I’m an avid reader of horror. I was hooked many years ago (like millions of others) by Darren Shan’s Cirque Du Freak series, and since then I have been devouring novel after novel filled with carnage, chaos, and calamity. I came across David Gatward’s “Dead” trilogy a few years back on Amazon. I live in the US, but I frequently visit the UK Amazon site to order the latest Shan book before it is released in my own country. I noticed the first two books of Gatward’s trilogy in the “Customers Also Bought” section, and plopped them into my cart and ordered.
When the books arrived, the first thing that struck me was how beautifully grotesque the covers were. Horrific close ups of tortured demons with blood and guts spewing, a slightly raised design that made it seem as if the monsters were trying to escape the pages and come after me. The books looked fabulous, and I made the decision to read The Dead and The Dark before I read the Shan book. Boy was I glad I did.
No one can deny what Darren Shan has done for the world of young adult horror. He’s the pioneer of the genre and I, like many others, adore him and praise him for his accomplishments. However, lately I have felt that Mr. Shan has become a little too focused on the blood and guts factor of his novels, and his characters have become detached. I noticed this change in style while reading his Demonata series and it unnerved me.
But I digress.
My reason for bringing that up, though, is because The Dead Trilogy by David Gatward was the perfect remedy. His books offer all of the blood and gore and demons that a great Shan book has, but he also plops this insanely relatable and powerful character in the middle of all the bloodshed. I love the chill factor of horror just as much as the next guy, but Lazarus Stone and the other characters that populate Mr. Gatward’s horrific world are what truly set it apart from any other horror novel out there.
Laz is just like all any other teenager. He’s so relatable from the get go that it drags the reader in and makes them want to see what happens throughout the story. Gatward does an amazing job of starting the action off early in the first few pages and ending each chapter on a mini cliffhanger, making it near impossible to put the book down and stop reading.
And the magic of this series is that even when the action starts picking up and the bodies start dropping, Gatward never loses touch with Lazarus’s humanity. There’s no awkward dehumanization or desensitizing of Lazarus’s emotions. The things that happen to Laz are monumentally traumatizing, and they’re never written off as anything less than that. When reading the books, you start to feel that this is the story of a very real boy dealing with real heartaches and pain and trauma.
Throughout the series, the books also grow in size. The Dead was a short read and The Dark was packed with even more. Gatward saves the best for last, though. The Damned is my favorite book of 2011 by far. Everything that has built throughout the past two books comes to an action packed and blood drenched conclusion. The book, just like the previous two, starts off fast and only gets faster. And the ending, oh man that ending. It leaves you with a small spark that the adventures of Lazarus Stone may not be over… Which is admittedly bad news for Laz, but it’s great for us fans!
In conclusion, if you haven’t read these books yet, go out and buy them now! You won’t regret it. My thanks go to David Gatward for sending me a copy of The Damned to review. He’s a genuinely awesome guy and if you have the time, check out his site and shoot him an email. He’s always more than happy to chat with fans.
David’s new book Doom Rider comes out in July, and you can be sure that I’ll be reviewing that.