After reading and thoroughly enjoying The Malignant Dead, a macabre tale of life and death (but mostly death) set in the plague-ravaged gutters of 17th century Edinburgh, I was in the mood for another grisly fix from ghost-chasing, pole-dancing, horror-fixated twins CL Raven, so I picked up Silent Dawn and dived in.
This novel is a very different beast, trading old Scotland for present day Wales, plague doctors for ostracised Goths and a rampaging disease for a deadly computer game character.
A spate of disappearances has thrown a dark cloud over the fictional town of Blackwater, and gay Goth Ben thinks he knows who the culprit is; computer game character Silent Dawn. Accompanied by his friends, serial killer-obsessed Goth Drake (aka Drakeula) and creative Goth Keira, he pursues his suspicions and discovers that Silent Dawn did not begin life as an amalgamation of code, but as a dark figure of folklore stretching back centuries.
As our heroes delve deeper into the grim game, in which they explore a terrifying abandoned asylum, Silent Dawn, with her hollow eyes and stitched-up mouth, burrows deeper into their psyches, until they can’t be sure if she is actually real or if they’re losing their minds. The only thing they are sure of is that in order to save themselves and the children she has taken, they have to destroy her.
Silent Dawn (the book, that is, not the character), is fun, scary, compelling and brutal. Despite the madness and the asylum and the gore, it’s written with a light touch and a genuine, heartfelt compassion for the characters.
Ben is both loveable and infuriating, endlessly cracking jokes even as Silent Dawn invades his life. Drake is tormented not only by the mutilated title character but also by Ben’s besotted younger sister. And Keira, who never leaves home, it seems, without her trusty sketchbook, is gritty, resilient and compassionate.
But as well as being a creepy horror this book also touches on a more serious and sombre issue; that of bullying. Throughout the story our trio of heroes face scorn and ridicule for daring to be different. And as a Goth and a member of the LGBTQ community, Ben gets it twice as bad.
I’ll definitely be getting stuck into some more books by CL Raven in the near future, but for the moment…it’s game over.
Silent Dawn is available from Amazon.