Friday, April 22, 2011

Rhinehoth – review

Author: Brian E. Niskala

First published: 2009

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Centuries ago a great castle was built in the mountains of Germany’s Black Forest. Its ancient guardians still thrive in its walls forever protecting its dark secrets, holding captive an enemy that threatens their very existence. Foretold is a story of an ancient warrior that is to return to the castle to free the captive Vampire Prince.

Simon Roberts was a petty thief who fled England to escape Scotland Yard after a series of unsuccessful jewelry store heists. He was recruited to do a job in Germany where he was to simply drive the getaway car while providing a look out. He thought this was going to be an easy job and a way to break into the German crime scene. But things go terribly wrong and he ended up being the only survivor of the botched heist. Simon is quickly sentenced to a prison called Rhinehoth. This is where Germany sent the worst of the worst, surely not a place for a petty thief such as himself.

Rhinehoth is a great German castle that was converted in the late 1930’s to a Stalag for war criminals of World War II. The converted prison’s modern day inhabitants are relentlessly tortured, starved and sleep deprived. This contributes to the prisoners' delusional visions that help hide the truth and keeps Rhinehoth’s secrets. Their captors are the army of Werewolves who have survived the centuries off the very flesh and blood of Germany’s worst forgotten criminals.

Simon, imprisoned becomes plagued with visions from his subconscious ancient past with confusion of his modern day consciousness. He discovers through his visions that he is the ancient warrior, Guthrie who has come to free the Vampire Prince and all the captives while saving the world from a dark plan of biblical proportions that has been orchestrated over the centuries!

The Review: Sometimes I approach a review with a heavy heart and this is one such case. On the plus side Niskala has created a great Gothic location. I was struck quickly by how much I liked the concept of the rambling Stalag Rhinehoth. I also liked the idea that prisoners were sent to a prison were, unbeknownst to the outside world, werewolves formed the brutal guards, a vampire tended the sick and wounded and a vampire prince was held captive in the heart of the castle.

From there the book could have taken us, wowed us and left us breathless with fast paced adventure. I did say ‘could have’.

Aside from the occasional typo – and these things happen – the big problem I had with the book was that I felt the language used was clunky and unwieldy. I found myself reading a sentence and re-writing it in my head to make it flow better. This, of course, is not great when one is reading a book but it also underlined, to me, that the setting itself made me want to enjoy the prose, but I just couldn’t. So, whilst I read the book I didn't find myself lost in a breakneck dash through the shadow strewn corridors of the Gothic prison, as the hero desperately searched for the means of survival, rather I found myself going over sentence after sentence wishing for them to mutate into something more than they were on the screen of my Kindle

More than that, because the language wasn’t carrying me, the characters didn’t come alive as I would have wanted. I didn’t buy the character development and the national identities didn’t particularly gel for me.

Am I being unfair? I really don’t think so. Brian Niskala has had an idea, and the idea was good. What he needs to do now is refine his skills and, if he can do that and also continue to generate the settings, I am sure he will develop as an author. The problem is, I just cannot recommend Rhinehoth. 3.5 out of 10.

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