“Bloodwalker” by L. X. Cain

“Bloodwalker” starts out as a detective story with a mild paranormal element, a tale that depends on beautifully described setting and mood for its tension. The tale takes place in Eastern Europe, in societies rich with paranormal legends. It also occurs at the intersection where two ancient cultures – the traditional circus and a backward religious sect – clash with the modern world.

Plowing his way through this rich mélange is Rurik, the lightning-shattered hulk of a former strongman, and now a monster in his own right. The other main character is Sylvie, one of the Bloodwalkers, a special cadre of seeresses/undertakers of her ancient and primitive sect. While Rurik struggles to untangle the intertwining conflicts of the circus people to discover the fiend who is murdering children, Sylvie is thrown out of her not-so-cosy nest in her home village and comes face to face with the modern world, including an abusive new husband.

These interlacing storylines create a wonderful tapestry of action as they all draw together towards an inevitable explosion, fueled by ancient horrors and by the interpersonal conflicts of highly realistic characters, even those in the smallest roles.

At the end, however, the author gets a bit carried away, as the monsters become more and more monstrous and the reasons for their existence become less and less plausible. I would have rather he stopped one climax before the end. The final, frenetic action didn’t add that much tension. (The hero can only be clubbed by a certain number of misshapen fists before the action of the battle becomes meaningless.) The conflicts were wrapped up already, and the denouement is based on a dubious interpretation of natural gas pumping technology. I would rather have enjoyed more of the romantic part of the story, which felt tacked on as an afterthought.

But in the end the fresh injection of ancient lore and the power of the main character stand the story in good stead. Recommended for those who are tired of the same old paranormal settings and conflicts.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

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