Thursday, September 30, 2010

Book Review: Halloweenland by Al Sarrantonio

Sinister carnivals. The Lord of the Dead. A strange little girl. A town known as the Halloween capital of the world. And a Halloween that just might be the world’s last. With these intriguing plot points, I couldn’t wait to dig into Halloweenland by Al Sarrantonio. I especially looked forward to reading the book as a kick-off to the Halloween season.

From the back cover:

In Orangefield, Halloween is never normal – and this year will be no exception. For Orangefield is now the home of Halloweenland, a bizarre carnival run by the mysterious Mr. Dickens. No one who sees the carnival doubts that it’s a very strange place, but its real secrets can hardly be imagined.

Orangefield is also the home of Detective Bill Grant, who thinks he’s seen it all. He’s on the trail of an odd little girl, a girl who could hold the end of the universe in her hand. The trail will lead Grant to Ireland, the ancient home of the Lord of the Dead, then back to Orangefield, where, on what may be the last Halloween, the ultimate battle between Life and Death will take place.

Halloweenland is a very fast, very entertaining read. I feel the settings of both Orangefield and Ireland really got me in the spirit of Halloween. I especially liked Orangefield, which seemed to be the kind of town that goes all out for Halloween. We’re talking about jack o’lanterns on every porch, a Pumpkin Festival, creepy abandoned pumpkin patches and so on. Hey, I wouldn’t mind living there!

Al Sarrantonio has given us vivid autumnal imagery with Halloweenland. His words beautifully evoke the spirit of Halloween, which is partly what I was looking for when I picked up the book. You can almost smell the pumpkin spice and burning leaves in the air!

My only complaint was that the book is too short at only 230 pages. The last 70 pages include the short story that eventually became the first part of Halloweenland. Though it boasts a different outcome, the short story is pretty much a repeat of the first chapters of the book. I would have rather Sarrantonio expanded a bit more on certain characters, like the little girl and the carnival owner, instead of including his original short story.

I also thought the setting of Ireland wasn’t explored enough. The characters spent most of the time sight-seeing rather than exploring the roots of Halloween and Samhain. Reflecting back, this was really a wasted opportunity and didn’t even feel necessary in the grander scheme of the story.

However, despite these flaws Halloweenland was a fun and fast read with some great Halloween imagery. I look forward to reading Sarrantonio’s other books in the Orangefield series.

Available on Amazon!

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