book review, horror, Joseph Sale

Joseph Sale Month: Return to the Black Gate

A bittersweet end to the trilogy with this tour de force from mister mindflayer, Joseph Sale. 

On another world, known as Nekyia, its prince returns a changed man. Gone are his physical eyes, but with his third eye he can see the doors between all the worlds are now open and something older than the seven gods has been unleashed. 

As unspeakable, unstoppable monsters emerge through the gates to destroy the worlds, moving towards Earth, a group of familiar faces unite in an effort to stem the tide. There is one question upon all their lips. Where is Craig Smiley?

In expectation of this book, the author recommended that I read his novel, Nekyia, and I am so glad that I did. Return to the Black Gate is as much its sequel as it is a follow up to Beyond the Black Gate, and I wonder how I would have interpreted this volume if I hadn’t read Nekyia beforehand.

Sale’s mastery of his craft continues, with the language in this book his most beautiful I have yet encountered. There is no denying that he has a talent for writing lyrical prose that juggles complex, layered plots with ease. This book is even more effortless than his last, with each carefully crafted sentence a joy to read, even as the storyline and characters flowed relentlessly forward.

I have to applaud the author for once again changing direction with this book. Just as the first book was almost a serial killer thriller, and the second book has echoes of an epic fantasy, this book is the most deeply philosophical of the trilogy. It takes the elements from the other books and combines them to posit a way of looking at the world. At first I was unsure of this approach, but it came together to stunning effect in the finale. 

The worst thing I can say about this book is that it is an ending. The characters mention that it is endings that give stories meaning, but I’m not sure I agree with them. There is a sadness that pervades this book, for it feels like, not only the trilogy, but much of the author’s extended universe is being drawn to a close with this tale. Endings are always sad, so I was left bereft after finishing this book, yet at the same time satisfied. 

I award Return to the Black Gate

This review was originally posted on 20th March 2020

6 thoughts on “Joseph Sale Month: Return to the Black Gate”

  1. Indeed, Iseult – what a fabulous ending, though a pervasive melancholy informs it, much as we feel as Frodo finally – after the incredible victory over Sauron – takes to the Grey Havens and ships to the West from which there is no coming back. In this way all sentimentality is avoided, since this is so like real life: bitter-sweet! And like you, I wanted to read more. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

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