprehensive, to say the least, eyeing it with the same kind of scrutiny as if someone poured me a glass of whiskey made in Cleveland. This may be Wytovich's debut novel, but she's no rookie in the writing world. Poetry seems to be her calling and she's been nominated for Bram Stoker Awards in that area. You can see it in her writing which, by the way, is very good. Her descriptions are top shelf. The girl has quite the vocabulary and she's not afraid to use it. She paints a landscape of hell with liberal strokes of Dante's Inferno along with accents of Clive Barker and Neil Gaimon, for good measure. The tale itself centers around Paimon, Satan's top soul collector. Paimon has been assigned to harvest Rhea's soul. In an unusual lack of preparedness, Paimon goes about the task withouth reading her file first. Bad mistake. If he had, he would've learned that Rhea is a spitting image of Marissa, Paimon's long lost love who he killed so many years ago. He struggles daily with this decision and, upon seeing Rhea, he immediately falls in love with her. There's no way he can deliver her to Lucifer. He has to have Rhea for himself. Well, you can see how this can become problematic and to no surprise, it does.
Wytovich's elegant writing style breathes life into the story. You can feel Paimon's sadness and pain. She's also no stranger to the red stuff, which this book has plenty. The "rules" of hell are a bit jumbled, but that may also be something that I missed on the initial reading. And that's really my only complaint for the whole story. I feel like I was missing something to tie it all together. Now, that's more of a problem for me and not the fault of the writer. If you're a fan of dark fantasy, pour yourself a tall glass of The Eighth. The writing is excellent from start to finish.
4 1/2 Deadly Sins out of 5
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