A couple arrive in a small town only to learn that an ancient evil resides there in this novel.
Peter and Alyssa Huffy have moved from San Diego to Forest County, Pennsylvania. Specifically, they’ve purchased a house near a cozy town called Sparkle. Exploring Sparkle’s bustling main street, Alyssa begins shopping enthusiastically in Rose Windward’s antique furniture shop. When a precocious 13-year-old named Miranda-Julia Beatrice Cappern stops in, Rose suggests she take Peter, who’s also in the store, on a tour. They visit the nearby Bunyine Woods, where the teen’s cousin, 12-year-old Derek Windward, often sits. Derek, however, has fallen into a stream and is covered in defensive wounds. The boy mentions a cave and running from a noise. He doesn’t say that he possesses The Journal of D.D. Windward, Sparkle’s founder. Inside is written: “You must defeat the Bunyine,” a pantherlike cat the size of a bus, that Douglas Windward failed to hunt and kill in his own lifetime. When Derek backtracks in his account of getting injured, Peter grows suspicious. He then starts meeting Douglas in his dreams, which occur in a treeless, brightly colored version of Sparkle. Is Peter losing his mind, as Alyssa believes, or is something deeply strange afoot? In his latest fantasy, Kambitsis (Days of Yore: Jack the Giant Killer, 2010) crafts a tale of small-town weirdness that would tickle Stephen King. Peter’s and Derek’s odysseys come to include ghostly English children named Dickon and Tibb (who has teeth “pointed like a picket fence”). The prose is crunchy with pop-culture references, from Alyssa’s Pink Floyd obsession to Derek’s preference for films on VHS tape. Focused creepiness frequently rises up, as when Peter encounters something “hanging there in the dark, something turning and twisting above the floor, as if the darkness were boiling.” The Bunyine’s connection to Adam and Eve adds narrative weight, but quirky asides often give the piece an amorphous flow. Though the story remains fun, readers will spend too many chapters awaiting substantial events.
A pop-savvy fantasy that entertains while it wanders.