While most of the fiction we review here at Bricks of the Dead is zombie related, I’m a huge fan of horror in general. Indeed, many of my favorite horror films feature no zombies whatsoever. With this in mind, I am reviewing Children of the Mark, the latest novel by Michael Garza. Garza also wrote The Last Infection and The Hand That Feeds, both of which I very much enjoyed.
Rather than zombies, Children of the Mark‘s central monsters are Lovecraft-inspired monstrous old gods, and the cults that want to bring them into our world. While we don’t get too much interaction with the monsters, the cultists are certainly dangerous in their own right. Standing in their way are a trio of teenagers who just so happened to bumble their way into the middle of things.
The book begins as our three heroes – AJ, Claire, and Dougie – are exploring a local warehouse. Unbeknownst to them, they aren’t the only ones there. Also inside is a cult performing some sort of ritual to summon an other-worldly monster god. They attempt to get a better look, and AJ is caught by some magical force. When he comes to some time later, his eye is discolored, and he finds that he can see things that his other friends can’t.
You can imagine where things go from here. AJ and his friends want to know more, and end up getting drawn further and further into the mystery. The cult is much more far reaching and better financed than they would have ever suspected, and ours heroes always feel outmatched and over their heads.
Children of the Mark is an interesting horror story that is fairly light on the horror in favor of focusing on adventure. I was immediately reminded of The Goonies when I started reading the book, and that comparison holds throughout the entire story.
Where this really comes through is tone. While adults will still likely enjoy the book, it’s written for younger readers, and the tone of the book reflects that. Violence, for instance, is minimal, but still present. While I didn’t find this too distracting, it was something I noticed fairly often as I read.
One thing that really impressed me about the book is how well it worked to embrace the intended audience. The important characters are children, and the adults that they interact with have a very foreign quality to them, as if they’re not quite understandable. It also has a really good handle on the awkwardness of most youth’s first romantic relationships.
I think you could take these as both strengths and weaknesses, depending on your perspective. If you don’t care for young adult literature, you might get turned off. If you don’t mind the genre, you’ll enjoy it.