Publisher: Horrific Tales Publishing
Publication Date: September 2013
REVIEWED BY CHAD
Any method for evaluating or reviewing the book Whisper, by Michael Bray has to be filtered through one important understanding ahead of time. And that would be namely that this is the first book of a trilogy.
I suspect that there are some who would argue that this shouldn’t be taken into consideration. That the book should be evaluated on its own merits and that aspects of others down the road shouldn’t be taken into consideration. And to some extent I do agree that each individual instalment of a trilogy should be able to stand up on its own if needed. However, I don’t believe that you can completely disengage the book from the fact that it is one piece in a larger structure.
As such, the criteria that I might normally use to evaluate a novel must be, by definition, modified to accommodate the fact that this book is really the first of a three-act play.
Very good. Now we are all on the same page.
Overall, I found Whisper to be a solid book, elevated to higher levels on the back of strong prose and decently constructed characters. The peril of the situation feels real, the scares inherent in the situation feel legitimate and authentic and I found the visual descriptions throughout the book to be very well done. The premise of the book is one that horror fans will definitely find familiar. A young couple purchases an old, beautiful home just outside a small rural town. They quickly discover that the house has a dark history and that they may have bought more than they were expecting. This history is communicated to the reader via various flashback scenes which, while I often find to be a bit heavy-handed and overly expository, Bray does a good job making the flow of the narrative work around the edges of these passages.
Now at this point, I will be honest and admit that if I were to just read the description of this book, I wouldn’t necessarily be jumping up out of my seat to get a copy. It is a tried-and-true sub-set of the horror genre, but it is certainly something that has been done on more than a few occasions. However, as I hinted at the beginning of this, there are other considerations that I have to bring to bear in evaluating this. As I said, this is the first of three acts. And if you know anything about the traditional structure of the three-act play, generally very little of major import happens in the first act. Fundamentally, the purpose of this section of the story is to introduce the reader, or the viewer, to the key characters who will be present throughout. Obviously in the horror genre, there is no guarantee that those characters will be present, but the point is that you are introduced to the universe of the story and are immersed in that mythology and reality.
So, while, on the surface, this book may not quite be up to what I have seen from Bray in the past in terms of originality of premise, I’m willing to set that aside simply due to the fact that there is so much more story to be revealed in the two books which follow this.
The other issue which I have to take into consideration is that the mere hypothetical premise of the book is one thing, what really matters when it comes down to it is the execution of that premise. Fortunately for us, even the most overdone of plot devices can be made enjoyable if the writing is executed at an appropriately high level. And Michael Bray, in my experience is definitely a writer of high-calibre. As such, he takes a premise which I might not have been as intrigued by and manages to, with quality prose, make the story better than it is. There is a phenomenal level of flow and tension throughout the story and the descriptions of the house and the forest around the house are scary and very well executed, in my opinion.
The scare factor in this story is top-rated and again, just because a premise seems straightforward and commonly used, it doesn’t mean that it’s actually easy to make it engaging. What I’m saying is that Bray takes a common formula and manages to make it his own. I loved that he was able to provide, with just the right amount of backstory and exposition, a creepy history to the woods. The atmosphere is genuinely frightening and I thought he did a good job as well establishing a sort of adversarial role between the protagonists and the town to which they are moving into. There is a sort of conspiratorial tone among the locals who seem to be more knowledgeable about the house and its history and I thought this provided a great air to the story overall.
One area which is easy to get tripped up on when it comes to paranormal fiction is the legitimacy of the actions of characters. In other words, your biggest obstacle are points in the story where the reader doesn’t understand why the characters are bothering to put themselves into danger in the first place. Most people, and I think this is a common reaction to the horror genre in general, if they have an opportunity to get the hell out of there, they are going to take that opportunity. So, if you have a situation where your characters don’t take advantage, there needs to be a good reason why. And while Bray does skirt the edges of this predicament occasionally, for the most part I think he grounds the characters in behavior that seems reasonable and believable.
There is a great level of opposition to our heroes in this story, whether they be paranormal or otherwise. The level of danger throughout the story is multifaceted and layered in a way to create suspense and fear all throughout the book. And as it ended, all I could think about was that I was really looking forward to getting into the second book. This obviously is the essential element to any first part of a three-book story, so in that regard I would definitely rate this as a success.
Dark, supernatural fiction is something that has always been a love of mine, and as such, my expectations tend to be a little bit higher than in other sub genres of the horror category. I am happy to say that this book delivers on many levels and provides a great first step into the universe of this trilogy. I’m very eager to take the next few steps.
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It was supposed to be a fresh start. A place for Steve & Melody Samson to begin their new life together away from the noise and crime of the city. However, their new home – an idyllic cottage nestled deep within the dense solitude of Oakwell forest-has a disturbing history, hidden for generations by the locals. There is evil in Hope House, and the cursed forest that surrounds it. Evil that has awakened after lying dormant for decades, and has terrifying plans for the young couple.
Once you hear the whispers, it may already be too late.
CONFESSIONS REVIEWS MICHAEL BRAY
Michael Bray is a bestselling horror / thriller author of several novels. Influenced from an early age by the suspense horror of authors such as Stephen King, Richard Laymon, Shaun Hutson, James Herbert & Brian Lumley, along with TV shows like Tales from the Crypt & The Twilight Zone, his work touches on the psychological side of horror, teasing the reader’s nerves and willing them to keep turning the pages.
Several of his titles are currently being translated into multiple languages and with options for movie and Television adaptations under
negotiation for others, he will look to continue his growth as a full time professional writer long into the future.
And for more about Michael, visit his site or find him on social media: