Don’t you just love when a book you haven’t heard of turns out to be one you won’t forget!?! I’m indebted to Ninja Book Box for sending this indie book my way, it’s one of my favourite books of the year!
1914. The outbreak of war. In the French city of Arras, a Father is brutally murdered. The Catholic Inquisition, still powerful, but now working in the shadows sends its most determined and unhinged of Inquisitors, Poldek Tacit to investigate his mission to protect the Church from those who would seek to undermine it, no matter what the cost.
Yet as Tacit arrives, armed forces led by Britain and Germany confront each other across No Man’s Land. As the Inquisitor strives in vain to establish the truth behind the murder and to uncover the motives of other Vatican servants seeking to undermine him, a beautiful and spirited woman, Sandrine, warns British soldier Henry Frost of a mutual foe even more terrible lurking beneath the killing fields that answers to no human force and wreaks their havoc by the light of the moon. Faced with impossible odds and his own demons, Tacit must battle the forces of evil, and a church determined at all costs to achieve its aims, to reach the heart of a dark conspiracy that seeks to engulf the world, plunging it ever deeper into conflict.
Morally complex and fast paced, this is a gripping work of dark fiction set in an alternative twentieth century, where humanity’s desire for love, compassion and peace face daunting challenges in a world overwhelmed by total war and mysterious dark forces.
I found the synopsis of this book so interesting, and I love the cover – the cross, the soldiers marching and the wolf howling – but I had no idea just how much I would love the story gracing the pages. Easily one of my top books of the year! Prior to reading this book, I wasn’t familiar with the term “dark fiction” but, oh my, has Richardson set the standard – dark fiction shares many elements with horror fiction, but it doesn’t fall within the realm of standard horror as it is less preoccupied with ‘scaring’ – instead, it has strong themes of fear, death and examines the darker side of human nature. And those are the themes running through The Damned, alongside a 100% believable fantasy element, I’m talking werewolves and demons!
I had no pre-set expectations when I picked up this book, and I don’t want to relay the plot to you because knowing only what the blurb tells you will allow you to get maximum enjoyment from this novel. So, I’ll just say, one storyline of the British on the frontline in World War I, the men in the trenches, and a second storyline of the Catholic Church wanting to protect their secrets at all costs – the way these two storylines merged was brilliant; with every page I turned, I was drawn deeper into this plot.
The character creation in this novel was everything I could hope for, I visualised all the characters as real people. The main protagonist, Tacit, was a fantastic character, carrying scars from early childhood, scarred again as adult, you could just feel within him a whirlwind of emotions behind everything he did. Interspersed throughout the most up-to-date narrative, set in 1914, we get the history of Tacit, how he came to be an Inquisitor and it’s these insights that make you warm to his character, even though he doesn’t appear the friendliest of men. Seeing the development of the relationship between Tacit and Isabella (sent by the church to assess Tacit’s faith and loyalty) over the course of the novel was a joy to read.
And, Sandrine was perhaps the most fascinating character of all, warning everyone to lock their doors by nightfall or they may not get to see the sun rise the next morning, and she, too, is carrying secrets.
The fantasy elements were so well incorporated into this plot, it’s not often I read a book featuring werewolves, but this is certainly how they should be written. Dark, emotive, thrilling and engaging! I was completely blown away by this book – Tarn Richardson, I didn’t know your name before but it’s one I certainly won’t forget now!
Likely, due to the strong presence of the Catholic Church and the Vatican, thoughts of Dan Brown came to mind while I was reading, but this is firmly Richardson’s novel, the writing and the plot his own, holding my full attention throughout, emotionally involving me in the plot and leaving me sad when I finished the book. Luckily, this is a trilogy and I have purchased book 2, The Fallen, already!