Queen of the Dark Things just came out last year and I was scouring the depths of the dimmest corners of your local granny’s sweat and blood used book stores for it. The Kindle version afforded me the luxury to read in cafés and bars without bringing too much attention to myself, and this is the secret route I took to Arnhem Land.
After C. Robert Cargill’s debut novel, Dreams and Shadows nabbed me in its snare, I’ve been pricked by the poison that I refer to lovingly as the addiction to horror stories. Always have been a sucker for a good sucker, these stories of dark hauntings and strange occult wonder remind me that there are other worlds than this and isn’t that the best way to live? With a little fear in the heart at what goes bump in the night. Is it my imagination or are the faeries and goblins finally coming to life after much willful thought into their existence?
The main character of this particular romp through the dark recesses of the aboriginal psyche is none other than the famous Colby Stevens, a household name you’d swear after you’ve given yourself over to the Queen of the Dark Things.
Essentially what happens is Colby is trying to move on with his life after the loss of his best friend Ewan, which basically translates into the image of a 20-something sorcerer who is consistently drunk and hangs out with his talking dog, Gossamer, and forever hospitable djinn, Yashar. It must also be stated that Colby runs a crumbly old bookshop and is also a virgin. (Yashar keeps tabs on the old bar where angels and demons seek refuge in the big bad city of Austin, Texas.)
In the beginning, Colby spoils the spirit of the city’s fun by vanquishing this lady of the lake-type entity, but Austin, the voluptuous embodiment of that centrifugal force of Texas, set him up all along. Colby is played for a puppet by all but himself, as demons and shades and a little girl (who ultimately becomes the namesake of the book, mind you) he met during the Walkabout of his youth with the last Clever Man.
There are parts of this second book in the series that render allusions to the effect in the first book, where the seduction of the Red Cap took over Ewan in the first book transformed him from the boy-trying-to-do-good to a power-hungry killing machine. Cargill may not have planned for this to be a precursor to Colby’s depression in the latest book, but it made for a good back story to his penultimate moral fiber.
As a reader, I imagined Ewan would be the one fighting to be human, despite his grim gremlin origins in the forest of dreams, that Limestone Kingdom (reminiscent of Anne Rice’s tribute to rock ‘n roll in Queen of the Damned), but there’s a surprise each every turn of the page.
Colby struggles with reigning in his power to convert the Dreamstuff around him into smoky dragons and fiery gouts of charred flesh and he finally makes the decision to try to find a balance between morally depraved and raving mad, by justifying his actions for ripping a new one in the nearest spirit who pisses him off.
How does he do it? How does he out think the oldest creature in the realm and also win the girl? Who knows. Maybe he is a little bit of a sweetheart, dangerous and also a badass. In my opinion, if girls want a new guy to moan over in the movie theater, Colby would probably be that guy, (eat your heart out, Mr. Grey) possibly played by Skins and Warm Bodies star Nicholas Hoult ’cause he’s kind of skinny and creepy and I could see him being drunk a lot of the time. He might have to dye his hair red, however…
I sort of like the fact you’re definitely an onlooker though, with the way this guy writes. He gives you a birds-eye view of the goings on about Colby Stevens, but you don’t exactly get scared or fully immersed as with the Guy Brown series Mad House. That one has a small place in my heart, but it’s neither here nor there.
Queen of the Dark Things is a book that appeals to masses, the desensitized guys and gals in the book club who like a little action, some sexy angels to fantasize about and the occasional disappearing act into the nearest tree never pissed anyone off. In fact, I wish I could do that–disappear in the blink of an eye with the help of a bit of magic and the songs embedded in the land of Australia, while souls of much wiser men teach me how to come out the other side.
If you haven’t brushed up on your Celtic lore, Cargill helps you out as every other chapter is an excerpt from Dr. Thaddeus Ray, a pseudonym for Colby Stevens I presume, or another glimpse into some rare and forgotten text. It’s pretty cool, like simultaneously consulting Wikipedia about the histories of the ghosts and gods discussed in proceeding pages.
I really dig the bit about the story lines of the land. This myth Cargill either researched or created out of thin air about how the earth was born from the minds of men attuned to the universe; it’s all very mentally disarming.
Queen of the Dark Things is a great read. The author also gives his thanks to the loyal fans who have stuck through his debut and remain curious enough to take part of the journey that is this second book. So, in that way, he kind of broke the fourth wall with me and I’m grateful. Perhaps he could stun us all with a third book in the series? To another healthy helping of urban fantasy fiction, I’d say, “Yes, please!”