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Pulling Teeth and Other Stories

Grimdark fiction with a paranormal focus can settle like oil underwater when blended with action and gunplay, but Pulling Teeth and Other Stories by Jessa Forest has a balanced blend. Each corner of stark weird or science fiction here is softened by the wolves. Sterile laboratory prison landscapes are brightened somehow with childlike wonder. Bounding through these forests untethered, we find stories of the bond between father and daughter, master and apprentice, trust and honor.

As a collection of novellas and short stories, Pulling Teeth is the beginning of a series about a young hybrid werewolf, Regina Slaughter. Maintaining a similar tone and following in chronological order, each story hits extremes of tension, horror, and the unknown with ease and alacrity.

Regina’s tragic upbringing to the age of nine and the fate of her family unfolds as we follow her from being an imprisoned test subject to her freedom after being taken in by another faction, more of her kind, mercenary werewolves. Considering this is a world where werewolves, magic, parallel dimensions, and vampires exist, in the relatively small space these stories provide, we also delve into friendships, family, loss, and lunacy which is no small feat for a world with such complexity.

Regina was test subject 33 at the HADES facility. After two years of their attempts to control the powers of werewolves with torture and restraint, her rescue comes in a bloody and unexpected ally. Atlas, a werewolf mercenary from a nearby stronghold, becomes her protector and unlikely substitute for her father, who was taken away too soon. Her new pack leader, Thane, who dresses in the hides of mysterious creatures formed into a plague mask, is cold and strict. But, when he unexpectedly takes the feral Regina under his wing, her animal strength and desire to serve her new pack with honor seem to have finally found a place. There are many factions at war or with tenuous alliances in the world that Jessa Forest has created. The world can seem quite complex.

Luckily, we have an introductory short story, Welcome to HADES, that outlines the differences between the organization’s different departments that hunt werewolves, vampires, mages, and other Void creatures in the form of an employee manual. The stories of these animals’ hunters and the hunted unfold in three novellas and two short stories mainly from the werewolf point-of-view. Regina’s Guide to Monster Hunting, later on in the book, serves as a bookend to the first chapter and creatively adds to the readers’ arsenal. Many of our questions are answered as we read on, exploring the world between these two chapters.

The characters of Regina, Thane, and Atlas are broadened expertly in the titular short story, Pulling Teeth. It is somewhat visceral; it reminds us that Regina is the scrappy orphan we envision as a budding werewolf warrior or typical young teen. However, the unexpected change of pace with Demon Tooth reveals that the humans here are largely oblivious to the dark world at their doorstep. Werewolves, understandably, stay within the shadows hiding in the darker recesses of humanity. Inevitably they will cross with this story of bored suburban human teens taunting forces they barely understand, but that Regina knows all too well.

Although we get to know a lot about her past captivity, abuse, and perhaps stunted personality, Regina sometimes comes across as a lot younger than she is. This could also speak to her animalistic and simplistic nature, which may naturally read as a younger girl than 11 years old. This is the only fault in the dialogue or how others treat her; at times, a child is a trusted member of the team. Her attitude vacillating from studious apprentice and bratty teen reads as unstable at times. Ultimately, it is refreshing to see some of the childlike phrases from Regina and see the world through her eyes guide our reactions to those around her to a certain extent.

As with much science fiction or weird tales, it takes a little getting used to the typology, the taxonomy, and jargon. One tactic Forest uses is likening Regina’s situations into contemporary, classic horror, and science fiction films. Without being a casual name-drop, this helps ground readers into the world through Regina’s eyes because she’s watched many films that fans of this literature are likely to have seen.

If anything, we want to find out more about Regina. Although we’ve had a great insight into her past, her future is a mystery. From the human threat to the Void itself, there is peril in our imaginations. The more we understand how she fits within this world, the more we want to see her adapt. As this is the beginning of a series, fans of this first set of stories will eagerly expect the next installment.

Our world of mythology and science blends here as naturally as fur and fang. Definitely a great fit for fans of a strong character storyline, the politics of warring factions, and following guns for hire. And, of course, those who love a new take on monster stories, specifically werewolves and origin stories for all that is dark, occult, and macabre.

Pulling Teeth and Other Stories is a riveting combination of grimdark, science fiction, fantasy, and horror. This collection of short stories will take readers on an unforgettable journey.

Pages: 266 | ASIN : B08M12631P

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The Dream Walker

The Dream Walker by K. J. Simmill is the account of the escape of Íkelos, the Father of Nightmares, from his centuries-long prison and how the Mystics, people throughout the various lands who hold special powers like those of prophecy and healing, worked together to save all the lands from his chaos and destruction. Some, like Zoella, have to learn what their powers are and how to use them, while others use their knowledge and understanding of the last time an event this disastrous happened to find a way of getting ahead of Íkelos. The most important powers seem to be those dealing with prophecy.

Author K. J. Simmill is an extraordinary story teller, creating a richly detailed world that will transport you into the book. K. J. Simmill thought of everything when developing her world providing details for every instance and immersing readers into her vision. This makes for an interesting read, especially for voracious readers of the epic fantasy genre, as they will not only understand what’s going on during the story, but also why things are working the way they are and why they’ve happened the way they have in the past and the present. The character development also shines in this novel which allows the reader to really relate to a specific character in the book. The reader really gets to see the characters develop throughout story.

The Dream Walker by K. J. Simmill is a riveting and powerful epic fantasy novel. Readers of science fiction and fantasy alike will find the story and characters memorable and engaging. From beginning to end, this is an entertaining sword and sorcery adventure that you won’t be able to put down.

Pages: 547 | ASIN: B08KXMTG87

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Rob is surrounded by darkness; a darkness that encompasses everything in its path. He cannot see, but he knows he is not alone. There is something approaching, of that he is certain. It does not seem possible, but the shadows about him continue to grow darker. As his fear begins to grow more intense, Rob realizes that the entity that pursues him is one he cannot face. Every sound around him heightens his ever-growing terror. Then, somewhere in the abyss, Rob recognizes what looks like the smallest hint of light. If only he can reach it in time.

Remedy: The Forgotten Legacies Series Book Three, by author K.J. Simmill, takes readers on the adventure of a lifetime with the book’s main character, Rob. Virtually every interaction he has and every problem he must solve on his way to his final success is fraught with danger and described with an incredible amount of detail. The imagery Simmill creates for science fiction fans is simply stunning.

The richly detailed dialogue enhances the story line allowing readers to be immersed in Rob’s plight, while not overwhelming readers with too much. Simmill uses dialogue in order to maintain the integrity of the story and enhance the readers’ ability to visualize dynamics between characters. The story’s narrative provides beautiful imagery while giving insight into how the character is developing and advancing the storyline.

The character of Taya will captivate readers while eliciting sympathy. This character endured things that gives the novel added elements of surprise and horror. Details given by Simmill are chilling and will keep readers on edge.

Remedy: The Forgotten Legacies Series Book Three, by K.J. Simmill has characters that are unique, strong-willed, and memorable. I highly recommend Simmill’s work to anyone looking to follow a new and promising author. Fantasy and science fiction fans alike will enjoy this swiftly-moving powerhouse of a novel.

Pages: 533 | ASIN : B074Y8GQXC

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Never, Never

Never, Never by [Liz Butcher]

Wendy Darling, now all grown up, reluctantly returns to her childhood home when her mother passes away. While staying in her least favorite room of the house, Wendy is reminded nightly of her past with Pan. One morning Wendy wakes up to find out a local girl has gone missing, and Wendy believes she is the detective that will crack the case and remember more about her childhood captor. Wendy is already suspicious that this little girl’s abductor is Pan and she quickly finds out that Pan was not a figment of her imagination.

Never Never by Liz Butcher pleasantly surprised me by uniquely layering a gritty and puzzling crime fiction story on top of a classic children’s literature story. I finished this book within a few days because I was simply enthralled with the story and its compelling female lead. Liz Butcher’s writing talent is on full display, with character setup, engaging dialogue, and a slowly unraveling mystery that all seems effortless. There are plenty of details about Wendy that evolve her from her classic character into the intriguing detective that she is in this book. From her bedroom in her childhood home, being the oldest sibling, and being overall a strong individual; Wendy’s character will make you gain a whole new perspective from what you thought you knew about her.

Never Never has a deeply enthralling horror aspect to it and the creepy portrayal of Pan has changed my perception of Peter Pan… probably forever. One of my favorite parts of the book are the under tones of mental health. Wendy has a traumatic past and the lasting effects of those events have shaped who she is, especially as a detective. I look forward to this story being continued in a series because I love Wendy’s character and the unique idea driving this story.

Pages: 375 | ASIN: B08Y8H23L4

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Ungodly by [Braedon Riddick]

Ungodly is a chilling horror thriller written by Braedon Riddick. There is a fascinating, albeit disturbing, concept explored within the pages, reminding me of the eerie feel in Stephen King novels, but a bit more expressive rather than reminiscent. Set on Calisade Mountain College, Ungodly begins with a thwarted plan from a troubled teenager who aimed for mass murder. The mass murder may have been stopped but an unseen aftermath, possibly worse than before, now takes place.

There are more than a few characters in Ungodly, some wildly different while others seem similar in certain regards, but there is one word that can describe every single one of them; flawed. Author Braedon Riddick went far to set up realistic character flaws, then to delve in and show how these can control someone or affect them silently. I appreciated how these were portrayed as realistic flaws, from a drunken abuser to a cheating spouse, and all the characters, victims included, don’t always have a good ending. I had some trouble connecting with particular characters, which I assume was the point, but it did make me reluctant to read a few chapters. Eventually, this balances out with character strengths and relationship growths throughout the story. The relationship between our protagonist Amanda and Brian was a breath of fresh air from the horror and suspense filling this book.

Braedon Riddick’s prose is a big highlight in this novel. He has the ability to evoke some raw emotions with simple but effective language. There are many scenes in Ungodly that froze the air still and silent before shrieking in the reader’s face. The atmosphere was incredibly eerie for the first two thirds before propelling readers towards the climax, and that may be because of how effectively the author writes fear of the unknown. However, the novel takes place with multiple timelines shifting between many perspectives. This can take a while to get used to and takes some time to get emotionally invested in the characters because we’re hopping from one character to the next.

Following incredibly authentic, and flawed, characters made me want to push through the slower parts of the novel. The second half had me completely immersed in the story. By the ending, I rooted for our main cast, nervous for what may happen but excited to see where it would go. Ungodly is a horror novel for readers who enjoy slow building thrillers with a thick atmosphere and a dark but gripping story line.

Pages: 288 | ASIN: B08QF8J884

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