Oblivion’s Child by Tommy B. Smith

Oblivion’s Child by Tommy B. Smith
Publisher: Raven Tale Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Paranormal, Historical
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

The storm came down, incredible in its fury. When the clouds parted, even the sun’s brilliance could not dispel the darkest spaces to persist.

Nine-year-old Zander sees the outlines of the monsters in the darkness. Against his mounting fears, he cannot elude them, nor escape the madness of the day when his mother tried to drown him in the bath.

She never gave him a true name, only a Z with X’s behind it, and promised him to the void.

For Zander, his grandmother, and his catatonic Aunt Helen in their beachfront house on the Florida shoreline, the tide has shifted—the tide of a turbulent cosmic sea, its dark currents murmuring chaos.

Rural doesn’t always mean safe.

What a deliciously scary read this was! I loved the ominous descriptions of the places Zander visited during the course of the plot. Some of them seemed fairly ordinary at first glance, but that only made it more exciting to discover their eerie secrets as the characters took a closer look at the home or the forest they were currently in and realized that things might not be what they seem. I wish I could be more specific than that, but the less other readers know in advance about what awaits the characters the better.

I would have liked to see a bit more time spent on the character development as the amount of it that was included tickled my imagination. Yes, this seems to be a world that is more plot driven, but with a little more attention paid to fleshing out the characters I would have happily bumped this up to a full five-star rating. It was otherwise exactly the sort of horror I love to read.

Secrets can have a funny way of wiggling their way out into the open. Zander’s limited knowledge about his birth parents intrigued me, and I wondered where the author might go with the few tidbits of information about them Zander did have as the plot progressed. I’m still a fairly new fan of Mr. Smith’s work, but I have to say that I’ve become even more impressed with his ability to weave plot lines together in memorable ways as I dig deeper into his body of work. He handled Zander’s origins nicely.

This is the second instalment in the Black Carmenia series, and it should be read in publication order for plot development reasons.

Oblivion’s Child made me yearn for more.

New Era by Tommy B. Smith

New Era by Tommy B. Smith
Publisher: Raven Tale Publishing
Genre: Sci-Fi/Fantasy, Horror, Paranormal, Historical
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Insomnia. Headaches. Fear.

It drove Marjorie down, cost her a career, and almost destroyed her marriage. When she and her husband Terry escaped to the quiet green countryside west of the Mississippi River, their new home, it seemed too good to last.

The snake-ridden adjoining property, bordered by a row of maple trees, hosts a deadly secret. There the blood of fiends and innocents stain the crumbling ruins of an old farmhouse, a decaying testament to a web of treachery and murder stretching back to distant times.

The horror in the ruins watches in wait. Marjorie fears the end, and the end is coming.

The past never dies.

It was nice to read about characters who are sensible and cautious in the horror genre. While they didn’t always make the same decisions I would, I understood why they made other choices and thought they were doing the best they could with the information they currently had. That’s not always something that happens in these sorts of tales, so it’s refreshing to find here.

The cast of characters was large enough that I had trouble keeping track of who everyone was and how they knew each other. It was even more of a problem for me in the 1982 storyline because it kept introducing new characters who were sometimes critical to the plot and in other cases played less prominent roles in future scenes. As much as I liked switching between this year and the 1918 plot that explained the origins of certain events, it was also confusing for me as a reader because of how many extra characters I then needed to keep track of.

One of the most memorable parts of this novella had to do with its thoughts on how curses work. This was even more true since part of the curse was placed upon a parcel of land instead of on an object or a person. I found myself wondering about all sorts of practical matters related to cursed land. For example, would an object lose its curse if it were removed from that area? Were the soil and plants themselves cursed, too? How long could someone spend on that land before terrible things began to happen to them? I can’t answer those questions in this review without sharing spoilers, but I enjoyed the author’s thoughts on how that all worked in this universe.

I did find myself wishing that the narrator had gone into more detail about the motivations of certain characters who committed some pretty violent acts. Yes, violence is to be expected in the horror genre, but I struggled to understand how those characters could switch so quickly from displaying fairly calm demeanors to attempting to kill those around them. With more development, these changes in behavior could have been truly terrifying in the best sense of that phrase for the horror fans reading it.

The ending was well done. I was especially interested in seeing how the main characters would react once they’d discovered enough clues to realistically have some idea of just how much danger they were in. Their sensible reactions only made me more curious to see if they’d prevail in the final scene. I will be keeping an eye out for any sequels that might revisit this world.

New Era was a delightfully scary story.