book review, horror, Joseph Sale

Joseph Sale Month: Four Horsemen

Previously published in a single volume with the novella, The Fifth Horseman, under the title Nekyia, this collection of four stories is rich in symbolism, covers life and death, and is essential reading for those who love Sale’s work.

In City of Illusion, Yin rules the Circle in death, spreading fear among his subjects. Can Hagga, filled with need, help her fellow travellers tear down the illusion and discover what lies beyond?

The Contained introduces one of Sale’s enduring characters – Dr Monaghan – and shows a man of faith willing to sacrifice himself to contain a monster (neither of which are Dr Monaghan!). 

Nothing Gives is a Greek myth reimagined in modern England, as a couple of men from the Traveler community search for a missing woman, stolen by The Taking Man. 

Enantiodromia shows us death, through the eyes of some new arrivals. 

It is interesting to watch the growth of the author’s writing and shared universe as his books progress. His rich themes are in evidence in all the stories, along with his nuanced characters and exceptional world building, however I found his writing style much less accessible this time around.

The Contained is an exciting story, probably the easiest story to read in this collection. 

Nothing Gives is grounded by strong characters and a noir type mystery, despite its surreal, mythological trappings. 

However, the stories set in death are much harder to understand. It took me quite a while to get into City of Illusion as, not only is it set in a world alien to the living, it also jumps from character to character with little frame of reference. Once I managed to get a handle on what was going on, it became easier to decipher. 

It is undoubtable that reading this book requires a bit of brain work. Each sentence is so full of meaning that I almost took notes as I read so that I wouldn’t miss anything. The hard work is well worth putting in, however, as it pays in dividends. 

I award Four Horsemen

This review was published in a slightly different form on 18th May 2020.

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