Tag Archives: Josh Reynolds

The Dark Rites of Cthulhu

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphlius reviews The Dark Rites of Cthulhu: Horrific Tales of Magic and Madness from 16 Modern Masters of Terror! [Bookshop, Amazon] edited by Brian M Sammons, illustrated by Neil Baker, with Glynn Owen Barrass, Edward M Erdelac, John Goodrich, Scott T Goudsward, T E Grau, C J Henderson, Tom Lynch, William Meikle, Christine Morgan, Robert M Price, Pete Rawlik, Josh Reynolds, Brian M Sammons, Sam Stone, Jeffrey Thomas, and Don Webb.

Sammons The Dark Rites of Cthulhu

A fairly slender volume containing sixteen stories of liturgical Yog-Sothothery, The Dark Rites of Cthulhu featured only four authors previously familiar to me, so I was grateful for the appended “About the Authors” info. The stories are reasonably solid throughout. Some do sort of stretch the category of ritual magic, such as one oriented around martial arts (“Of Circles and Rings” by Tom Lynch). A few are detective stories oriented around ritual murders. There is considerable variety of flavor within the “magic” field, encompassing voodoo, online cult recruitment, and stage magic, among others.

Most of these tales don’t bother with Arkham and Lovecraft country, though some do, and a few even go so far as to include or reference specific characters from Grandpa Cthulhu’s “ritual literature” (so-called by Michel Houellebecq). The Lovecraft stories that most conspicuously served as references in this assortment were “The Dunwich Horror” (of course) and “From Beyond.”

“The Dark Horse” by John Goodrich is set in a stars-were-right post-apocalyptic regime of human dispossession. Edward Erdelac’s story “Black Tallow” lost points from me initially by misspelling the name Aleister Crowley, but ultimately redeemed itself with a credible representation of pathological contemporary ceremonial magic, along with lovely Club Dumas bibliophile fan service.

I read this book slowly over several months, since there is no continuity from story to story. It’s a decent collection of new weird fiction built around specialized themes that are of particular to interest to me, and I was satisfied by it.

Wrath of N’kai

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Wrath of N’kai: An Arkham Horror Novel [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher] by Josh Reynolds, part of the Arkham Horror series.

Reynolds Wrath of N'kai Arkham Horror

Wrath of N’kai is the first of a new series of licensed novels from publisher Aconyte Books set in the Arkham Horror game milieu. Unlike the recent investigator novellas from the game publisher Fantasy Flight, this one is at full novel length. It also lacks an established player character from the game for its protagonist. Instead, it has international adventuress and “gentlewoman thief” Countess Alessandra Zorzi as the principal investigator of the story. She is assisted by plucky trans-man cabbie Pepper Kelly. Neither of these have appeared in the games as far as I know. But the setting is unmistakably the Arkham of the games: various player characters do appear, such as Harvey Walters, Preston Fairmont, Tommy Muldoon, and Daisy Walker. Organizations like the O’Bannion gang and the Silver Twilight Lodge are also important to the story, which takes place entirely within the city limits of Arkham, starting with Alessandra’s arrival by train.

Despite ample stigmata of the Arkham Files universe, the narrative continuity of this story has in one case been better conformed to the original pulp-era literature. The underearth kingdom of K’n-yan is here given as lying beneath Oklahoma as it does in “The Mound” (1940) by Zealia Bishop and H.P. Lovecraft. The game designers had transferred K’n-yan to Mexico in the adventure “Heart of the Elders” for the Forgotten Age cycle of Arkham Horror: The Card Game. The plot of Wrath of N’kai centers on a scrimmage for a mummy recovered from K’nyan by a Miskatonic University archaeological expedition.

Author Josh Reynolds is a veteran at writing fiction for game universes such as the various Warhammer worlds, and he has also written some occult adventure in his “Tales of the Royal Occultist” novels. His reading in the relevant literature is signaled by clever allusions like Alessandra’s mentor Nuth (lifted from a story by Lord Dunsany). Wrath of N’kai has a lively pace, and I often read multiple short chapters at a single sitting. It is definitely more pulp adventure than weird horror, despite the Lovecraftian praeternatural elements. The prose isn’t highly polished, but it is engaging. I enjoyed it, and I would be willing to read a sequel about Alessandra’s adventures beyond Arkham.