Book Reviews

{Review} BLOOD SACRIFICES, by Brian Moreland

{Review} BLOOD SACRIFICES, by Brian Morelandby Brian Moreland
Published by Samhain Publishing on April 5, 2016
Genres: Dark Fantasy, Dark Fiction, Fiction, Ghost, Horror, Occult & Supernatural, Paranormal, Supernatural
Pages: 282
Format: Paperback
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Some evils require sacrifices.

From the author of Dead of Winter and The Devil’s Woods come four tales of blood-tingling horror.

The Girl from the Blood Coven

In this short prequel to The Witching House, when Abigail Blackwood claims her hippy commune family has been massacred, Sheriff Travis Keagan and his deputies investigate. They discover there’s more than weed smoking going on at Blevins House. Much more.

The Witching House

Sarah Donovan is scared of just about everything, but she helps her adventurous boyfriend investigate the old, abandoned Blevins House, scene of a forty-year-old unsolved massacre. Little do they know the house is hungry for fresh prey…

Darkness Rising

When Marty Weaver encounters three killers who like to play sadistic games with their victims, his own scarred past is unearthed. And when his pain is triggered, blood will flow…and hell will rise.

The Vagrants

Beneath the city of Boston, evil is gathering. While living under a bridge with the homeless, journalist Daniel Finley witnessed something that nearly cost him his sanity. Now, with a book published about the experience, he’s caught between the Irish mafia and a deranged cult preparing to shed blood on the street.

BLOOD SACRIFICES, by Brian Moreland is a collection of three novellas, and one short story that serves as a prequel to the first novella.  By the time I had come across this collection, I had previously read two of Moreland’s novels, and one novella.  I can honestly say that I have yet to come across something from this author that I didn’t enjoy.  Moreland has a fluid writing style that appears to be getting stronger with each new release.  His attention to atmospheric details quickly draws the reader into the storyline, creating a vivid background that often acts as a “character” itself.  Personally, I feel that this is one of his greatest strengths, along with his unique, imaginative plot-lines.

The first story presented is “The Girl From the Blood Coven”.  In the year 1972, Sheriff Travis Keagan has finished his shift for the night, and is taking in a Rangers game at the local bar.  Without warning, a girl walks in–covered head to toe in blood that is NOT her own.  Her cryptic words:  “They’re all dead”, lead Keagan and a deputy to the Blevins House–reputed home to a coven of witches.

What Sheriff Keagan finds there is something nobody could have anticipated.

” . . . when you mess with the devil, it can only end up bad.”

I absolutely loved this short story that serves as a prequel to Moreland’s novella, THE WITCHING HOUSE!  The tension builds steadily to the horrifying climax.

The second selection naturally following is the novella, THE WITCHING HOUSE.  When two couples go exploring in the old, reputed haunted Blevins House, they’re expecting to find nothing more than a dilapidated building to film, or maybe some leftover antiques rotting away in some of the three-story building’s rooms.  Their guide, a local “thrill hunter” named Ronnie, works for the house’s caretaker, Otis Blevins.  He assures them that they will be able to explore, completely undisturbed.  (NOTE:  It’s never a great idea to go into a place that housed dozens of homicides within its tainted walls–especially when you’re trespassing and haven’t told a soul about your destination.)

What Brian Moreland began in his short story “The Girl From the Blood Coven”, goes into frightening new details as the full story behind that fateful night unfolds.  For the evil that was born is still awake . . .

. . . And still so very hungry–

Moreland let this story be told throughout the entire course of the novella–not by dumping the entire plot in a one-sitting conversation.  His descriptions of the house and noxious mold within were vivid enough for me to feel as though I were walking through the house with the “Urban Explorers”.  The sense of foreboding begins immediately, and steadily builds as the novella goes on.

There were a couple of character thoughts and emotions that I felt were out of place in the situation involving them, but other than those, I felt it was a solid read with a conclusion that I was only able to partially predict.

The third story is Moreland’s DARKNESS RISING.  This novella had it all:  blood, torture, revenge, and so many “grisly” surprises that I can’t give away without spoiling the plot.  After a fantastic prologue, I did have doubts as to how the rest of the book would measure up.  However, this one had so many horrifying twists, that I wasn’t able to predict the ultimate ending–something that is becoming increasingly rare.  Moreland scored high points with me on this one!

The main character, Marty Weaver, is a man you can’t help but feel for.  Following a tragedy at the age of nine, his life was spent with abusive foster homes and constant bullying that seemed to follow him, even as he grew and began working minimum wage jobs.  His only solace was found by writing poetry in a private journal.  “Poetry has an invisible power that transcends the soul.”

Never did I  imagine how true this was!

While I first thought of this as another “feel sorry for the poor boy” type of book, I couldn’t have been more mistaken.  While that element is present, it’s only a small part of the places Brian Moreland’s words will take you to.

These are NOT the kind of places that you’d ever want to go . . . .

This is probably my favorite story in the collection!

The final novella here is THE VAGRANTS.  Daniel Finley, a journalist, goes undercover as one of the many homeless in order to observe their lives, firsthand, for a book he plans on writing.

“My name is Daniel Finley, and I am not one of them”, is the mantra he would secretly scribble in his journal each day.  After a charismatic stranger–covered in odd tattoo designs–enters their “community”, he begins preaching to the others.  He called himself Mordecai, and soon had every man and woman in the area moving on to be part of his “cult”.

The release of Daniel’s book finds him once more being led back to Mordecai and his followers–and on his other side, the Irish Mafia boss, Drake O’Malley, demanding payment owed him by Daniel’s elderly father.  The situations and environments in this novella were truly frightening–especially the scenes in underground, abandoned subway tunnels.  The fanatical Mordecai with his talk of an apocalypse that would bring out flesh eating demons was mesmerizing!

My only minor complaints in this novella were that the rest of the characters–especially Daniel’s girlfriend, Connie–felt two-dimensional in comparison to the main character.  Also, several comments/situations were unnecessarily pointed out repetitiously that did nothing to add to, or advance the plot in any way.

Aside from this, I found THE VAGRANTS–especially the last half–to be a nerve wracking journey between a known evil (Drake O’Malley), and an unknown, even more sinister one.

Brian Moreland is an emerging talent that is on my “must-read” list with each new release.  This collection is a fantastic way to sample some of his writing and originality, all in one place.

Highly recommended!

About Brian Moreland

Brian Moreland writes dark suspense, thrillers, and horror. His books include DEAD OF WINTER, SHADOWS IN THE MIST, THE WITCHING HOUSE, THE DEVIL’S WOODS, THE VAGRANTS, DARKNESS RISING and a short story collection, DARK NEEDS: 3 Twisted Tales of Horror. Brian loves hiking, world travel, and spending time with family. He’s been known to explore caves and unchartered rain forests in Costa Rica. He lives in Dallas, Texas where he is having fun writing new scary fiction.

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I am an avid reader/reviewer and collector of books--primarily horror, supernatural, and supernatural-themed thrillers.

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