Book Review: Red Right Hand by Levi Black
A review copy was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
Mogsy’s Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Series: Book 1
Publisher: Tor (July 26, 2016)
Length: 304 pages
Author Information: Website
The themes and ideas of H.P. Lovecraft’s works have long since influenced the genres of dark fantasy and horror, as can be seen in Red Right Hand. Levi Black’s new novel adheres true to the Lovecraftian mythos by plunging his characters into deep dark scary places, making them confront the kind of terrors that mere human minds are not equipped to comprehend. This book is undeniably, unmistakably disturbing. And it was quite a ride.
Red Right Hand tells the story of a young woman named Charlotte Tristan Moore, who discovers there are monsters out there other than the human ones in her past. One night, Charlie returns home feeling unnerved by bad memories of the terrible thing that happened to her in high school, only to be attacked by three demonic skinhounds waiting in her apartment. A mysterious Man in Black with a red right hand sweeps in to save her, but it turns out he’s actually an elder god named Nyarlathotep. Charlie is a descendant of H.P. Lovecraft and magick is in her bloodline, he claims. To save the world, she must come with him to defeat two of his brethren who want to bring chaos and death onto this mortal plane.
Charlie doesn’t want to help the Man in Black, but she knows she has no choice. Not only has he named her his Acolyte and unlocked her magical sight to penetrate the veil between worlds, Nyarlathotep also holds Daniel, Charlie’s good friend, in his thrall. To protect Daniel and to keep chaos from being unleashed upon he world, Charlie is forced to do as the elder god commands and follow him into one nightmarish scenario after another.
It probably goes without saying, but Red Right Hand is a book with some frightening and triggering themes, and is not recommended for readers who would find these topics disturbing. While it may share some elements with urban fantasy, it’s really more of a straight-up horror than anything, featuring macabre scenes of blood, gore, and violence, etc. and leaning heavily on the use of graphic descriptions. The story will also explore the terrible thing in Charlie’s past. Even though the event is mostly alluded to in her memories, prospective readers should be aware that parts of this novel will touch upon the pain and trauma associated with sexual assault and abuse.
The narrative itself delivers a fast-paced, action-driven horror tale, full of the terrifyingly weird and supernatural elements inspired by the stories of H.P. Lovecraft. From elder gods to cosmicism, these themes are featured in the modern day setting of Red Right Hand, but it all still feels distinctively Lovecraftian even when written in the bold, stark tones of Levi Black’s writing style. What’s important is that this book does its job well, making good use of the idea that life as we know it is nothing more than an insignificant fragile veneer, underscoring Charlie’s helplessness and the real threat of losing her sanity in the face of Nyarlathotep and his kind.
Granted, neither the plot nor the main characters are particularly deep, and I also thought the visceral reactions to some of the darker, more twisted and stomach-churning scenes might have had the effect of emotionally distancing me from everything, including Charlie. There’s a small romantic subplot involving her and Daniel, for instance, which I didn’t feel much connection to. However, the story does move quickly, leaving me hanging on the edge of my seat to see what happens next. The first few chapters kick us off with barely any preamble, throwing us headfirst into this nightmarish journey with Charlie, Daniel, and the Man in Black. This snappy intro pretty much sets the pace for the rest of the novel, which proved in the end to be one super-fast, super-thrilling read.
I think whether or not you’ll enjoy this book will highly depend on your tastes for horror. The nature of the horror elements in Red Right Hand are rather more intense and in-your-face, as opposed to cold and creeping psychological dread. If what I’ve described here of Charlie’s journey sounds like something you might want to read, I encourage you to check it out for yourself—especially if you have an inclination towards fiction inspired by H.P. Lovecraft. This story will suck you in.