Review: Harvest Moon: A Tale of the Beldam Woods by James A. Moore

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My rating: 4 of 5 stars

With the days growing longer and the veil separating this world from the next growing thinner and thinner, I decided to turn to James A. Moore for some October spookiness. I'm gonna go ahead right now and pat myself on the back for this smart decision.

Right from the outset, Harvest Moon captures the feel of Halloween. As Moore takes us around the small town of Beldam Woods and introduces us to a number of the locals, you can practically feel the crispness of a chill fall wind on your neck and hear the skittering of freshly fallen leaves against pavement. Beldam Woods feels instantly familiar, but where it stands uniquely on its own is in the town's local legends about the wicked witch of the woods and her three grotesque sons. And while the witch was murdered by townsfolk long, long ago, her children still remain, plotting to resurrect her and make the town of Beldam Woods pay dearly for their sins.

Moore introduces us to these small town legends by way of a children's story, but as Harvest Moon progresses it becomes readily apparent that the town's myths have been severely sanitized in their tellings over the years. The true nature of Beldam's horrors are far more serious, and far more deadly, than the kid's fables surrounding them. A series of vicious murders and a spate of seemingly random crimes leaves police officer Craig Gallagher to sort through the mess, all of which points towards the impossible.

The premise behind Harvest Moon is a lot of fun, with plenty of pumpkin pulp horror to spare, and I dug the urban legend vibe that was introduced in the book's opening chapters. There is a certain degree of silliness to the nature of Beldam Woods's threats, particularly in their initial presentation as fodder for children's entertainment, but over the course of the novel Moore does a fine job establishing the villains as legitimate, very adult, horrors.

Although Harvest Moon was published a number of years prior to the television series Sleepy Hollow, the Tom Mison-led Fox TV show is the closest example I can think of to capture the tone and spirit Moore affects here. If you dug Sleepy Hollow, particularly its first season, I suspect you'll be able to find plenty to enjoy in Beldam Woods. While I would have liked a beefier ending and a bit more time spent in the chaotic "final" encounter, I really can't lodge many complaints here. Mostly, I found myself just wanting to spend more time in and around Beldam Woods.

Harvest Moon has its moments of grotesqueness, elements of fantasy and fable, and supernatural threats and monsters the Beldam locals must face, but even in its darker moments there's an overriding sense of fun, an almost comic book-like glee to the mayhem. Perfect fodder, then, for those long, cold nights leading up to Halloween.

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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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