FIENDS by John Farris
Kirkus Star


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Farris (The Fury, Wildwood, etc.) hits a home run, setting aside his usual horror schlock for some fine, assured writing that pretty much goes the distance in this, his best ever. Farris' now-restrained ghoulishness echoes the faerie horror of Wildwood's halfmen half-beasts and butterfly gift. Set in deep-country Tennessee, the fantasy here, based upon the Children of Eve exiled from the Sun by the sins of their parents, suggests rather than spells out--although the acts of the story's ""fiends"" upon human beings are registered with clinical detail to give plausibility to otherwise very far-out story-spinning. The story: In 1970, the orphan sisters Marjory and Enid Waller live alone. Enid decides to accept Arne Horsfall, an elderly patient from a nearby mental hospital, for a weekend visit. Arne, a mute with an artistic bent, has been hospitalized nearly since the turn of the century, when Arne's village had been wiped out by a devastating otherworldly frost and his family attacked by demonic fiends. Arne disappears from the Waller house, and suddenly a spectacular cloud of luna moths surrounds it. The giant moths lend the story its long weave of glittering color effects. Chasing Arne, Marjory and her boyfriend Duane get lost in a huge cave they discover behind a waterfall, and deep in the cave come across a catacomb littered with shiny black bodies of Icelandic huldufolk, the living dead who are the Children of Eve. The huldufolk await the rising of their leader, Theron, from the Black Sleep. When Theron wakes, he grows the wings of a luna moth. Out of this stew, which does not wander far from these ingredients, Farris cooks up a splay of magical moments. Nonetheless, his strongest spice in the book is a southern sisterly chitchat--filled with zits, warts, and heat rash--that is simply wonderful. You know what you're getting with this title--but it's Farris' soundly humanized leads who count most.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1990
Publisher: Dark Harvest (P.O. Box 941 Arlington Heights, IL 60006)