REVIEW: Mark Cassell – The Shadow Fabric

REVIEW: Mark Cassell – The Shadow Fabric

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Genre: Horror
Publisher: Herbs House
Publication Date: 18th October 2014
Pages: 340

REVIEWED BY NEV

The Shadow Fabric is Mark Cassell’s first novel. This book is published by Herbs House. This book pops a couple of Confessions cherries tonight.

Firstly, it is Mark Cassell’s first time being reviewed on Confessions.

Today he becomes a man.

Also this is the first ever book that I bought at a con. I met Mark at Emcon in Nottingham and to be honest I had no intentions of buying any books at that stage, but he impressed me so much with his enthusiasm that I bought them all. And stole a few bookmarks. And sweets.

This is another one that sat on the pile for a while because it wasn’t a direct submission for review. I was struggling to decide which one to read next instead of following the normal strict list. When this one caught my eye, I thought I would give it a go.

This is what I thought.

Leo is confused. He has had a troubling life. The problem is he can’t remember any of it bar the last couple of years. He has just returned from a years traveling around the world and his guardian of sorts, Goodwin, has a job for him. He wants him to go work for his friend Victor as a chauffeur.

Leo soon discovers that chauffeuring will not be the only job he will be doing for Victor. On his second day he witnesses a murder. On his third day he witnesses much, much worse.

What follows, is a race against time. A race against evil. A race against unknown forces. A race against The Shadow Fabric.

This is a race that no one can afford to lose.

In terms of our characters we have a colourful and varied selection. Leo is obviously the main man in this story. He is mysterious and confused. He has no idea of his past and the only person who seems to know about it, Goodwin, isn’t giving anything away. Goodwin himself seems to be the quintessential English gentleman looking out for Leo. A sort of rich guardian who doesn’t need to be doing what he is but does it anyway.

Victor is seemingly a man of wealth as well. He doesn’t seem to want for much but it is clear from the outset that he is searching for something. This is what causes his problems. Stanley is Victor’s brother. The nasty side of the family. We don’t learn too much about him early on but he seems to be one to avoid. Polly is the last one of the group. Polly is blind. She has a helper who looks after her permanently but again seems to stick to the side-lines.

This group, apart from Leo, have known each other for years. They have secrets they are keeping from Leo. They also have secrets they are keeping from each other.

As far as characters go, these ones are all great. You don’t get a lot of back story with them which I love. Especially Leo, because he hasn’t even got a clue about himself. The character’s individual stories all become clearer as the story progresses, but again without overload.

In terms of the plot, this is one of my favourite styles of story. An ancient evil is making a comeback. Some people know a bit about it but not everything. They need to figure things out as they go. There are a lot of secrets and a lot of twists and turns that I, for one, didn’t see coming.

It isn’t a straight horror story. It is very much in the mystery / thriller vain with a lot of horror thrown in. Sort of like Dan Brown but good. And scary. Don’t be fooled by what I’m telling you though. This isn’t done in the Spielberg or Disney styles of those films you could watch on a Saturday afternoon with your two-year-old. This is dark, dark stuff. This is the stuff of nightmares. The sort of thing that a bit of me always wants to believe is happening somewhere in the world but we just never get to hear about it.

So what was the writing like? Well, one thing that struck me throughout this book is intelligence. It’s more literary in the sense that I reckon people who live and breathe extreme horror may not take to this one. It isn’t all blood and guts and gory gratuitous murder and mayhem. It’s extremely well thought out. It’s extremely well put together, to weave a wonderful story that genuinely mesmerised me in parts due to the beautiful descriptive narrative, that gives you a true impression of what particular scenes must look like.

Mark Cassell has a very creative imagination. That is clear from very early in this story. Although the plot theme is something that has been done many times before, I haven’t seen it done like this. I am trying to think of someone or a book to compare it with and I can’t. That must speak for itself.

I have a complaint though. For me, it lacked a bit on the horror side. The true scary bits. The bits that make you read with one eye closed or make you close it for a while because you don’t want to read what happens next. It’s the sort of story that you get the feeling from the beginning that the good guys are all going to ride off into the sunset, smoking big cigars and drinking tequila. They don’t by the way. Or do they? You have to read it to find out.

One thing is for sure. I will definitely be reading more of Mark Cassell. His writing is extremely good. The way his words flow should put many other authors to shame and to be honest, there are a few who should read this book to see exactly how intelligent writing is done. I think they will pick up some valuable tips.

To summarise: a mysterious and thrilling tale of modern day misfits chasing an ancient evil to save themselves, and mankind. A bit light on the horror for me but definitely worth a read to sample some very intelligent writing.

 

General rating:
★★★★ practically perfect.

Horror rating:
★★★.5 just needed more scares for me.

 

If you would like to help support Confessions of a Reviewer, then please consider using the links below to buy The Shadow Fabric or any other books from Mark. This not only supports me but also lets me know how many people actually like to buy books after reading my reviews.

Thanks.

 

Book Synopsis:

Leo remembers little of his past. Desperate for a new life, he snatches up the first job to come along. On his second day, he witnesses a murder, and the Shadow Fabric – a malevolent force that controls the darkness – takes the body and vanishes with it. Uncovering secrets long hidden from humankind, Leo’s memory unravels. Not only haunted by the past, a sinister presence within the darkness threatens his existence and he soon doubts everything and everyone…including himself.

Now Leo must confront the truth about his past before he can embrace his future. But the future may not exist.

THE SHADOW FABRIC is a story revealing the unknown history of witchcraft and the true cause of the Great Fire of London. A supernatural horror novel of sins, shadows, and the reanimated dead.

 

Mark Cassell lives in a rural part of the UK with his wife and a number of animals. He often dreams of dystopian futures, peculiar creatures, and flitting shadows. Primarily a horror writer, his steampunk, dark fantasy, and SF stories have featured in numerous anthologies and ezines including Rayne Hall’s Ten Tales series and horror zine, Sirens Call.

His best-selling debut novel, The Shadow Fabric, is closely followed by the popular short story collection, Sinister Stitches, and are both only a fraction of an expanding mythos. His most recent release, Chaos Halo 1.0: Alpha Beta Gamma Kill, is in association with Future Chronicles Photography.

 

And for more about Mark, visit his site or find him on social media:

 

 

Comments
  • Sarah#1

    27th October 2016

    We love Mark! He's been a Writers' HQer since the beginning and it's so good to see his hard work and commitment pay off. *pom poms for Mark*

    Reply
    • Mark Cassell Author#2

      28th October 2016

      Hi Sarah! I remember those many days of lugging the 100k MS down to your Brighton retreat, ready to attack it with the Red Pen of Doom. I couldn't have done it without you guys.

      See you soon when it's time to revise the next installment in the mythos.

      ~M.

      Reply
  • Paul Ashby#3

    27th October 2016

    Good review (if you don't mind me saying so) of an equally good book. I stumbled on to his work by my sister; she had a copy of The Shadow Fabric, which I casually picked-up and was hooked.
    While I pretty much agree with most of your review, I will say that, although you say there is a (certain) lack of horror/scares, for me the overall nature of the story; the slow-burn of it creeped me out plenty.
    I've since read his Sinister Stitches short story collection as well, and – in a number of cases – the same applies. Without getting too lofty with the praise, it is a little Stephen Kingesque. The undercurrent of strangeness that gradually breaks through the surface. But, this comment is becoming a rant. Overall I agree – a damn good read, and a fair review.

    Reply
    • Mark Cassell Author#4

      28th October 2016

      Thanks for the kind words, Paul. And I'm pleased you enjoyed the short story collection as well. There's plenty more to come!

      ~M.

      Reply
  • ShoebridgeCA#5

    27th October 2016

    Great review Nev! I loved that you picked up on the intelligent writing – for me this wit and attention to detail was key to my enjoyment of The Shadow Fabric, and stands the author out among his peers. He has obviously consciously crafted every word of his story. Of particular enjoyment were the originality of the metaphors and the symmetry between plot and world unraveling. The stance on delivering horror here reminded of King's 'Buick 8', where a disquieting malevolence evolves in the background; where our fear is in the persistent threat of a full and final emergence as much as in the final emergence itself. I admired his maturity in prioritizing tension. As this is not a constant scare-fest, perhaps it could be a good introductory read for those new to horror?

    All the best!

    Chris.

    Reply
    • Mark Cassell Author#6

      28th October 2016

      Chris, I absolutely loved King's 'Buick 8' and I'm chuffed you run a parallel there. Thank you.

      ~M.

      Reply
  • emdehaney#7

    27th October 2016

    Like Dan Brown but good!! I love it. Seriously though, I read this book a while ago and it is great. I love anything to do with witchcraft, and the whole mythos Mark Cassell has created surrounding the Shadow Fabric is brilliant. Look forward to reading more of his stuff.

    Reply
    • Mark Cassell Author#8

      28th October 2016

      I also loved the "Like Dan Brown but Good. And Scary." reference. Glad you're enjoying The Shadow Fabric Mythos!

      ~M.

      Reply
  • Debbie Christiana#9

    27th October 2016

    I have The Shadow Fabric, kindle ready on my TBR pile. But after this review I need to move it to the top. I've read plenty of Mark's short stories and they've always given me chills – his writing is darkly atmospheric and eerily descriptive. I'm looking forward to reading The Shadow Fabric. Good luck!

    Reply
    • Mark Cassell Author#10

      28th October 2016

      Thank you, Debbie! I'm pleased to hear you've been enjoying my short stories. I hope you enjoy reading the novel. 🙂

      ~M.

      Reply
  • Thomas S. Gunther#11

    27th October 2016

    Mark Cassell's work grabs you from the first story, the first paragraph, and the first sentence. Maybe even the first word. There's just nothing like being sucked right into a good story–a weird and different world that compels you to keep reading!

    Reply
    • Mark Cassell Author#12

      28th October 2016

      Nicely said, Thomas. I also always enjoy being snatched into another world with an author's words, so perhaps that's why I've ended up created my own world with the Mythos. It's been fun turning witchcraft an demonology on its head.

      ~M.

      Reply
  • Nick walkom#13

    27th October 2016

    Marks first novel is superb, a real page turner which kept me engrossed from beginning to end. The ability to put such thoughts onto paper is a wonderful ability and he should be very proud of its results. Well done mate

    Reply
  • Joe Veitch#15

    27th October 2016

    Book was a holiday hand me down with a recomendation completely out of my comfort zone. This isn't a genre that I would generally partake in as I prefer things to be a little more real but hey ho, I went for it.
    From the first page I was hooked. Cassell's writing is dark,terrifying,edge of seat stuff and certainly not for the faint hearted. His building of the story and the synopsis of character in its detail is one I found both spellbinding and edge of the seat stuff. I'm expecting a sequel.I'm guessing with the quality and body of the material HBO are too. If you're listening Mark, stay on the dark side as I cant wait for the next book.

    Reply
    • Mark Cassell Author#16

      28th October 2016

      I am listening, Joe. I'm pleased you were hooked, and I'm equally pleased you can't wait for the next story in the mythos. Thanks.

      ~M.

      Reply
  • Adam#17

    28th October 2016

    This book is more a supernatural/suspense thriller than blood & guts horror, but don't expecting puppies & chocolate, as no-one is safe in this world. Mark has a very engaging writing style (better than some more widely published authors I've read) & this, coupled with a well-thought out plot, makes it very hard to put down.
    I'm usually a fan of space novels (Star Wars), so this return to earth with was a refreshing change change for me. Not only that, but the book is set in the same part of the world that I live (as does the author, I believe), so the scenes & locations were easy to imagine & this helped the story move along.
    I can't imagine anyone not enjoying this book. Mark clearly has great things in front of him & I can only see his work going from strength to strength

    Reply
  • Mark Nixon#18

    28th October 2016

    Need to get my copy sorted!

    Reply

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