The Shadow Beyond - Daniel Reiner

The Shadow Beyond is a paranormal thriller, full of mystery and a few monsters. It's a call back to the horror books of old, and reads like a true Gothic classic.

The Shadow Beyond tells the story of Robert Adderly. Born at the start of the 20th Century, he had a normal childhood, exploring his hometown and the surrounding countryside with his friends. They explored haunted houses and local folklore, which involved a few stories involving the occult, then he grew up and largely forgot about it. He was a gifted student, and went on to study mathematics at university. While there, he met the love of his life, who he quickly became engaged to. While they were celebrating their engagement, she suddenly burst into flames, and within minutes had quickly burned, leaving no remains behind. Obviously, Robert was devastated, and sought answers to what had happened - how did a human being just catch fire, and be completely devoured by the flames within minutes? The questions led him down a deep, dark rabbit hole; one of ancient wisdom, gods and demons, occultism, magic and dangerous ceremonies.

I was sent this book by the publisher, Vulpine Press, and it was described as a fantasy horror, which isn't my usual cup of tea. After a few emails were sent back and forth I decided to give it a go - it's good to try new things right? I'm glad I did. While The Shadow Beyond has strong fantasy elements - magic and demons are the main plot points - there is enough other stuff to keep anyone interested. Robert starts off as a good Christian man, who just wants to focus on his studies, but slides further and further into the occult and magic until he ultimately can't escape (this isn't a spoiler, it's all told to us in the foreword). His decline is something that's interesting to watch.Robert grapples with is morality and his priorities, and has a lot of internal conflict. There's also the mystery side of things - it quickly becomes clear that some people know something about his fiance's death - what are they hiding? Robert is on his own to figure out everything that is going on. There have been clues throughout his life, and he has to piece the puzzle together. This is another great thing about this book - I think Reiner covered all his loose ends, and all the little questions get answered in one way or another.

But the thing I really enjoyed about this book, is how it felt like an old horror book. To me, stylistically, it was very reminiscent of Frankenstein, and that meant the book had a charm about it. It's set at the start of the last century, so the language and phrasing is old fashioned and has that "classic" feel about it, and it made it an absolute joy to read. If you enjoy Gothic horror stories, or classic horror stories, then I think you would enjoy this. There's monsters, so it's tempting to compare it to Lovecraft, but to be honest I'm not enough of an expert on H.P. to be able to do so. There are few nods to Lovecraft throughout the book (Cthulu and the Necronomicon being the mains ones, I'm sure there's more that I didn't notice), so I think it is fair to say that Reiner has taken a lot of inspiration from the master of monsters. I've had a quick look into the themes of Lovecraft (forbidden knowledge, non-human influences on humanity, fate, religion) and there all present and correct here. So if you're a fan of Lovecraft, or Lovecraftian horror, this is definitely one to check out.

I really enjoyed this book. It's good to read something outside of your comfort zone once in a while.


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