Monday, July 20, 2009

Book Review: Dark Lullaby by Mayra Calvani

Dark Lullaby is a modern-day dark fairy tale, but not like your typical Disney happily-ever-after BS. Instead, this dark tale is like traditional folklore from Eastern Europe, dark, unsettling, mysterious and shocking. The supernatural villain in this book is unlike anything I’ve ever heard of or seen before in the horror genre, creating an aura of exotic mystery along with the distant setting of Turkey.

The tale starts with Gabriel fresh out of a three year relationship with Liz. The two remain close friends and have met up at a local bar for drinks and philosophical discussion of good vs. evil. The alluring and mysterious Kamilah soon joins them, and Gabriel is entranced by her beauty as well as her discussions on human nature. Liz gets a bad feeling about Kamilah, but Gabriel soon falls head over heels in love with her. Though he can’t deny there is something unsettling about her, he just can’t seem to get her out of his mind.

Though his twin sister, Elena, is having a stressful pregnancy across the pond in Europe and Gabriel is supposed to be at the birth in a week, he agrees to go with Kamilah to her home land of Turkey for a little R and R at her family’s cottage deep in the woods. When he arrives with Kamilah in Turkey, he feels cut off from both his sister and Liz and begins to feel more unsettled by Kamilah’s petulant child-like behavior and unnerved by several strange occurrences. Gabriel begins to believe that Kamilah wants harm to come to both Elena’s unborn child and Liz. Is Kamilah someone…or something…truly evil and what are her true intentions?

Though author Mayra Calvani has written many books over a wide span of genres, this was my first encounter with the woman’s writing. Though I felt that the opening pages of the book, where Liz and Gabriel are having a philosophical debate, were a bit weak, I was soon transported into a frightening story that had a tendency to crawl under my skin and squirm long after I put the book down.

The foreboding atmosphere of the novel was really helped by the location of exotic Turkey. It really felt like the family cottage of Kamilah, surrounded by primordial forest, was straight out of an enchanted fairy tale. Then there were the quaint, cobblestone streets of the local town and the dazzling blue of the Black Sea in the distance to add to the location’s mystique. All the supernatural events that occurred to Gabriel after their arrival in Turkey felt very apropos in such a mysterious locale.

I also thought the intriguing characters added a lot to the story. Gabriel, with all his talk of reason, is a very emotional man at heart and during his trip with Kamilah his emotions are used against him to draw him further into her tangled web. Kamilah, though a whiny brat, knows how to get her way and has a very dangerous presence. I also liked the subplots involving Elena, suffering anxiety and a sense of dread during her last few weeks of pregnancy, and Liz, suffering psychological torment at the hands of an unseen assailant. Other characters stood out as well, including a Turkish witch that tries to warn Gabriel what Kamilah really is and a young boy and his abusive father whom Gabriel feels a special connection to.

As for the scares, there are many scenes that will give you chills! One that hits you hard is close to the beginning of the story where Gabriel thinks he sees something horribly strange…Kamilah’s feet on backwards! Other favorites include creepy scenes in the Turkish woods when Gabriel follows the sounds of babies crying to some very disturbing trees, an unexpected attack from a swarm of bees and a stunning finale.

Dark Lullaby is a quick-paced, fun summer read for when you need a good chill! Its basis in Turkish mythology makes it unique and the splendid setting of Turkey doesn’t get much more exotic! The supernatural tale has plenty of nightmarish imagery to keep you up at night, but the “thriller” aspects of the story make it a good read for horror fans and non-horror fans alike! There is just enough romance and intrigue to interest those who aren’t necessarily horror fans, but also enough supernatural elements and scares to keep the spooky kids entertained.

Buy it on Amazon!

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