This book review is provided as part of the Shadows Over Somerset blog tour, however, the standards and scrutiny applied to this review are no less than those given to any other work presented through the views of The Rage Circus Vs. The Soulless Void, your blog for all things horror!
What kind of story would you expect from a writer who has interacted with the supernatural? With such a vast wealth of knowledge at his disposal that he lectures as an expert in the occult and the paranormal, what kind of tale could Bob Freeman tell? It could be that as a regular lecturer, his writing could quickly deteriorate into an encyclopedia entry, too bogged down by facts to allow the reader to dive into the story. It could also be that a lifetime of study would present some of the best of mythology to support a strong cast of characters and a fast-paced, exciting story. While it may be a little convoluted at first, it quickly becomes apparent that this story will not be any lecture, but a thrill ride that you will not be able to put down.
Michael Somers is brought to Cairnwood, an isolated manor in rural Indiana, to sit at the deathbed of a grandfather he never knew existed. He soon finds himself drawn into a strange and esoteric world filled with werewolves, vampires, witches… and a family curse that dates back to fourteenth century Scotland.
In the sleepy little town of Somerset, an ancient evil awakens, hungering for blood and vengeance… and if Michael is to survive he must face his inner demons and embrace his family’s dark past.
From the very beginning the story is shrouded in mystery. While all starts to be revealed and explained within the first quarter of the book, this does cause some initial issues for the reader. With the large cast of characters and so much that had to be discovered, I found myself having some difficulty fully following what was happening and who each character was until the story started flowing. However, once the players in the drama started to become clearer, I was instantly hooked and felt myself propelled through the story.
This novel has something for every type of horror fan. There is plenty of blood and action. I can assure you that the vampires in this novel do NOT sparkle. The werewolves are brutal and we get different types from humanoid creatures to full, run-on-all-fours wolves. The witches are deadly and powerful, yet also very human. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of all of this is that Freeman manages to make all of these fantastic creatures feel very natural within the context of the story. Add to it that all of the creatures are not just ambiguous fiends, but well-thought-out characters with backstories and personalities beyond just their basic creature of the night.
For me, the greatest strength of this novel was the amazing backstory given to the characters. Each has a rich history that interlocks through the ages to the rest of the cast bringing them all to the present day encounter. The Cairnwood family is given a legacy that carries down through the years and is presented to the reader without overwhelming the reader with detail or bogging down the story in unnecessary exposition. The narrative is concise, but extremely descriptive and visual taking the reader from one moment of intense action to the next. To avoid spoilers, I won’t go into any great detail, but I will say that Freeman manages a balance that will please both those who desire constant action in their reading materials as well as those who want a solidly constructed story and characters.
Shadows Over Somerset is a work that shows how fiction can benefit from intensive research and preparation prior to the author ever putting pen to paper. While it is true that in this case, much of the folklore and mythology used by Freeman might have been among that which he already had in his vast repertoire, given his background as an investigator and researcher of the paranormal, but the reader directly receives the benefits of this knowledge in the form of a fantastic story. What makes the story even better is knowing that Freeman plans on Shadows Over Somerset being just the first in a series of Cairnwood Manor tales, meaning we can look forward to further journeys into the realm of this amazing world that Freeman has set up for us.
So, let’s take a look at the Rage Circus breakdown:
Story Concept - 5/5
Story Execution - 4/5
Story Flow - 4/5
Character Development (give-a-damn factor) - 5/5
Gripping visuals/details - 5/5
Entertainment Value/Story Engagement - 5/5
Editing (including grammar and spelling) - 4/5
Overall – 4.57/5 – Journey into Cairnwood Manor and see what mysteries await!
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About Bob Freeman: Bob Freeman doesn’t just write and draw occult detectives, he’s also a card carrying paranormal adventurer who founded Nightstalkers of Indiana in 1983.
A lifelong student of witchcraft, magic, and religion, Bob’s studies are reflected in his art, both as an author and illustrator.
Bob lives in rural Indiana with his wife Kim and son Connor.
He can be found online at occultdetective.com