Title: The Dead (The Thaumaturge Series: Book One)
Author: Cal Matthews
Publisher: Self-Published/Kindle Unlimited
Length: 228 Pages
Category: Fantasy, Paranormal, Horror
At a Glance: Apart from one little personal niggle, I loved the mysticism and magic and descriptive narration of this story.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: “She’s dead,” I said to him harshly, and he made a tiny, breathless noise. The old man put his hand on the boy’s shoulder, and the girl gave another sob, her face crumpling like a tissue. “But I can fix it,” I said, and smiled.
Ebron White has plenty of skeletons in his closet. Being gay in a remote ranching town is no picnic, but that’s nothing compared to Ebron’s biggest secret: he has the power to raise the dead. His life is complicated but so far he’s managing. He’s got a respectable business, an undead (though unreliable) boyfriend and most folks in his little rural community are willing to live and let live.
But a coven of witches showing up in town can only mean trouble. They’re entirely too interested in him and as the bodies pile up, Ebron is starting to realize that the dead are the least of his worries. It’s the live ones he has to survive.
Review: I’m going to get my one little negative out of the way right off the bat: The sole issue I had with The Dead was all the typos/grammar inconsistencies, which were prolific enough to throw me out of the story again and again. It’s unfortunate because the book itself is a great debut novel, and it’s truly the only shortfall I can note, so if you aren’t bothered by those things, or at least can overlook them, the story itself is unique and drew me in from the start.
Author Cal Matthews has chosen rural Montana as the setting of this series, and it works to good effect. The small-town atmosphere is the perfect contrast to the supernatural scope of the goings-on in Heckerson. The biblical metaphors are there—if you care to look for them—as one might expect in a Jesus/Lazarus themed story, and I love that the town’s name feels like an innocent and sanitized version of the hell it’s becoming for Ebron White. I will also say that if you crave a lot of backstory and world building that answers the whys of Heckerson as a hub for the preternatural, and the hows of the existence of vampires and magic, you won’t find that—maybe that’s for later books—so just suspend your natural curiosity for a bit and enjoy the oddities.
Ebron is a sympathetic narrator, and I liked him so much. We don’t know why he is what he is, just what he does, and I appreciate that air of mystery about him. The true mystery in the story, though, at least for me, is his vampire boyfriend (errr, friend-with-benefits?), Leo. The first-person narration offers us precious little about Leo, only the bits and pieces Ebron chooses to reveal. Leo is more absent than present in Ebron’s life, and they clearly aren’t an exclusive couple, though Ebron wants them to be. He’s in love with the vampire, but there’s a reason Leo disappears for months at a time, and that is a tease-and-a-half I expect to learn more about in coming books.
It’s difficult to categorize this as a Murder Mystery, by the strictest definition, when the victims don’t stay dead, but a mystery it is nonetheless, when a coven of witches blows into town and focuses on Ebron’s tea and herbals shop as a point of their interest. One witch in particular, Marcus, homes in on Ebron, causing some confusion of feelings for the thaumaturgist, and his emotional connection to Leo. If you’re touchy about open relationships and blurred lines, this might be a tricky thing to navigate, but it serves to advance Ebron and Leo’s relationship arc and was the necessary catalyst for Leo to come to terms with his feelings for Ebron.
I loved the mysticism and magic and descriptive narration of the story. It spoke to my Horror-loving ways, but be aware that this being a dark paranormal novel, not so much a romance, things can get a little grizzly and gruesome. Matthews has a knack for bringing her scenes to vivid life, never more so than when a victim is in need of Ebron’s power, as well as during the climactic scene of the story that again evokes some fantastic imagery in Ebron’s ascension. The loose threads at the end of The Dead have me itching to dig into book two, Ebron’s moral dilemma included. He’s compromised, conflicted, and his reputation in Heckerson is beginning to eclipse his privacy. It all adds up to some intriguing fun, and a book I would gladly recommend to anyone who loves the genre.
You can buy The Dead here: