The Gathering Dark by Christopher Golden
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Christopher Golden will always have a soft spot in my heart. Why? Because when I read the first two books of this Shadow Saga back in the nineties, they pretty much blew me the f*** away. I thought the characters were delightfully historical, especially because it was real historical and interesting characters being pulled through time because they're now vampires, and also because this was on the forefront of the UF movement making an enormous splash and paving the way for the TRULY super popular ones that came later.
Only, this one never QUITE took off the way those others did. And that's a real shame. Why? Because of the freaking AWESOME SCOPE. It began with vampires pitted against the evil Catholic magician army who kept opening gateways to actual HELL, the subjugation of vampires who aren't exactly evil, just bound by magic to seem that way, and then there was the whole soul thing. Vampires have souls.
Sound like a common enough UF? I mean, besides an army of Catholic magicians opening up city-large gateways to hell to fight the menace of the vampires that they, themselves, made?
Okay, skip that for a moment. Those were the older books. The characters were pretty much larger than life and delightful but sometimes they were somewhat TOO much drawn with a broad-tip pen if you know what I mean. Very little subtlety. But who cares, especially when you have our modern world overrun with city-block-sized demons and good vampires learning to fight and transform in the daylight, or Peter being locked away in hell for a little real-time but for him it's a thousand years, him coming back as one of the most powerful magicians EVER, and battling it out in some of the hugest OVERPOWERED battles I've ever seen in any modern fantasy. In any UF, even.
So why isn't this more popular, again? Why isn't he revered as a god?
HELL IF I KNOW.
So then the third book came around and tons of my favorite characters died and a very unsatisfying end happened and I got BUMMED OUT. Enough that I didn't bother looking to see if he wrote any sequels.
Hint: He did. Four more.
Guess who got embarrassed and ashamed? That's right! ME!
I didn't do any re-reads. I just jumped in with book 4 after a LONG hiatus. How did it go?
Good. I was pretty much WOWed all over again with the magic, the baddies, the enormous scope transforming our modern world as the big bad demon transported whole towns to hell. En-masse. With lots of blood and gobbling of poor people. And armies stepping in to get stepped on. And even the super OP Peter getting his a** handed to him.
Cool. So cool. It's the scope, the descriptions, the HUGE magic on par with Feist or a number of regular big-magic fantasy authors, only it's ripping apart our modern world. :)
And then there's the conflict and harmony of Peter's infernal magic with the Gaia magic. And the love story with the actual magical whirlwind ripping apart waves after waves of demons.
Was I wowed? I was wowed.
Christopher Golden may not have a lot of subtlety, but his hold on grand ideas, gratuitous satisfaction with big magic and bigger gore, and the whole ball of yarn that is his world-building more than makes up for any shortcomings.
Think BIG SCALE COMIC BOOKS with an independent story that shakes the hell out of you. Doing what only novels can do. There's a reason why he's well known as a comic author now. And it's generally because people loved the hell out of what he did in his early novels. :) I assume.
I know he never lost his knack. Whatever issues I had with book 3 is wiped away with the cool bits in book 4. :)
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