Nomads, (sequel to Black & Orange)
by Benjamin Kane Ethridge
Bad Moon Books
$20 (trade paperback, from Bad Moon Books) | $5.99 (Amazon Kindle)
Release Date: October 31, 2013
Review copy received from the author in exchange for an honest review
A decade has passed since the events of BLACK & ORANGE and the Church of Midnight has almost been single-handedly decimated by the Nomad named Patty Middleton. After a series of mass executions, she demands to get answers from the mysterious Messenger, and is tireless in her pursuit, despite the protests of her partner. While Patty seems closer to discovering the identity of the Messenger, she has also developed a dangerous condition with her power to create the invisible fields known as mantles. This condition could kill her or people around her, just when she needs to focus on her enemies, who now include a government group known as the Office of Arcane Phenomenon. Meanwhile, Chaplain Cloth, disappointed and impatient with years of failing, seeks a rumored pair of columns that will hold the gateway open forever. Patty Middleton is more than a match for him though, and half of his Church is gone. If he doesn’t make his move now he might not get another chance for thousands of years. There’s no room for error. He has to get those columns and sacrifice the Heart of the Harvest. But this year the Heart isn’t in our world. This time around, the Nomads and Chaplain Cloth are spending Halloween in the Old Domain.
As stated in the description above, Nomads is the the sequel to 2010′s Stoker Award-winning novel Black & Orange by Benjamin Kane Ethridge (incidentally, you can read my review here). Both books explore a decidedly different and much darker side of Halloween in a unique and original way.
There’s a touching dedication to the late Michael Louis Calvillo, who the author was good friends with before his untimely passing. Please consider reading his work–it’s some of the most powerful literature you’ll ever come across. As well, my fellow horror blogger Jim from Ginger Nuts of Horror got a shout-out for assisting the author with some Scottish facts and figures, as he hails from the great isle of Caledonia (I could have also said ‘the country that brought us Sean Connery’ but Latin names are more fun ;-)).
One of the most dynamic and exciting things about Nomads is the Scottish setting. Don’t get the wrong idea, though–this isn’t a merry romp through the Highlands going on tours of castle after castle or trying to find out what “haggis” really is. Make no mistake, it’s still very much all about the Heart of the Harvest, but it livens things up to have the sequel outside of the US, although the main characters, including the most important Nomad, Patty Middleton, are, in fact, American. The cast of characters expands considerably making for more interesting subplots and power plays between people, which also makes this an even more compelling read than Black & Orange.
Things start off with an older Scotsman, Douglas, who’s with a girl, Fia, also his daughter’s best friend, in a cabin somewhere. It doesn’t take long before the scenario unfolds the way the reader thinks it will. Like any red-blooded male, Douglas finds Fia is a temptation too great to resist (even though he’s married, although his wife really is a battle-ax, as evidenced by her behaviour when she shows up at the cabin). Things take a turn for the worse when a certain someone with one black eye and one orange eye decides to show up via possession and takes over Douglas. The battle we saw in Black & Orange is far from over.
Then we switch to the Interloper, who is a mysterious and enigmatic figure tied into the fates of each Nomad. H protects them and lessens their burdens, guides them into every Halloween, and is thought to be a benevolent entity, but as the book continues, alliances definitely come into question, making for a more thought-provoking and interesting read.
The Nomads are Patty Middleton and Teresa Celeste. They have blood ties to the Old Domain, the realm from which Chaplain Cloth and his pumpkin creatures come from, among other things, but even though they’re in Glasgow, they have no idea of the monster lurking about. The Interloper saw the monster, Chaplain Cloth, possess Douglas and cause havoc at his local pub. But it turns out it wasn’t just a random possession. Douglas had secret ties to the Church of Midnight, even though he wasn’t as devoted as other members. There’s a great scene at a pub when Douglas is playing chess with another guy, but it doesn’t take long for Cloth to make use of Douglas in the way he needs and to cause a lot of havoc and carnage along the way.
As it’s mentioned in the plot description, although Patty’s power to summon mantles and use them is quite powerful, it’s also out of control and a bit unpredictable, making it a challenging weapon to use. It’s almost like she’s pyrokinetic when she uses mantles, as their biggest function, for lack of a better phrase, is to blow things up. No matter where the Nomads go, there’s always someone chasing after them, and this time around it’s no different with the culprit being a shady guy named Byron.
One of the other unsavoury characters is Camden, who Chaplain talks to about the Church “To Do” list and emphasizing the importance of obtaining the Heart of the Harvest, which he says he and his children will do. Cloth wants the Priestess of Midnight to assist him. But first, Camden must go to a lot of trouble to provide conduit bodies for the Church of Morning members to communicate on Earth from the Old Domain. The Priestess is one of the most interesting characters, a young and misguided girl who could definitely stand to be fitted with a straight jacket, who has a past with Camden. She’s also very insecure and in some ways this makes her easy to manipulate but it also makes her unstable and volatile with the potential to cause a lot of damage.
Eventually things come to a head and the Nomads do their best to undermine the efforts of Chaplain Cloth and his army. This time around, being exposed to more of the “bad guys” so to speak makes this an even more interesting and engaging read than Black & Orange, as well as more world-building and exploration into the Old Domain. There are enough twists and turns to keep readers invested in the story, as well as an ending that, while it does have a sense of resolution, definitely leaves the door open to further exploration of this universe and the characters Ethridge has created.
Nomads was even better than I expected it to be, and is the perfect gift for the horror reader in your life who wants a different kind of read this holiday season and isn’t sure what to read next. Just because Halloween is over, it doesn’t mean this book isn’t just as impactful months later as in its original season. That said, I don’t think that readers who haven’t read Black & Orange will be at a loss, or won’t understand what’s going on completely. Don’t get me wrong, it will definitely help to have read the first book, but one won’t be completely confused if they pick up Nomads first.
For those of you who can’t get enough of the Black & Orange universe, just a reminder that the author also has a collection of short stories set there called Reaping October, which is the perfect add-on gift, containing three superb stories that will entertain and challenge horror readers.