I’ve got to be honest and tell you that a blanket genre named “dark fantasy” doesn’t really inspire me to dole out my cash. It’s too vague, and I like my horror blunt and bloody. Well, a fool walks among us, readers. It would be me. Red Tash came out of nowhere with her debut tale, This Brilliant Darkness. Through hard work and tireless promotion, Darkness managed to outsell many major publications in the Kindle store. Is this the start of a brilliant career, or does this book ultimately become consumed by darkness? From Amazon:
A brooding monster. A quirky professor. A small Indiana town with a soul of its own.
Imagine if the writers of Northern Exposure sat down with Stephen King and decided to craft a dark fantasy thriller starring absent-minded academians, every day goofballs, and a dark fantasy creature for good measure. Pondering big picture questions like “Why am I here?” and “Does Love Conquer All?” has never been so fun.
Let me make something perfectly clear: that blurb doesn’t do the book justice. It’s more than the sum of those few suggested parts. In fact, the book is constructed as a puzzle as each chapter is told from a different perspective while maintaining the chronology as best possible. In fact, the book gets better at the latter as the story progresses.
The beginning chapters introduce us to the players, one at a time. Greachin, Christine, Tom and Richard are the primaries, and one of these things is not like the others. Christine is a career-focused university professor who finds paramour with Tom, a hippy with a modern streak. Their relationship is made difficult by Richard, a widower from England known for his remarkable contributions to the field of astronomy. Greachin is the antagonist, an almost mythical beast hell-bent on destroying Christine.
Each of the above characters is given a rich backstory, and Tash is smart enough to craft them in states of flux. Each character made me hate them at one point or another, while still maintaining their position of pro/antagonist. This technique made me smile as I was gathering my notes for this review. It’s so crucial because the “winner” isn’t made clear until the very last pages of the book.
Set in Bloomington, Indiana, This Brilliant Darkness centres around the Stella Mirabillis, a star looming impossibly low above the city with the added problem that said star doesn’t move. Greachin is both drawn to and repulsed by the star, though he seems to know the reason for this. Christine is also drawn to the star, not simply because it’s an unusual phenomenon, though that is the reasoning for Richard’s primary involvement. Christine’s life begins to deteriorate due to inexplicable weirdness. Tom’s life follows suit, while Richard lives in an almost constant state of sorrow. Much of Greachin’s tale is told in flashbacks, memories he relives as he inflicts torture on his victims.
When I say “torture”, I don’t mean visceral. While that exists toward the end of the book, Greachin is much more adept at toying with minds through telepathy and stealth. I found myself enjoying his progression, he grows both physically and mentally, which isn’t something I’d expect from a monster. The fact that he isn’t absolute or omnipotent is a testament to the storytelling ability that Tash displays throughout.
This Brilliant Darkness is an independently released book; but it’s the kind that we need more of. The story is original, quirky and sports one of the most emotional and brutal endings I’ve read in a long while. The pacing ebbs and flows nicely without being confusing. This is the introduction to an author who will only get better with each new release. To pick up your copy of This Brilliant Darkness, visit Amazon. To learn more about Red Tash, visit her website.