The Path: Keeper of Amaarand by E.H. James

The Path: Keeper of Amaarand by E.H. James
The Demon Series Part 8

Publisher: Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (54 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

When Max Jensen is brutally murdered, on September 9, 1962, Timmy Jensen’s life is changed forever.

Timmy adored Max, and his loss was something neither he, nor his parents, could overcome. Shunned and ostracized, as the brother of that murdered teen, Timmy manages to find a job with a kind man by the name of Earl Jackman. Hauling away junk from people’s attics, Timmy meets Jenny Krieger and falls in love. Only Jenny’s father won’t have it, and she is shipped off to boarding school in Europe. But not before he meets Jenny’s grandma and is given a powerful medallion, known as the Amaarand.

Told he can use it to rescue his brother Max’s soul from hell, he must now patiently wait for his opportunity. He just didn’t know he’d have to wait until 2012.

Sometimes the best way to handle a supernatural battle is to wait for the perfect time to strike.

The dialogue was well done. There were a few scenes where characters were able to guess what their conversation partner was about to say and respond to it before the other person had even had a chance to speak. This was a creative way to keep those scene moving, and I enjoyed seeing how easy it was for them to make those educated guesses.

There were some pacing issues in the beginning. It took a while for the narrator to explain what Timmy’s life was like during the years after his brother was murdered. Timmy wasn’t a character I was necessarily expecting to see again, so it was interesting to see how he was brought back into the plot for the grand finale. It was a pleasant surprise, though, and I was glad to see him get more time to show the audience what he was about.

I was quite pleased with how the author wrapped everything up. The previous instalments spent a lot of time creating a complex world that involved everything from time travel to alternate timelines to the notorious behavior of demons who were capable of twisting any human action to their own dark purposes. There was a lot of material to cover because of this, and I was happy with how well it was all tied together by the end of the last scene.

This is part of a series. It should be read in order.

The Path: Keeper of Amaarand should be read by any horror or science fiction fans who enjoyed the first seven parts of this tale.

Nicholas: Lost Innocence, The Demon Series Part 6 by E.H. James

Nicholas: Lost Innocence, The Demon Series Part 6 by E.H. James
Publisher: Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Historical, Contemporary
Length: Short Story (83 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

On a September night, in 1962, five-year-old Nicholas Starke finds himself alone on a street in Fairfield.

Confused and frightened, he is rescued by a kind couple. When that same couple adopts him, he is able to move on with his life…Only the people in the town of Fairfield won’t let him. And when met with angry and frightened stares, wherever he goes, his parents decide it best to move. But where can you go, when strange happenings follow your every move?

Will Nicholas hold on to what is left of his innocence, or will his brother’s influence be his downfall?

Nobody chooses the circumstances of their birth or what kind of childhood they had, but everyone always has a choice when it comes to how they behave.

The world building in this series keeps getting better the further along in it I go. It was very good in Beyond The Red Door four year ago, and it’s only gotten better since then. There were a few scenes in the beginning that are only now starting to pay off fully for the characters. I’ve enjoyed seeing how the author has developed this universe so far, and I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next.

I would have liked to see more character development for Nicholas Starke. He had a lot of exciting, frightening, and unexpected things happen to him in his life, but I didn’t see many examples of him changing as a result of these experiences. It was also difficult at times to get a feel for his personality. Other than him having a tendency to be cautious, I was never quite sure what other words could be used to describe him.

The creative plots twists are one of the biggest reasons why I enjoy this author’s stories so much. Nicholas: Lost Innocence was just as full of surprises as I expected it to be, especially once the main character grew up and began to explore who he really was and where he came from. I was so interested in finding out where those moments would all lead to that I couldn’t stop reading.

This tale is the sixth in a series. I’d recommend reading the first five before moving onto this one due to how much backstory was covered in them.

Nicholas: Lost Innocence, The Demon Series Part 6 should be read by anyone who enjoyed the first five installments of the The Demon Series.

Realms of Darkness by E. H. James

Realms of Darkness by E. H. James
Publisher: Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing
Genre: Horror, Paranormal, Contemporary, Historical
Length: Short Story (25 pages)
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Just when you thought it was safe to come out and play…

Being in the wrong place at the wrong time can be murder.
The Lamp ~ Don’t play games in the dead of night where shadows dwell.
The Late Shift ~ By the time you finish reading this, it’s already too late.
The Hitch ~ Don’t go looking for it…you might not like what you find.
The Furnace ~ Once you open that door there’s no going back.
In the Realms of Darkness…no one is safe.

Is it scarier to imagine something horrifying or to actually see it happen? It is better to wonder if something terrible is hunting you down or to know this information for sure?

The stories in this collection ricochet off of this question. While they ended up in wildly different places all four of them truly deserve to be included in the horror genre.

“The Lamp” had a bone-chilling premise that easily could have been expanded into a full-length novel. The reader is given just enough information about Sandra and Jennifer’s Ouija board experiment to whet his or her appetite for the truth. While it worked well as a short story I think “The Lamp” would have been creepier and more memorable if the characters were given a few pages of exposition so that we could get to know everyone a little better. For example, are Sandra and Jennifer platonic friends or high school sweethearts? The way it is currently written I could make an argument for either possibility.

My favourite tale was “The Late Shift.” At first I wondered how a story about a tired server eagerly counting down the minutes until closing time could possible belong in this collection. Sheila, the progagonist, is such an observant, meticulous individual that I couldn’t imagine anything out of the ordinary slipping by on her watch. I didn’t figure out what was really happening until just a few sentences before it was described in greater detail.

I figured out the twist in “The Hitch” early on, but knowing what was probably going to happen did not dampen my enthusiasm in the least. The subtle clues in it lead to an immensely satisfying ending. Sensitive readers be warned, “The Hitch” includes a fairly gory scene. While it makes sense in the context of the tale the description of what is happening is explicit and should not be shared with younger readers.

“The Furnace” was the weakest addition. Like “The Hitch” it includes blood and gore, but in this case the violence does not seamlessly blend into the rest of the story. I had trouble understanding an unwise decision Karen makes early on. Perhaps the average person was more trusting in the 1970s, but I had a hard time reconciling her choice with her otherwise intelligent demeanour.

The subtle tales in this book were of more interest to this reader but all of them caught my attention at some point. I don’t know if the author has any plans to write a sequel to Realms of Darkness, but I would be quite interested in reading more!

Realms of Darkness is best consumed in one sitting. While none of the stories are set in the same universe each one reinforces the spooky atmosphere that makes dipping one’s toes into the horror genre so deliciously frightening.

The Red Door by E. H. James


The Red Door by E. H. James
Publisher: Crushing Hearts and Black Butterfly Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Historical, Paranormal
Length: Short Story (30 pages)
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Max is your typical 16-year-old trying to navigate his way through yet another high school, in 1962. Unable to avoid the bullies that love to torment everyone in their sight, Max plays along. But when they demand he go into the abandoned Starke house at midnight, on the anniversary of the serial killer’s execution, Max is not overly anxious to comply. For it is said Starke reappears at the scene of the crime, back to where he buried all those boys in his basement. Given the task of returning with a chip of blood from the basement door, Max heads into the house, determined to make fools out of every one of them. For only a fool would believe in such nonsense…right?

Unfinished basements are creepy. Where else can you be six – or more – feet underground in a dark, dank, muffled, dirt-filled environment that has no sense of the passage of time?

Max thinks he’s finally figured out how to silence his bullies. At first I was surprised by the author’s decision to show Max’s emotional torment without describing why such an intelligent, peace-loving guy was chosen as a victim or what was going on in the lives of Jimmy and his friends to justify their abuse. Bullies aren’t logical, though, and some human beings are just simply cruel. In retrospect this information wasn’t important or necessary for what happens next in the story. What matters is that Max’s response to their taunts is never out of proportion or unkind. If anything he isn’t quite assertive enough! This level-headedness speaks volumes about Max’s personal code of ethics.

The Red Door’s climax left something to be desired. A scene I was particularly anticipating ends almost as soon as it begins. Switching away at that particular moment drained some of the tension in this story for me. It took until the final scene for me to begin regaining the excitement and dread I’d felt for these characters earlier. This would have been easily corrected in a longer book but it was difficult for me to reengage with the plot when so little of it was left.

Mr. James was effective at slowly building interest in the mysteries of the Starke house, though, and in describing a recently abandoned home in eerie detail from how quickly dust covers everything to what happens to a crime scene after everyone in the outside world begins to move on with their lives.

Are you ready to see what lies beyond The Red Door? This is a good tale for anyone who enjoys thinking about what might be waiting for them as much as they do actually discovering it.