Douglas Nicholas' debut novel Something Red will be published in September 2012 by Atria/Emily Bester Books (Simon & Schuster).

Here's information about the author:

Douglas Nicholas is an award-winning poet whose work has appeared in numerous poetry journals, and the author of four previous books including Iron Rose, a collection of poems inspired by New York City. He lives in New York's Hudson Valley.

Here's a description of Something Red:

From debut novelist Douglas Nicholas comes a haunting fantasy of love, murder, and sorcery set in one of the coldest winters of thirteenth-century England.

During the 1200s in northwest England, in one of the coldest winters in living memory, a formidable middle-aged Irishwoman and the troupe she leads are trying to drive their three wagons across the mountains before the heavy snows set in. Molly, her powerful and enigmatic lover, her fey granddaughter, and her young apprentice, soon discover that something terrible prowls the woods. As the group travels from refuge to refuge, it becomes apparent that the mysterious evil force must be faced and defeated - or else they will surely die.

An intoxicating and spirited blend of fantasy, mythology, and history, Something Red features the most fascinating of characters including shapeshifters, Irish battle queens, Norman knights, Templars, pilgrims, Saracens, a Lithuanian noblewoman, warrior monks, strong - even dangerous - women, and ten murderous mastiffs, as well as an epic snowstorm that an early reader described as "one of the coldest scenes since Snow Falling on Cedars."

A REVIEW OF DOUGLAS NICHOLAS' SOMETHING RED

Douglas Nicholas' Something Red is a novel which will leave you breathless with admiration, fascination and shock. In my opinion it's the best debut novel of 2012, because it blends beautiful prose, fantasy, horror and historical elements in a perfect way.

Before I write anything else, I'll mention that Something Red restored my faith in historical fiction. I've been more or less disappointed with some of the historical novels I've tried to read during the last couple of years, because there are authors who tend to write mediocre novels with no originality or style (and most of these books contain bad and dull prose). Fortunately I had a chance to read Something Red, because it was something totally different and it was written in beautiful English.

There are probably readers who wonder what kind of a novel Something Red. I can say to these readers that historical fantasy is the first term that comes to my mind when I think about the content of this novel.

This novel is an interesting reading experience. At first it seems to be an exceptionally well written historical novel, but when the story begins to unfold and things begin to develop the reader will notice that there's much more to this novel than what meets the eye. This novel starts as historical fiction, but soon turns into historical fantasy (the mystical and mythological fantasy elements are slowly revealed to the reader).

Here's a bit of information about the plot:

The events take place in the 13th England. England suffers from one of coldest and harshest winters ever. At the beginning of the book a small group of people (an Irishwoman Molly, her granddaughter Nemain, her lover Jack and a young apprentice Hob) travels in the snow towards a monastery. They soon find out that something horrible is walking in the woods and it kills people...

Douglas Nicholas writes beautifully and pays a lot of attention to minor details. The prose flows effortlessly and the descriptions are amazingly beautiful. I think that the author's background as a poet has given him an ability to write lyrical and evocative prose. Everybody who has read poetic English will notice that the prose in this novel is remarkably beautiful and poetic (if you like rich and poetic English as much as I do, I think you'll love Doulas Nicholas' prose).

The prose is so good that you can easily believe you're in the middle of the happenings and walk with the characters and their wagons along the snowy roads and paths. You can almost feel the cold and the bleakness of winter when you read this novel. Some readers may probably think that reading about travelling in the snow is dull, but that is not the case here. Douglas Nicholas keeps his story flowing and allows the reader to feel sympathy for his characters.

From a Finnish person's point of view the descriptions of winter and snowy landscapes feel accurate and precise, because we have similar cold winters here in Finland. I think that all Finns know what it feels like to walk in the snow.

The author writes fluently and vividly about the characters. He reveals bits and pieces of them during the course of the novel, which is nice. Each character is different and has his/her own personality.

Here's a bit of information about the main characters:

Molly is an Irishwoman and the formidable heroine of this novel. She keeps her secrets hidden, but they are revealed at the end of this novel. Jack is her lover, but he also has his own secrets, which are gradually revealed to the reader (I noticed that at one point the author revealed something important about him and then later wrote more about it - it was nice how the author managed to use this element at the end of the novel). Nemain is Molly's granddaughter - she's a girl, who is becoming a young woman. Hob is an apprentice who helps Molly.

I especially liked how the author wrote about Hob and his feelings. His coming-of-age story is fascinating, because he's a boy who's growing up and has to deal with different emotions (for example, he finds himself infatuated by a girl from the inn, but he also has feelings for Nemain).

This book features shapeshifters, monks, love, murders, horror and sorcery etc, so there are plenty of different ingredients. These ingredients are an important part of the story and the author uses them in a fascinating way. It's actually quite amazing how fluently the author writes about these things, because he never overdoes anything, but delivers all the ingredients in perfect doses.

Reading about shapeshifters and their abilities was enjoyable. The mythology involving shapeshifters is interesting, but I'd better not write more about this subject, because I don't want to write spoilers.

Douglas Nicholas has a nice way of building up suspense. He knows how to keep the reader interested in the story by delivering shocks at regular intervals. The strange murders and brutal happenings will keep the reader glued to the novel. I think that reader will also be thrilled to read how the characters feel the presence of evil, but are unable to see it.

This novel is surprisingly rich with historical details about life and living conditions in medieval England. The descriptions of the places (monastery, inn, castle and the woods), people and happenings are realistic. I think that the author has done quite a lot of research, because everything about this novel feels authentic. You can easily imagine what kind of life the characters live when they travel with their wagons from place to place and how their problems affect them.

This novel has a short glossary of Irish terms. The glossary is helpful, because Molly uses Irish terms and it's good that the reader understands what she means by them.

I sincerely hope that Douglas Nicholas will write more novels, because he is an excellent writer. (I have to confess that I didn't want this book to end, because I loved it and wanted it to last as long as possible.)

Something Red is a novel, which everybody book lover and fantasy fan should read, because it's a quality novel. It's a hauntingly beautiful masterpiece of historical fantasy fiction, which offers perfect escapism and entertainment for fantasy and horror readers. It will also appeal to people who read historical fiction, because the historical details are interesting.

Before I finish writing this review, I'll give a word of warning to the readers: If you start to read Something Red in the evening, don't expect to be able to put it down before you've reached the last page. It's one of those novels which grabs hold of you immediately and doesn't let go until you've reached the last page (yes, Something Red is that good a novel!).

Highly recommended!

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