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Sha'Daa Pawns, edited by Edward .F McKeown Book Review | SFReader.com
Sha'Daa Pawns, edited by Edward .F McKeown Genre: Horror Anthology Publisher: Perseid Publishing Published: 2012 Review Posted: 5/24/2013 Reviewer Rating:
Reader Rating: Not Rated
Sha'Daa Pawns, edited by Edward .F McKeown
Book Review by Michael D. Griffiths
Have you read this book?
Sha'Daa Pawns is the third book by Sha'Daa series, which was created by Michael H. Hanson, and EditedbyEdward .F McKeown. I have read all three of these shared world anthologies and would have to say they keep getting better and this one is the best of series thus far.
In case you do not know the premise of the Sha'Daa, I will explain. Once every 10,000 years the barrier between the Earth and Hell grows thin and with just a little help the hordes of hell are able to pour into our realm crushing all in their path. However Humanity has an ally in the form of Johnny, the Salesman, who tends to trade people just what they might need to have a chance to survive their region's apocalypse.
This anthology is taking a little different turn and focusing on the Sha'Daa from the villain's point of view. This change in viewpoint creates situations that range from heart pounding horror to comic altercations. But no matter which was the individual tales turn, they all focus on that dread 48 hours during summer solstice when the gates of hell open and the demons come to claim the world and perhaps our souls.
The Anthology begins with Edward .F McKeown's Forces of Evil. In this, Edward takes a lighter look as a pair of monsters that are more than happy living within humanity and would prefer the world remain Sha'Daa free and do not my any means wish to participate in it. But when they discover that a major demon will be inspecting the damage they inflict to their home town they realize that they have to figure something out or they themselves could end up being some of the Sha'Daa's first victims. Good character development here. This story was a fun way to begin the book.
In Asylum, by John D. Manning, a homeless woman is drawn into the world of a madman set on releasing the minions of Hell into the center of Austin. She experiences more horror than any person could hope to survive, but with the help of her estranged sister, she might find the one thing that she could use to redeem what she considers her wasted life. Manning captures the helplessness of poverty well and uses it to build a strong character.
Third up is Hunter's Skin by Arthur Sanchez. Arthur has been in other Sha'Daa novels and his vision into the psyche of one of the Sha'Daa's minions is unnerving. This creature is a true beast with no sympathy for man. Will the last ancestor of the tribe that stopped the previous Sha'Daa have any hope of stopping such a ruthless creature?
Fall from Grace, by Jeff Barnes, is one of the most consistently comic tales. In this story Mephistopheles hears the hate filled ranting of a mortal and creates a bridge to the Earth by using that hate as a spring board. Yet, he arrives to discover that the angry words coming from the mouth of a child and he has become a toy whose lofty goal is to help break a dolly.
Lifeguard was written by the Sha'Daa's creator Michael H. Hanson. Something about this tale comes off being very eerie. It is hard to say quite how, but the Lifeguard himself tends to make the reader's skin crawl. Not the type of guy I would want watching my kids while they swam. Hanson also has interludes between each chapter that tell a story of their own. These shorter bursts of action and intrigue help link the whole novel together and give it a heightened sense of urgency.
Sarah Wagner wrote Dust. I have managed to read a good deal of her writing and always find it enjoyable. In Dust, we find a strange and ancient beast of great power. Like floating molecules, it seeks new victims in order to ensure that the Sha'Daa will once again ravage the Earth. This is another eerie tale. Wagner's insight into the malign consciousness of this creature leaves one wanting to have a weapon on hand while reading even if it probably would not help.
In Door 790, Diane Arrelle dips the Sha'Daa back into a more comic situation, if none the less dangerous for the unlucky. Johnny, the Salesman, once again confounds the servant of the Sha'Daa. This time Johnny's trade creates particularly annoying results, for a poor demon that only wants to flood the world with horror and devastation. Why can't some people catch a break?
Gustavo Bondoni is another author I have had the fortune to read a few times. A few years back I helped edit a story for him that was sent to Innsmouth Magazine's international issue. Here he brings us Bloodstone. When the demon Grenntak comes to Earth he find himself torn between wanting to wreak havoc or having humans worship him. This indecision could prove his undoing if Johnny can make it to a fleeing holy man before the demon can.
Next up is Silver and Iron, by Leona Wisoker. What is more important, power or love? In this tale female lovers dance between their attraction for each other and secrets they have buried. When commitments to evil wrestle with love... pain becomes the likely result. This turned out to be another eerie one where the reader faces the true heart of evil.
Gloom is by yours truly, Michael D. Griffiths. I guess a guy shouldn't review his on work, but I am sure you will find it brilliant.
Paul Barrent keeps things going with Double Cross. When the demon lord Azrol gets captured by two experimenting Goths on the eve of the Sha'Daa a lifetime of planning could be ruined unless he uses trickery to turn them against each other. But Azrol would do good to remember that he is not the only one plotting during the Sha'Daa.
Richard Groller brings us The Bokor. This is an action packed story where a Voodoo priest and his former antagonist team up to fight off an invasion of creatures similar to Lovecraft's Deep Ones. The pair soon realizes that in order to survive they are going to use the powers of darkness as well as light to overcome the minions of the deep. This is a unique and fast moving story. Loads of combat and trickery. This inventive tale delivered
Keepsake, by Mallory Makepeace is about a pariah named Focul. His fellow Romani have forbidden him to return to his clan and family. But he has discovered a way to return. Maybe a way to do whatever he likes and no one will be able to stop him.
Bruce Durham is another author whose work I have been able to sample a few times. Here he brings us "The Saglek Incident." Belaam is a mighty creature. She has hunted well this Sha'Daa but as she takes in her surroundings, she is beginning to wonder how long she had been incased in the rings of ice.
Soul Provider, by Jamie K. Schmidt is next in the lineup. When you're a half-Demon half-God prostitute, it is probably hard to have a normal night, but add the Sha'Daa into the equation and literally all hell can break loose.
The book turns gritty when Larry Atchley, Jr presents Time for a Change. The cities are left behind as the characters enter the no man's land of the Mojave Desert. In this tale, a group of musicians' discover that if a friend of yours seems evil, yeah, he might be evil. This, like many of the Sha'Daa stories, forces you to look at the face of evil and realize that you do not like what you see. Although I think some of the authors in this anthology might like evil more than a little.
Although the title Croucbing Seal, Sleeping Dragon, sounds like it is a comic tale, Jason Cordova's story is brutal and fast paced. A dragon facing off against navy seals is a fun idea. This might be one of the most pure adrenaline rushes of the book. Non-stop action. Good ending too.
Northlight was written by Deborah Koren. At times evil should beware, because if you take too much control away from your minions they tend to take some of it back often when it will hurt you the most. This is a well balanced and inventive tale where the reader learns what it is like to have humans for prey.
This is a powerful and well organized anthology. Hard to find any downsides here, but at times the lighthearted stories do distract a little from the others that try to move past a more dark fantasy setting and head straight into horror.
If you have not checked out the Sha'daa, you need to. It is an experience. I hope we see many more Sha'Daa books flooding us with horror through the years to come.
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