Tarn Richardson's The Damned was published in 2015.

Information about Tarn Richardson:

Tarn Richardson is the author of The Darkest Hand trilogy, published by Duckworth Overlook in Europe and Australia, and Overlook Press in the US and Canada.

Consisting of The Hunted (free prequel novella), The Damned (2015), The Fallen (2016) and The Risen (2017), The Darkest Hand trilogy unleashes the flawed but brilliant Inquisitor Poldek Tacit upon a Europe engulfed by the First World War. The Damned was one of the book depository's 'Books of 2015'.

Having grown up in Somerset, he now lives in Salisbury with his wife, the portraiture artist Caroline Richardson.

Click here to visit his official website.

Information about The Damned:

1914. The outbreak of war. In the French city of Arras, a Father is brutally murdered. The Catholic Inquisition - still powerful, but now working in the shadows - sends its most determined and unhinged of Inquisitors, Poldek Tacit to investigate: his mission to protect the Church from those who would seek to undermine it, no matter what the cost.

Yet as Tacit arrives, armed forces led by Britain and Germany confront each other across No Man's Land. As the Inquisitor strives in vain to establish the truth behind the murder and to uncover the motives of other Vatican servants seeking to undermine him, a beautiful and spirited woman, Sandrine, warns British soldier Henry Frost of a mutual foe even more terrible lurking beneath the killing fields that answers to no human force and wreaks their havoc by the light of the moon. Faced with impossible odds and his own demons, Tacit must battle the forces of evil, and a church determined at all costs to achieve its aims, to reach the heart of a dark conspiracy that seeks to engulf the world, plunging it ever deeper into conflict.

Morally complex and fast paced, this is a gripping work of dark fiction set in an alternative twentieth century, where humanity's desire for love, compassion and peace face daunting challenges in a world overwhelmed by total war and mysterious dark forces.

A REVIEW OF TARN RICHARDSON'S THE DAMNED

Tarn Richardson's The Damned was a pleasant surprise for me, because it's an impressive and well-researched historical horror-fantasy novel. It's a carefully and engagingly written account of terrifying happenings in Europe during the First World War. It depicts a powerful vision of a slightly alternative early twentieth century and entertains its readers with an immersive story that bring freshness and additional terror to WWI stories. Although it has many well-known horror elements, it feels original and is refreshingly different.

I'm pleased to say that The Damned immediately pulled me into its dark world when I began to read it. I found myself thoroughly captivated by the story and enjoyed the author's fluent writing style. I was honestly amazed at how good the story was and how much effort the author had put into it, because it turned out to be more complex than I expected it to be. I consider this novel to be a rare treasure that should be read by everyone who loves well written speculative fiction, because this kind of entertaining and fresh novels are difficult to find.

The Damned combines horror, fantasy, thriller, mystery and religious elements in a powerful way. Because these elements interlink and intertwine throughout the story, it's possible to say that this novel is in equal parts a war story, a supernatural thriller, a mystery story and a historical horror story. It has an epic feel to it, because it has a complex story with pleasing amount of subplots.

Here's a bit of information about the story:

- The narrative alternates between the late 19th and early 20th century. The events take place in different parts of Europe.

- In Poland in 1889, Father Adansoni is interested in a young boy called Poldek Tacit, whose parents have been brutally murdered. He thinks that the boy may have been saved by some divine power. He takes the boy to the Vatican City and notices that he is strong and learns things quickly...

- On the frontline in Arras in 1914, Lieutenant Henry Frost is fighting against the Germans and faces the horrors of the war. When a German attack begins and suddenly stops, he notices that the Germans are being attacked. When he goes to investigate the trenches he sees a gruesome sight of massacre that is far more terrifying than anything he has ever witnessed before, but doesn't see any bodies. A beautiful woman, Sandrine Prideux, tells him that something terrible and uncontrollable lurks beneath the killing fields...

- On a late night in October in Arras, a young priest, Father Andreas, is extinguishing candles at the end of the evening mass. Suddenly, he hears sounds of movement in the silent Cathedral and is attacked by a beast. Poldek Tacit is sent to investigate the murder. He is simultaneously being assessed by the church...

This is the beginning of a well-crafted story that has a strong main plot and interesting subplots. I find it amazing that the author has succeeded in adding several subplots to his story while maintaining a clear focus on the main events. The story flows effortlessly from start to finish and the subplots add depth and complexity to it.

As readers are introduced to all of the characters, the story gradually blossoms into full bloom and gains more momentum as it draws close to its stunning and climactic ending. Although the story is fast-paced and may seem straight-forward to several readers, it has many shades of grey, because everything is not black and white. This novel has plenty of subtext and subtle complexity that is revealed to careful readers.

The characterisation is excellent and the cast of characters is satisfyingly large and versatile. Each of the major characters is brought to life in a vivid way, because they have their own characteristics and traits that define them as individuals. They're well-rounded and three-dimensional characters with lives and feelings of their own. Besides concentrating on writing about the main characters, the author makes sure that the minor characters are also interesting.

What makes the characterisation especially effective is that the author introduces his characters well and lets his readers get to know them properly. He pays quite a lot of attention to character interaction and dynamics between the various characters. It's enjoyable to read about what happens between the characters and how they feel about each other, because they have conflicting emotions and feelings about certain things.

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

- Poldek Tacit is a memorable and well-created character, because he is not perfect, but conflicted and flawed. He is determined and has a religious conviction, but he drinks a lot and is prone to violence. Although he has been through a lot, has used violence and has seen many things, there's still a spark of humanity in him. Despite his flaws, he is one of the Vatican's best Inquisitors.

- Henry Frost is a young British lieutenant who faces wartime horrors and atrocities on the battlefields of France. He falls in love with a woman called Sandrine.

- Henry's commanding officer, Major Pewter, is a self-centered officer with attitude problems - he can be a full-blooded bastard because of how he acts and what he says to people.

- Sister Isabella is a woman who has been tasked with assessing Tacit's faith. She tries to tolerate Tacit and his behaviour as well as she can, because she thinks that he is intolerable and doesn't follow rules.

- Sandrine Prideux is a beautiful woman who enjoys life in every possible way. She is anything but conventional. She has many secrets that she keeps well hidden.

In my opinion, The Damned is one of the few new novels which evoke a distinct sense of time and place, because Tarn Richardson's attention to details is exquisite. The many details enhance the captivating atmosphere and make the story compelling. The author has clearly researched many things to make them seem as realistic as possible.

The author's descriptions of Arras, Famboux and the Vatican City are interesting and vibrant. It was fascinating to read about these places, because they feel realistic and the author writes about them in a lush way. Because the author writes about the Vatican City, it's possible that many readers may feel compelled to compare certain things to how Dan Brown writes about them, but I see no point in doing so, for Tarn Richardson is much better and more skillful a writer than Dan Brown.

I normally tend to avoid reading speculative fiction novels, which feature church issues, religious turmoil and religious conviction, because many authors approach these elements from a wrong direction and often end up preaching about things. Fortunately, this novel is an exception and stands out among other novels of its kind, because religious elements are handled perfectly due to the author's an impeccable sense of style. The author's way of handling religious elements can be compared to Teresa Frohock's way of writing about them in her Miserere: An Autumn Tale, because there are a few similarities.

The Catholic Church has an important role in this novel. The author shows how the Catholic Church operates, controls people and tries to keep an eye on things, because they monitor various things and have agents everywhere. It was interesting to read about how far its leading figures were willing to go to achieve their goals and how they guarded their secrets.

The battle scenes and the scenes taking place among the officers and soldiers feel authentic. The atmosphere and overall ambience in these scenes is spot on. The author seems to have a good perception of reality and doesn't shy away from harsh realism that is needed in battle scenes. Action and life in the trenches is presented to readers without glorification.

The hellish and nightmarish scenes containing blood, gore, body parts and slaughter will please readers who enjoy reading about explicit scenes. In my opinion, this novel has a satisfying and stylish amount of gore that has been coupled with Gothic grandness. The author has created a perfect balance between action and horror elements and moves the story swiftly forward.

I found the author's approach to werewolves and werewolf mythology fresh and intriguing. I'm not going to reveal what happens in the story, but the origin of the werewolves is fascinating, because the Catholic Church and the werewolves have a connection that is an important of the storyline. What I like most about the werewolves in the novel is that the author writes about certain things from their point of view. This is something that is not often seen in horror novels.

I admire the author's way of keeping up tension and creating an atmosphere that exudes fear of the unknown and fear towards the wolves. By not revealing everything at once and delivering hints about what kind of a threat the werewolves pose to people and what their plans are, he keeps the story exciting.

Tacit's training to become an Inquisitor is one of the highlights of this novel. I found these chapters intriguing, because they reveal how Tacit was trained and what becomes of him. There's plenty of raw and unyielding fury and power in these scenes that is far too seldom found on the pages of horror novels.

A major part of the excellence of this novel can be contributed to the author's descriptive and evocative writing style. The author's prose is wonderfully engaging. When you begin to read the story, you'll immediately notice how the author's love for storytelling shines through the text (it's evident that he loves to tell stories and hasn't settled for mediocrity when he has created the story). It's great that the author manages to evoke feelings and emotions in the reader with his text, because it truly makes a difference in this kind of fiction.

There's something in this novel that reminds me a bit of Mark A. Latham's Apollonian Casefiles novels, Dennis Danvers' Wilderness and Stephanie Burgis' historical fantasy novels, because the author has a similar kind of approach to dark elements. This novel also has a few elements that are slightly reminiscent of certain elements in the British horror film Deathwatch, and it has a few tiny and ruthless elements that bring to mind Neil Marshall's Dog Soldiers.

I look forward to reading the next novel in The Darkest Hand trilogy, The Fallen, because this novel gave me a thirst for more. I feel compelled to find out what happens next, because the extract of The Fallen at the end of this novel is fascinating and gives a hint of more greatness to come.

Tarn Richardson's The Damned is one of the finest and most compelling horror-fantasy novels I've ever had the pleasure of reading, because it's a fresh and exciting glimpse into wartime horrors, secrets of the Catholic Church and life during the First World War. I was deeply impressed by it, because it has depth and the characterisation feels perfect. I highly recommend it to fans of the horror genre and also to those who enjoy reading dark fiction that has style and substance. Please, make sure that you'll read this amazing novel, because it's excellent and doesn't disappoint horror readers.

Highly recommended!

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