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Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Spectral Press - King Death

Paul Finch's King Death is the fourth in Spectral Press' line of chapbooks, and finishes off their first year wonderfully - by providing something different. This is the first story Spectral have published that doesn't take place in the present day; instead Finch sets his story in 1348, in an England that has been struck down by the Black Death.

The writing is clear and fluid, and although there isn't much action the story clips along at a good pace. Finch's eye for detail is wonderful, and some of his descriptions are perfect: like the piles of bodies, "thick as autumn leaves on the fields and roads, mouldering in the ditches."

Unlike the last three stories, the supernatural element King Death is minimal and reserved for the last few lines. The creepiness and the horror instead come from the desolate world that Finch creates. We are given no sense of where Rodrick came from or where he is going. He almost seems to be trapped in some kind of Boschian limbo, and there's no way to tell how it is going to end until it's upon you.

King Death is a strong story, and a great addition to the Spectral line. I'm told that it has been picked for inclusion in the Year's Best Dark Fantasy and Horror (Prime Books) alongside people like Joe R. Lansdale and Charles De Lint, and it certainly deserves to be there. This isn't the first time a Spectral story has been given recognition like this, and it looks good for the future of this small press. I'm very much looking forward to the next book.

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