I don't generally read a lot of small-press or self-published books, but when one snags my attention, I'm more than willing to give it a shot. Lords of Dyscrasia is one of those books where everything fell into place - the cover caught my eye; the review blurb comparing it to "the works of Poe and Lovecraft" made me curious; and the concept of infected bloodlines, diseased souls, and necromancy assured it a spot on my shelf.
Stylistically, this was a very interesting read, with a mix of high fantasy, pulp adventure, and visceral horror that worked as well as I could have hoped. Elements of it did indeed remind me, at different times, of H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allen Poe, but I also detected the flavour of Robert E. Howard, and even some early Books of Blood era Clive Barker.
The storyline here is interesting, and the investment in the mythology is quite impressive. It's definitely one of the more unique concepts I've come across in a long while, taking a very Cthulhu-like approach to an otherwise standard fantasy trope of interracial breeding and the mingling of mortal & immortal races. The world-building doesn't quite live up to the mythology, but only because we don't get explore enough of it.
This is a very intense, very frantic, very driven read that leaps from scene to scene. The action and the tension is relentless, which has a definite appeal for some readers, but I felt it suffered somewhat because of it. I think one more pass at the story to build some narrative bridges between the scenes, and to pad out the intensity with some subtler moments of reflection could have really served the book well. It's not very often that I put down a book wishing it had been just a bit longer, but her I would have welcome some fluff to round things out.
That said, what's on the page works very well. Doctor Grave is a fantastic character, secretive and manipulative, but driven by an honest purpose. His ethereal assistant is definitely a nice touch, and the ways in which she is used outside the Doctor's environment were a very pleasant surprise. Lysis, unfortunately, came across as a bit one-dimensional for me. I would have like to see some more vulnerability in him, some lighter emotions, but I suspect that lack is due more to the unrelenting intensity of his quest than to any failings on the part of the book.
Other reviewers have said this is a very dark book, and they're right. This is pulp fantasy for the horror fan (not the other way around), and it is wonderfully grotesque. There's a very clinical detachment from much of the horror, which actually serves to elevate the monstrosities to a higher level. Like I said earlier, this reminds me of Books of Blood era Clive Barker on the page, or original Hellraiser era Clive Barker on the screen, and I delighted in that visceral element.
By no means a perfect book, but one that manages to offer something new, and which does an admirable job of bringing it all together. I look forward to seeing what Lindberg produces next, and would even be up for a reread were he to expand the text here . . . and author's preferred edition, if you will.Originally reviewed at Beauty in Ruins