"Daemon of the Dark Wood" Book Review
Written by Randy Chandler
2012, 247 pages, Fiction
Released on June 29th, 2012
When talking about fear, dread of a strange beast prowling the woods at night is as old as it gets. However, the evil creature in the shadowy forest can take on a plethora of identities and the resulting stories can be as varied as the horror genre itself. In Randy Chandler's Daemon of the Dark Wood, what hunts in the night is scary, powerful, supernatural and really, really old.
Daemon of the Dark Wood takes place in Widow's Ridge, an old town with a very dark past. Just like other small towns across America, Widow's Ridge is generally a tranquil place, which makes it all the more scary when females begin to disappear. Soon, the lost ladies become the center of a growing problem. With the town's sheriff in the hospital after surviving an attack by his wife, deputy sheriff Rob Rourke becomes responsible for the search for the women and trying to keep the peace while women start to hear a strange call from the woods that makes them insane and violent. With the help of Dr. Trey Knott, a psychiatrist whose wife barely escapes the call from the woods, and Alfred Thorn, a community college professor interested in the real story behind the legend that gave its name to Widow's Ridge, Rourke will learn that there are thing marauding in the woods that come from another time and can't be shot.
Chandler wastes no time when it comes to creating tension and his narrative immediately conjures up a world of screams and fear. What starts with an accident at night on a country road quickly deteriorates to a woman urinating on herself and walking away from her crashed car and into the darkness of the trees. From then on, the author manages to maintain the pace while increasing the tension. Between wild theories, a man who thinks what's happening in town is his destiny and the memories of an elderly lady who knows the deepest secrets of Widow's Ridge's past, the mysterious entity that turns women into sex-crazed murderers remains an enigma for a good chunk of the book. When the culprit is revealed, the story turns into a race for survival and the writing again carries the action very well.
While the novel is fast-paced, the author's prose is very poetic, which in some instances almost becomes too much. This is the kind of book that contains the word "loins" and sentences like this: "So gloriously tall, so utterly masculine, standing atop a wide pedestal-like stump of a bygone tree, his cloven hooves more perfectly formed than any sculpted masterpiece in a museum, his legs and hips fitting together at so odd an angle that they gave his thick muscular torso the graceful arching contour of a wood-carved hero affixed to the prow of an ancient warship, fearlessly facing waves of a storm-roiled sea." The story is good, the characters believable and the dialogue solid, which makes this barrage of words unnecessary. Although I would normally be against such an verbosity, in Daemon of the Dark Wood we are talking about a mythical demigod, a creature found in lore and books alike. This fact, combined with the references to poetry that appear throughout the narrative, makes the writing work and the storytelling is still effective despite the sporadic literary excesses.
Last but not least, there are two elements that Chandler handles very well and make this book worth a read: sex and gore. Two staples of horror, sex and gore are used here to add to the story instead of becoming the story. The women turn into homicidal nymphomaniacs, but there is a powerful reason behind it and they undergo a spooky psychological process that makes the change very interesting to read about. Similarly, gore is used at irregular intervals, which heightens its effect. For example, a regular housewife tearing off her husband's penis with her teeth is something that stick with you after finishing the book.
If you're looking for a story that seems like a classic spun into something entirely new, give Daemon of the Dark Wood a chance.