Blood Red Roses by Russell James

Blood Red Roses by Russell James
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Historical
Length: Short Story (97 pages)
Rating: 3.5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The spirits of the dead cry for justice.

In the waning days of the Civil War, orphaned teen Jebediah Abernathy has been indentured to one of the most notorious plantations in Mississippi, Beechwood. Ramses, the sadistic overseer, rules completely, unchecked by owners driven mad by the loss of their only son. Cruelty and torture are commonplace. And slave boys are mysteriously vanishing. But Jebediah is not completely alone. The ghost of his father and an escaped slave sorceress will lead him to the horrific truth about the disappearances—a knowledge that will probably cost him his life.

Even the worst streak of bad luck has to end eventually, right?

Jebediah hasn’t had an easy childhood by any stretch of the imagination. His response to all of the traumatic things that have happened to him made me empathize with him early on, but what happens next made me take a long, hard look at the times in my life when I’ve acted just like him. One of the reasons why I’m such a huge fan of science fiction and horror is that both genres are quite good at bringing attention to topics that aren’t always easy to discuss. I wasn’t expecting to experience as much introspection as I did while I read this novella, but doing so made me wish for a sequel.

It would have been nice to see more character development occur during the course of the plot. A lot of time was spent describing the appearances and demeanours of all of the individuals Jebediah meets, but only a limited amount of space was set aside to show how they changed as a result of what happens at Beechwood. Had this not been the case, this story would have easily earned a much higher rating.

The horror genre is strongly represented in this tale. What made the scary scenes even more interesting, though, was how much time Mr. James spends foreshadowing them. This was a great choice for this particular story as it gave me the opportunity to acclimate to the culture these characters were living in before the plot thickened.

I’d recommend Blood Red Roses to anyone looking for something dark yet intelligent. It kept me on my toes from beginning to end!


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