4 of 5 stars.
World-building takes a supernatural ride in this detective thriller novella. In a world of humans, mer, avians, nocturnes and all sorts of humanoids, Gorel of Goliris, exiled from his homeland, finds himself at the crossroads of all cultures–a massive cemetery known as Kur-A-Len, the Garden of Statues, where necromancers, wraiths and other undead also stir blending the past with the present.
Gorel has an exile problem and a drug problem–in particular, God’s dust, he can’t get enough. When he finds himself at the massive cemetery, his first sight is a funeral in which the deceased sits up, the deceased’s nephew stabs the deceased in the heart and the funeral carries on. Just another day in Kur-A-Len where a half-nocturne serves as caretaker, a grave-wraith keeps bar at the Last Homily adjacent to the cemetery, a preacher doubles as dust-dealer, and the dead refuse to stay that way.
Then came a succession of ghosts, which are no more or less than those who had passed and that we carry within us; those who are bound by shame and fear, love and excitement; those who, in their passing, had impacted us and left a sliver of themselves embedded in our consciousness.
The peace is disturbed when some living wind up murdered on the grounds and the suspects span the ranks of living and dead. Gorel is surprised to find himself named both sheriff and suspect complicating things.
The allegorical nature of a hero/anti-hero courting a drug-dealer and death-shadows cannot be entirely overlooked, especially when those lead to surprisingly graphic erotic scenes between Gorel and first the male preacher and then the female caretaker. It’s not without humor, however:
They dined in the caretaker’s dining hall, which was a study in necromanic elegance.
A mix of Diurnal and Nocturne . . . but mainly Nocturne, he thought. Shadows hung from the walls like tapestries. Fat wax candles burned in silver chandeliers. There were family portraits on the walls, or so he assumed: they were all pure black, the painting of shadows.
“Kur-A-Len” appears in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror: 2015 edited by Paula Guran and published by Prime Books. It first appeared in Black Gods Kiss (PS Publishing).
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