The Forest Bull by Terry Maggert. See interview with author in next post.
The author’s synopsis from my interview request:
“Three lovers who stalk and kill the immortals that drift through South Florida (tourists are a moveable feast, after all) are living a simple life of leisure until one of them is nearly killed by woman who is a new kind of lethal.
When Ring Hardigan isn’t making sandwiches for, and with, his two partners, Waleska and Risa (they’re cool like that), he’s got a busy schedule doing the dirty work of sending immortals to the ever after. Wally and Risa provide linguistics, logistics, and finding the right place for him and his knife together, they’re a well-oiled machine, and they’ve settled into a rhythm that bodes ill for the Undying. Warlocks, vampires, succubae and the odd ghoul have all fallen to their teamwork. Life is tough, but they soldier on killing the undead, liberating their worldly goods for charity, and generally achieving very little.
Until Ring wakes up after nearly dying at the hands of a woman who may or may not be the daughter of Satan. Ring’s a tough character, for a boat bum (killing immortals sort of rubs off on you that way), but twelve days of comatose healing are enough to bring out the ugly side of his temper. When a letter arrives asking for their help finding a large collection of stolen heirloom jewelry, they form an uneasy friendship with the last Baron of a family hiding in a primal European forest.
Cazimir, the Baron, has two skills: Jeweler and preserver of the last herd of forest bulls. It’s an odd occupation, but then, Ring, Risa and Wally aren’t your everyday career folks, and Cazimir’s lodge might be sitting on something that looks a lot like hell, which, according to a 2400 year old succubus hooker named Delphine, is currently on the market to the strongest immortal. The Baron’s impassioned plea to find the jewelry comes with some conditions – he doesn’t want the collection back as much as he does the thief, Elizabeth, who happens to be his daughter – and the woman who nearly sent Ring to his grave.
In a tapestry of lies, it’s up to Ring, Wally and Risa to find out what is evil, who is human, and exactly who really wants to reign over hell.”
I don’t need to provide a synopsis as the author has given a thorough synopsis, so onto my thoughts and feedback. The first chapter begins with a bang dragging the reader into the world of Ring. A fantastic beginning! Also the author weaves his words well and reminiscent of poetry.
Reading the book you learn a great deal about the author. Mr. Maggert is a history teacher and this is revealed throughout the book. My degree was in history so the descriptions of European politics from the author’s point of view didn’t bother me as a historian, but as a reader the digression did not add to the story. The novel is heavy with description, for this reason the book falls more into literary fiction than genre fiction. However the topic of the novel is a combination of genres, horror and fantasy. A dark and nasty fantasy where immortals are primarily unrepentant predators. The Forest Bull, Cazimir is confusing. Is he Satan? Is his daughter Elizabeth Satan? Is the lodge hell. The lack of clarity can be maddening or intriguing depending on what type of reader is partaking of the novel.
The characters all have a questionable morality. Ring, Wally and Risa live a lazy and somewhat decadent lifestyle. As they begin to question what they believe and know I was disappointed they did not come to the conclusion that they may be as evil as the villains. A comparison to Laurell K. Hamilton’s Anita Blake can be drawn here. Blake saw all vampires as evil at the beginning of the series but changes as it continues.
The immortals are bad and have a wealthy Euro-trash lifestyle. They are vicious sociopaths. They are not teenage angst vampires nor well- dressed business clients with a taste for blood as in Hamilton’s Anita Blake or Sookie Stackhouse’s lovers as written by Charlaine Harris’s. All the characters, including Ring and roommates, lifestyles create an entirely disturbing atmosphere.
The introduction of Delphine adds a different spin to immortals. She is a succubus and as she reveals her history to Ring I could not put down the book. The writing and revelation made the book more intriguing. An introduction to a lone immortal hunter from the Midwest adds further texture to the story.
The Forest Bull is a fresh spin on horror and fantasy. Other than the heavy description of places and history which detracts from the story, the reader will be compelled to find out what happens next. Recommended.