Review: Left to Darkness by Craig Saunders

left_to_darknessAbout Left To Darkness

A meteor strikes the Earth. Dirt and dust fill the air. Only a few people remain under the setting skies, and those who still live find it's not God's England anymore.

It's the Devil's turn.

Lines are drawn between the dark and light. For the darkness, James Finley and his cult for the end of days. On the side of light, Paul Deacon, the lost policeman, and Dawn Graves, the last mother.

To survive, they must put their lives in one man's hands: Frank Liebowicz, a killer with a soft spot for lost causes. Because come Armageddon, God won't choose his champions.

They'll choose themselves.

About the Author

Craig Saunders is the author of over thirty novels and novellas, first published with 'Rain' in 2011. Stories include 'Flesh and Coin', 'The Estate', 'Deadlift' and 'Masters of Blood and Bone', called 'A rare treat from a master of horror' by The Examiner.

His writes dark fiction/horror with an element of crime or mystery, and epic fantasy. His shorter fiction appears in various anthologies and magazines. Sometimes he dabbles with humour - but only when he's feeling serious.

Born in 1972 in London, England, Craig did some stuff (like growing up - abridged version), then studied Japanese and Law in Cardiff, Wales. After deciding the legal side of the law wasn't much fun, he left British shores to live and work in Japan. He has experimented with jobs as diverse as a translator and interpreter, English teacher, editor, dog walker, carpenter, doorman, and others besides.

He lives in Norfolk, England, with his wife and children, likes nice people and good coffee.

Find out more at: @Grumblesprout

My Thoughts

[This review is based on an advanced copy received from the publisher via NetGalley.]

I first became aware of Craig Saunders with the release of another DarkFuse title, Masters of Blood and Bone, in the early part of 2015. For me, that title was an elegantly written, and perfectly crafted, fusion of dark horror, fantasy, and noir. In short, it's a tough title to beat and sets a rather lofty benchmark for Saunders to reach on subsequent novels. And so, I came into Left to Darkness with a certain measure of expectation.

The setting is England, in the months prior to and the days following a meteor strike that heralds the apocalypse. Saunders bounces the narrative around his primary characters - the overweight Paul Deacon, a policeman who has settled into his career after many years, a pregnant Dawn Graves, whose husband was recently murdered, and hitman Frank Liebowicz. Life in the End Days puts them up against a cannibalistic cult, its members clad in sack cloth and barbed wire crowns, led by James Finley.

And while the meteor-ruined landscape is an impressive locale, it's the characters that are of prime importance here. Saunders displays a knack for developing each of them sufficiently well, enough that when danger befalls them there is an honest sense of worry and a few squirm-inducing moments that hit all the right "oh shit" notes one would expect and demand of a post-apocalypse survival horror story.

Frank pretty well steals the show here: not quite the hitman with a heart of gold pastiche, but still an easily relateable enough figure with an iron will. He's a tough bastard, a friggin' tank, bound and determined to survive, meteors be damned. Dawn, meanwhile, is utterly sympathetic - pregnant and alone, fending for herself and her unborn child, torn between the safety and security that being alone could bring, but needing to find and rely on other survivors for help in delivering her baby and keeping them safe. The cult members and killers they square off against are nicely drawn as well, but hanging out with Sid and Silvia is like stuffing your head inside a hornets nest. They're a real bag of crazy, those two.

My only point of contention is that Left to Darkness lacks a truly satisfying resolution. The finale is action-packed and exciting, but there's a host of information missing between the final chapter and the epilogue. I was somewhat let down by the open-ended nature, but would certainly dig in to any follow-up immediately because the story here is damn compelling, enough that I must know what happens next (or perhaps in between).

As I said earlier, I came into this story with a certain degree of expectation, which was mostly met. Saunders has a clean, straight to the point style that makes for a compelling voice, one that damn near happily drags you from word to word. This book might not have hit all the right notes that I savored in Masters of Blood and Bone, but he gets pretty close and has me fired up for more.

Buy Left To Darkness At Amazon

Michael Patrick Hicks

Michael Patrick Hicks is the author of the science fiction novels Convergence, an Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2013 Quarter-Finalist, and Emergence. His work has appeared in several anthologies, and he has written for the websites Graphic Novel Reporter and Audiobook Reviewer. In between compulsively buying books and adding titles that he does not have time for to his Netflix queue, he is hard at work on his next story.

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