CM . . . .
Volume V Number 11 . . . . January 29, 1999
Another huge wave struck like a battering ram. ... [The boat] leaned farther, so far that water began lapping over the side.If you are looking for inspiration for a series of horror stories, the Norse mythology provides a wonderful source! This is the second in the "Northern Frights" series by Arthur Slade - the previous novel was Draugr - and it explores the possibilities of human intervention in the continuing struggle among this set of [mostly malevolent] gods. Michael Asmundson and his father have come to Drang Island, north along the coast from Vancouver Island, to research the final chapters of Mr. Asmundson's book on "modern-day Viking tales." There are still inhabitants on Drang who may be able to tell stories of its settlement.
Drang is not a hospitable spot. The first evening sees a heavy storm, mysterious noises outside the Asmundson's tent, blood-like graffiti - "Yu are marked ded" - written on its canvas, as well as the arrival of another 15-year-old, Fiona, a girl who has run, or rather paddled, away from home on an adjacent island. The tale continues on a convoluted path that includes monsters from the deep, the undead (both human and animal) and very appropriate meteorological effects. All this is background, and sometimes foreground, for Michael's own personal troubles, but, in spite of being told several times about how mucked up his life has been in the past year, his problems don't quite ring true. He is too knowledgeable, too competent, and too likeable to be the friendless mess we are supposed to believe he is trying to escape.
The point of the novel, however, is the gripping action, not deep character analysis, and Slade succeeded admirably in keeping this reader on the edge of her chair. Michael's father is perhaps a touch pedantic in his exposition of the relevant chunks of mythology, inserting more details than one might want or expect, given the hair-raising situations in which he, Michael and Fiona find themselves, but, for most readers, these myths will be unfamiliar territory, and it is difficult to see how else the background could have been conveyed.
On the whole this is a well written book, which makes it unusual among novels in the horror genre, and the introduction to northern mythology is a very interesting sidelight in a gripping story.
Mary Thomas is presently on leave from the Winnipeg School Division No.1, living in Oxford and enjoying the prospect of a part-time job in the library of Oxford Brookes University.
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