Review: Prince of Nightmares, by John McNee (2016)

rince of NightmaresReview by Jaq D Hawkins.

What do you do when the nightmares begin to become real?

A suicide, a haunted hotel and a strange brew of enthusiastic ghost hunters set the stage for a very different sort of holiday encounter. Victor Teversham’s wife killed herself in the library suite of a hotel – a place that promises nightmares that feel real, and are assumed by much of its regular clientele to be genuine ghostly activity. Teversham, a conservative, ordinary person who can’t bring himself to speak to some of the odder characters who frequent the hotel, is looking for answers and is prepared to put up with some horrific experiences to find what he is looking for. His wife made a reservation at this freaky hotel for him just before she shot herself and he wants to know why.

The book is well written with some very effective use of imagery, perhaps too effective in the later chapters when things get surreally horrific. Do not read while eating. The first half of the book is more subtle and I have to admire the way the reader is drawn into the world of nightmares gradually, so artfully that if you read at night as I do, starting to drift off while reading can add a new level of dissociation in a plot where the characters are already having trouble determining what is dream and what is real.

Around halfway we are given an explanation for the phenomena, which I found very original and unlike what might be expected. I’ll say nothing more as the revelation is part of the journey. But it doesn’t lose steam as a result of an early reveal, rather the activity really gets moving and the reader is plunged into the deep end when it’s too late to escape.

Though I normally don’t care for gore in my Horror reading, in this case nothing is gratuitous and everything that happens is in context of the story and put to good effect. This is a writer to watch for the next generation of top level Horror writers. Every significant character was distinctive in some way and the interactions between people with very different backgrounds and experiences was realistic and believable.

I’m still making up my mind whether I’m satisfied with the ending or not, but the fact that I’m still thinking about the story a day after finishing it indicates that it made an impact. One of the strengths of the story is pure descriptiveness. I felt right there, experiencing the nightmare world along with the characters so completely that I had to stop between chapters when my interest drove me to read on, but I needed to have a break. This is a mark of a very well written story and I will be watching for more from this author in future, though I hope he’ll lean more towards the psychological aspects of Horror than the graphic. Whatever he chooses to do, I expect it will be done well. 4.5 stars.