Book Reviews: The Wood Queen by Karen Mahoney and Gone Where the Goblins Go by William Bitner

The Wood QueenThe Wood Queen
The Iron Witch Trilogy #2
Karen Mahoney
Flux, February 2012
ISBN 978-0-7387-2662-5
Trade Paperback

The Wood Queen is the second book of the Iron Witch Trilogy.  I had received a copy of Iron Witch to review for Buried Under Books Blog.  I loved everything about the book and promptly purchased this follow up novel.

I found the sequel to be at least as compelling as the first book.  Donna, Navin, and Xan are still prominent, and we get to learn a bit more about each of them.  In Donna’s case, it is particularly rewarding, as Donna is actually discovering and accepting more about herself.  She begins to see herself as a whole, whereas in Iron Witch she seemed to unable to define who she was, as she had tendencies to  divide herself into parts: human, freak due to crazy, life-saving tattoos, and pseudo-member of a secret Order.  While I learned of her physical strength in The Iron Witch, it was astonishingly gratifying to see her develop her inner strength and resolve.  A respectable character in the first book, she becomes admirable in the second.

Navin continues to be endearing and comical, diminishing the gloomy over-tones of the Order.  He stole my heart, even broke it a little; but now he has shaken off the sadness and allowed his determinedly  optimistic personality emerge once again.  This character brings balance to the book and leaves this reader hoping for a little love for Navin in the final book.

While mystery continues to shroud Xan, we do learn a bit more about him.  Sadly, it is only enough to create additional questions.  He remains an intriguing character that I want to cheer on and support…..I’m just not quite ready to trust him.

London dweller Robert Lee is a welcome addition to the cast.  It was simple for me to appreciate his apparent quirkiness and admire his desire to help.  As with Xan, Mr. Lee is a bit of an enigma.  I am looking very forward to learning all about him in the final book.

Once again, Ms. Mahoney has knocked my socks off.  Her clever compilation of mystery, fierce loyalty and teen-age growing pains makes for a fine story and her outstanding writing turns that into an incredible trilogy.

Now, I’m going to order that final book.

Reviewed by jv poore, July 2013.

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Gone Where the Goblins GoGone Where the Goblins Go
William Bitner
Death Falcon Press, September 2013
ISBN 978-1-4922-0435-0
Trade Paperback

As the Boogey-Man checks his closet for Chuck Norris, undoubtedly, Dean Koontz checks under his bed for Mr. Bitner.  This man is scary.  Well, maybe Mr. Bitner, himself, is not terribly terrifying; but his writing…..spine-chilling.

For as long as I can remember, I have gravitated towards the scary, mind-boggling, creepy, inexplicably mysterious tales.  Way back when Frog asks Toad, “Don’t you like to get the shivers?”  and I shouted, “Yes!”, I began to prowl for those stories that bring chill-bumps to my skin and raise the tiny hairs on the back of my neck.  I knew Stephen King when I was eleven.  I slipped books out of my parents’ bookshelves: John Saul and Dean Koontz consumed my teen-aged brain.  I continued to branch out, yet until very recently, Mr. Bitner lay waiting; lurking, just under my radar.

Totally worth the wait, Mr. Bitner’s writing is no less than dazzling and captivating.  Gone Where the Goblins Go is a collection of short, horrifying tales that should not be read prior to going into any swampy area alone.  First, there is the writing style.  It is compelling.  Descriptions are written so that this reader promptly felt immersed in the scene.  My t-shirt seemed sticky, and the air in my climate-controlled home grew thick and muggy as I began the first tale.  Towards the end of another adventure, “The Dunbar Horror”, my stomach dropped as if I were on the top of the Double-Ferris-Wheel, swiftly moving towards the ground.  As if eliciting raw fear were not enough, the final feature in this collection evoked additional emotions and was surprisingly thought-provoking.

The quality that I feel separates Mr. Bitner’s work from the run-of-the-mill scary book, is the absence of labels.  He suggests, rather than tells.  There is no twisting, modernizing or adding to existing abominations such as werewolves or faeries.  No, the horrors here are undefined.  My wacky imagination, craftily fed by Mr. Bitner’s word wizardry, creates a whole new type of terror.  In a very good, eerie, spooky kind of way.

I am looking very forward to going back and reading Mr. Bitner’s earlier works, and if you, like Frog, like “to get the shivers”; I highly recommend this book to you.

Reviewed by jv poore, November 2013.