A Lethal and Gory Fantasy Bloodbath!
“Dark of Winter” opens with a barbarian victory parade, complete with the destruction of 40 rival chieftains all set ablaze in an act of ultimate revenge, and the story only gets bloodier from there—think the Mads Mikkelson’s Valhalla Rising.
Percy’s tale briefly touches on a conflict between his protagonist, Vaconius, and his King. A war-weary Vaconius is ordered to prove his loyalty and conquer the isolated far-northern hamlet of Sumner—a place where bizarre humanoid beings live together in harmony and defend themselves from the outer world. Vaconius agrees and starts his journey to the faraway village. In the meantime, an all-out assault is underway in Sumner when a myriad of stomach-churning, hellish entities beset the denizens of this strange hovel. Sumner’s warriors, who are grotesque enough in their own right, fight to defend their homes as Vaconius arrives late in the battle and decides to aid the villagers against an inevitable invasion. From there, all hell breaks loose and the plotline loses much clarity as the battle goes back and forth between a mishmash of tribal mayhem and deadly attacks by the beasts.
“Dark of Winter” is a difficult and confusing read, with character names that describe their owners, but sound too much alike… monikers like Two-Times, Threecuts, Deathbreath, and Deadeye. It’s hard enough to keep the character’s names straight as Percy injects an enemy line of terrifying creatures into the plotline... creatures that are referred to with such mind-bending titles as groogs, stickpicklers, and jamabalabans. In this story’s case, I could not help but feel that a glossary might be helpful to the reader in keeping the characters’ and creatures’ names and descriptions straight.
As the body-count grows, and the fight to survive the assault at Sumner grows more urgent, Percy presents a jumble of events that have the potential to cause readers motion sickness as the villagers aimlessly run back and forth between the village, the wilderness, underground tunnels, and local townships only to be picked off one-by-one by the invading creatures. As all this takes place, it’s not at all clear what crucial part Vaconius—the protagonist this story starts with—plays in this battle between Sumner’s population and the monsters, for he only appears to have come to the besotted town as an accessory to add some historical interest to the story. The main plotline may, in fact, have done better without the Roman’s presence since it is the Sumnerites who are the main protagonists in this novel. The author may have tailored the entire story had he stuck to the Sumner storyline and ignored Vaconius’ character.
Now, I must state that I personally love a great horror story as much as the next reader, and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed some outstanding sanguineous barbarian sagas, but in the end, “Dark of Winter” simply breeds violence for the sake of violence—and the bloodier the better. There seemed to be no purpose to the story other than mere survival and it certainly lacks a greater goal. Readers who prefer such graphic and senseless killing—and who savor their meat while it is still twitching and writhing—will appreciate this lethal and gory fantasy bloodbath.
Find “Dark of Winter” by Christopher Percy on Amazon & Kindle here.
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