The Man In The Forest, by Michael Warriner

The Man In The Forest, by Michael Warriner book coverGenre: Horror
Publisher: Darkwater Syndicate
Published: 2018
Reviewer Rating: three and a half stars
Reviewer: David L. Felts

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Vincent Morales, his sister Mary, and his friend Tyler King are a trio that make up a popular yet eclectic musical group led by Vincent, a group renown for their concerts, which bring to life a stunning mixture of music and technology.  But all is not as copacetic as it should be. Despite his success, Vincent is caught up in a toxic rivalry with a former student/protégé, Raiffe Weisz.

When Vincent finds out Raiffe is putting on a concert in Romania, he can’t help but travel there to attend… and do something to one-up Raiffe. Instead, he and his friends find themselves caught up in a local legend that might be anything but a legend, something to do with the Man in the Forest, who takes his revenge on any who wander too far into his domain. Which, of course, Vincent and his friends do.

The locals are no help, and clam up immediately upon hearing the supernatural experiences Vincent is beginning to have. Was this Raiffe’s plan all along, to lure them there and get them caught up in the curse? The horror mounts as Vincent struggles to figure out what’s going on and how to save himself and the others from the increasing dangerous supernatural events.

After a somewhat slow beginning where Warriner fills in enough of the back-story to move the reader forward, the novel begins to hit its stride once the group arrives in Romania. Warriner’s musical experience is obvious and contributes a lot of veracity to the tale, but I’m not sure it’s a veracity that’s necessary, since most readers (myself included) won’t have any idea what’s he’s talking about when he starts digging into the more technical and esoteric music stuff.

And this brings me to the disconnect I had with the plot. Vincent and sister and friend arrive in Romania, ostensibly to upstage Vincent’s former student, who is now seeking to exceed the success of his teacher. Vincent’s plan is to put on their own and better concert after Raiffe’s to upstage him. But then Vincent runs into this whole Man in the Forest thing and suddenly finds himself in a situation that threatens his life and the lives of Mary and Tyler.

So what does he do? Continue working on putting together the concert. Really? That remains his priority in the face of all the sinister and supernatural things he’s begun experiencing? but I didn’t get the impression that it was something Vincent would sacrifice his life for, and certainly not the lives of his sister and friend.

So I’m afraid that really didn’t make much sense to me. In the midst of the mounting horror and danger, his concern is to get the permits he needs to perform and to write the music for the concert, all the while battling an increasing threat to himself and those he cares about. This felt akin to me to the old joke about the family walking into the sinister-looking house and a menacing voice shouting “Get out!” and they go “Nah, this will work.”

I realize this is fiction, but this speaks to character motivation. Vincent’s rivalry with Raiffe is presented as fairly consuming, but I didn’t get the impression that it was something Vincent would sacrifice his life for, and certainly not the lives of his sister and friend.

In the end, I was left feeling unconvinced things would have happened the way they did in regards to the way the characters responded to the situation. Other than that niggle, The Man in the Forest is a well-written, faced-paced, and thoroughly enjoyable horror tale.

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