Friday, July 10, 2015

The Lineage review


    I was a big fan of the action horror novels Autobiography of a Werewolf Hunter and Heart of Scars. The adventures of Sylvester Logan James are some of the most unforgiving, relentless, and dark writing currently in horror today. Make no mistake that these books are not urban fantasy, they are action horror. The monsters are ugly, terrifying, and frightening in equal measure while the psychological decay of our protagonist only makes him more committed during the final leg of his decades-long quest to wipe out werewolfdom.

    While grimdark tends to conjure images of spikes on spikes or Chaos Marines, I think this is, indeed, one of the most grim and dark series all around. Enjoyably so. It may not be for everyone due to Sylvester's somewhat offbeat personality, though. He comes across as very much what you'd expect of a Canadian Vietnam War veteran (as in, he went across the border to volunteer for the Vietnam war) living in the 1980s would act like. Reactionary in his opinions with more than his fair share of prejudices as well as a mild chauvinist streak. I didn't mind his occasional off-color opinions but other readers might so consider yourself warned.

    The premise is Sylvester is a half-Cheyenne werewolf hunter who lost his mother to a werewolf bite. Trained by his grandfather in ways of tracking them down, he has waged a decades-long war against the Beast. The werewolves in this series are some of the most disgusting, unromantic, unrelentingly evil monsters in fiction. I liken them to the vampires in the Necroscope series. A major theme of the books is, even when faced with a purely "evil" foe, that doesn't necessarily justify paying evil unto them.

    Sylvester is utterly ruthless in his pursuit of the destruction of werewolves and he has paid a horrific psychological toll for it. Killing monsters has very much turned Sylvester into a monster himself, even if he maintains just enough sliver of humanity not to become purely evil himself. There are many moments of pure horror where Sylvester does something shocking or nightmarish against the werewolves he faces but he never quite loses our sympathy since the werewolves are that bad. There's one particular moment in the book where Sylvester has torn a man's lower half apart and is interrogating him as he slowly expires.

    Yeah, it's that kind of book.

    The Lineage finishes up the trilogy and Sylvester's story with a familiar and somewhat unfortunate trope of his longtime girlfriend and love-interest being murdered by the Beast as a lesson to him. Deciding to track down her killer to avenge her, Sylvester catches the scent of the two greatest targets of his career: the Kinslayer and his transformed mother.

    The Kinslayer's death, in particular, is important because it has the potential to make a permanent dent in the Beast's ranks. The oldest werewolf in the world, the Kinslayer plays an important role in their immortal culture. Werewolves are a race which needs to regularly cull its ranks, engaging in cannibalism of the dead, in order to remain strong. If the Kinslayer who leads these purges is killed, Sylvester believes the race of werewolves will spread out and weaken to the point of ineffectiveness. As for his mother, this is to simply lay his personal demons at rest.

    Brian Easton toys with the idea of werewolves who aren't completely this time around. Even as they all remain horrible monsters but, perhaps, some maintain a semblance of humanity. This doesn't impact Sylvester because he's been committed to the destruction of the werewolf species for decades. It does, however, lead to several uncomfortable moments for the reader where you have to wonder if there are other "good" werewolves he's destroyed in his vengeance-fueled madness. The supporting cast is a bit on the sparse side but when they include an Omega werewolf and a ghost of a long-dead preacher, you have quite a bit going for you.

    The action, violence, psychology, characterization, world-building, and horror is all spectacularly done in the book. You understand why Sylvester does the things he does even as you also understand he's long since passed the point where he has more in common with his prey than regular humanity. Even the werewolves acknowledge it as they view him as an embodiment of pure hatred and revenge, something they understand quite well. As mentioned, readers should be prepared for some truly grizzly violence and psychological horror as part of this book.

    Sylvester Logan starts as Jack Bauer in ruthlessness and then goes further as he has no loved one's left to hold him back from the deepest depths of the abyss. Nevertheless, he never stops being an engaging hero nor an interesting protagonist. In short, this is a dark-dark book and readers should be warned even as I found myself loving it regardless.

    The Lineage ends the Sylvester Logan James' Saga definitely, leaving little room for any further sequels. Despite this, I'm satisfied with the ending and I think readers couldn't have asked for a better ending to his story.

    After all, as Magneto said, "Peace was never an option."

9.5/10

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