They say you should never judge a book by its cover. They also say (I think) you should judge a book by its title. OK, maybe not, but this is one book to definitely not judge by the title.
Because to do this you may be forgiven for imagining a bloodfest of werewolves butchering and being butchered by samurai warriors before the inevitable end of the world. A nice, cosy fun-packed adventure where the plot is only there to bring on the next wave of graphic violence.
Well, that’s kind of true here, but there is much, much more going on. Yes it’s Japanese, yes it’s got werewolves that kill and are killed in graphic, grotesque ways, and yes it’s about the apocalypse, in a fashion. Oh, and there’s also some time-travelling and re-incarnation thrown in to boot. What, now? In a splatter-novel? Yes indeed.
I think to add a summary here would be unwise, and yeah that’s sort of because at times I wasn’t completely aware of exactly what was going on. What with characters becoming other characters, being killed or impaling themselves with their own blades so they’d die with honour, only to be resurrected to continue their battle that stretches over hundreds of years. It sounds complicated, and it is. In fact, in the forward the author explains that it is a convoluted plot that takes some concentration. He wasn’t lying.
This isn’t a casual read for someone looking for scene after scene of gore, the story is extremely deep. It deals with love, vengeance, desperation, and big-ass swords that are impaled into every body-hole available (yes, that one too!).
I suppose to describe this novel I’d have to mention the likeness I found to Twin Peaks, especially with the whole time-travelling ting going on. The book leaps from present day to 12th Century wars being fought between clans of werewolves. Characters (well, their souls at least) are thrust back and forth between timelines where their memories become a little distorted, yet they still remember things that are to happen in the future.
Confused? Yeah, me too. But is this a bad thing? The TV series Twin Peaks’ recent return was 18 hours of awesomeness, yet I’m still not entirely sure what was going on. But that didn’t make it any less enjoyable. In fact, it made it even better. The same is true with this book. As you’re reading a passage wondering what these characters are up to and why, suddenly there’s a section of intense brutality. The descriptions of the violence are great, so vividly depicted at times I was wiping the imaginary blood from my own face. Scenes from Ichi the Killer were brought straight to the forefront of my mind. Amazing stuff.
I can’t end this review without mentioning the musical references here. Now I like my metal, and when I read a book with nods to some of my favourite bands, I can’t help but throw those horns while reading. Opeth, Helmet, Slayer, Motorhead; good work! In fact if I was to go fighting a group of blood-hungry werewolves, I too would put some Reign in Blood on the headphones.
This is definitely a ‘read it again’ book, which is a sign of how much I enjoyed it, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy it even more the next time around.
Categories: book review