The Damned by Tarn Richardson

Book Review - The Haunted Pen

First of all, I need to say a few words of thanks to Tarn Richardson. In early November 2017, Tarn held a giveaway on Twitter for a couple of copies of “The Damned” and I was lucky enough to be one of the winners.

I also need to add that I’m posting this review because the book is that damned good and not because it was a freebie. Anyone who follows my blog will know I’m not a prolific book reviewer as I feel reviews are not my strong point, so to be writing and posting this shows how strongly I feel about it.

The Damned” is the first book in Richardson’s “Darkest Hand” trilogy. Part Two is titled “The Fallen” and Part Three is “The Risen.” However, before reviewing “The Damned” I need to mention the prequel e-book “The Hunted.”

I knew I had to read this as an appetizer before reading “The Damned” and I wasn’t disappointed. I read “The Hunted” in one session on my tablet while sitting in the car waiting for my wife as she raided numerous post-Christmas sales. The time was very well spent (I got coffee and Oreos for being such an awesome husband…) as I loved the story and the main protagonist, Poldek Tacit. His uncompromising ways reminded me of Lee Childs’ “Jack Reacher” character but with religion and alcohol instead of coffee.

The preview, taken from www.goodreads.com is as follows:

In the bustling streets of Sarajevo in June 1914, the dead body of a priest lies, head shattered by the impact of a fall from a building high above. As the city prepares for the arrival [of] Archduke Franz Ferdinand, grim-faced inquisitor Poldek Tacit is faced not only with the challenge of discovering why the priest has been killed but also confronting other menaces: the demon rumored to be at large in the city and the conspirators of the Black Hand organization who plan to assassinate the Archduke.

With terrible danger only ever one step away and his private demons silenced only by strong drink, “The Hunted” introduces us to the damaged soul that is the unorthodox Catholic inquisitor Poldek Tacit. It is a world both like and unlike our own but in which the Inquisition is alive and well yet existing in the shadows; in which history is poised to take dangerous and unpredictable paths; where evil assumes many horrific forms, from werewolves to the institutional slaughter of the trenches; and the threat to humanity (in all senses of the word) – and to love – is ever constant.

Appetite well-and-truly wetted, I reached into the car door pocket, retrieved “The Damned” immediately tore into it.

The preview, taken from www.goodreads.com is as follows:

1914. The outbreak of war. In the French city of Arras, a Father is brutally murdered. The Catholic Inquisition – still powerful, but now working in the shadows – sends its most determined and unhinged of Inquisitors, Poldek Tacit to investigate: his mission to protect the Church from those who would seek to undermine it, no matter what the cost.

Yet as Tacit arrives, armed forces led by Britain and Germany confront each other across No Man’s Land. As the Inquisitor strives in vain to establish the truth behind the murder and to uncover the motives of other Vatican servants seeking to undermine him, a beautiful and spirited woman, Sandrine, warns British soldier Henry Frost of a mutual foe even more terrible lurking beneath the killing fields that answers to no human force and wreaks their havoc by the light of the moon. Faced with impossible odds and his own demons, Tacit must battle the forces of evil, and a church determined at all costs to achieve its aims, to reach the heart of a dark conspiracy that seeks to engulf the world, plunging it ever deeper into conflict.

Morally complex and fast paced, this is a gripping work of dark fiction set in an alternative twentieth century, where humanity’s desire for love, compassion and peace face daunting challenges in a world overwhelmed by total war and mysterious dark forces.

I found the book to be extremely well written and I’m going to do my best not to drop in any spoilers.

Set in World War One, “The Damned” is a superb read and the author has done a great job researching the time period. The story pulled me into its dark world immediately and I was captivated by Richardson’s writing style. The book combines the Great War with death, sex, werewolves, war, religion, the occult and supernatural horror – what more do you need?

The Damned” has an epic feel because it’s a complex story with a goodly amount of subplots to keep you on your toes. The unique array of characters contained in the detailed story felt realistic. Poldek Tacit is a man of extremes with violence and alcohol being at the top of the list. However, he has a strong religious conviction with numerous examples of his softer side filtering in throughout the story.

The Inquisitor is not the only strong personality, though. The female characters – Sister Isabella and Sandrine – are excellent and I applaud the author for writing such forceful females.

The wide range of other characters adds the required undertone of realism to the story. Each of them is vividly brought to life by having his/her own characteristics and individual traits making them three-dimensional. I found the British soldiers (Major Pewter and Lieutenant Henry Frost) to be very well penned and true to life, especially Pewter leading the battle from well behind the lines. I have to admit that whenever I read these characters, I pictured Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie in “Blackadder Goes Forth.”

There’s a whole lot of story packed into 300+ pages, and I found the backdrop of World War One interesting as it’s not a setting widely used. I also learned a few things as I read, especially the marching band leading the Germans into battle. The author’s description of the hell in the trenches was excellent and a stellar example of good research.

The book invokes an unmistakable sense of time and place thanks to the author’s impeccable attention to detail, enhancing the enthralling atmosphere. As writers, we always try to paint a picture with our words; we try to evoke a reaction from our readers and Tarn Richardson succeeds on many counts.

I guess by now you’ve noticed that I really liked “The Damned.” I’ve read a lot of books over the past couple of years and there aren’t many that had me saying “I’m going to be reading this again very soon” when I’ve finished, but this book is one of those rare exceptions.

If you like horror, historical fiction, fantasy, or just a darn good thriller, this book is for you. “The Damned” is one of the most compelling horror/fantasy novels I’ve ever read. Do yourself a favor, read this book. It’s excellent and won’t disappoint.

Now all I can do is sit and wait patiently for “The Fallen” to be delivered!

The Haunted Pen Rating:

About The Author

Tarn Richardson was born in Bristol, England in 1972 and quite early on in his life developed an unhealthy interest in ghosts, ghouls and things that go bump in the night. When seven-years-old, his family moved to a remote 17th century farmhouse near Taunton, Somerset, England that was rumored to be haunted by the ghost of a little girl.

At the age of eight, his class teacher, Mrs. Jones, read his class “The Hobbit.” Richardson remembers the moment very clearly, saying “I’d never known, let alone heard, anything like it. The language, the scenes, the characters, they all seemed to talk to me. I knew exactly what Tolkien was trying to say, as if I too inhabited his world. It was as if a light had gone on in my head. I knew after that what it was I wanted to do with my life. Write stories.”

Growing up on a diet of Tolkien, David Eddings and 2000AD comics, Richardson attended art college, spending most of the year writing when he should have been drawing. He’s rarely stopped writing since.

In 2014, he was offered a three-book deal with Duckworth Overlook and Overlook Press (USA and Canada). The “Darkest Hand” trilogy is Richardson’s ‘epic work of dark fiction,’ featuring the flawed but brilliant Inquisitor, Poldek Tacit.

Website: http://www.tarnrichardson.co.uk/
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tarnrichardson.author
Twitter: https://twitter.com/TarnRichardson

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