By Russell James
Published by Flame Tree Press
The premise behind The Portal is an easy horror grab – the devil has returned to open his doorway to Hell. It also flows with potential for a gruesome and wild ride, even if we never see the devil’s demons feast upon the Earth. He, alone, should be enough for carnage.
While there was a well-structured plot at play here, I didn’t care for some of the lead characters. Scott is fine and all, but Allie wasn’t someone I could attach to it in any manner (especially once you learn what it is she’s done in her past that haunts her). Despite her last act being the right move, it was still stained by some comments she immediately makes that I can’t even mention without causing spoilers. But, obviously, I didn’t like them. Luckily, I did approve of Miles, Oates (aka the devil), and his right hand man. Everyone else … meh. That being said, the supporting cast was just that – supporting, and not necessarily at the front of things. Allie was the main kink in the lead cast.
I also had issue with the child death and rape. This seems to be the “in” thing to do in entertainment right now, and I absolutely despise it. It’s one thing to mention a child being killed, and another to describe it and give unnecessary details. It’s exactly why we never returned to Perry Mason after its first episode, and why I’m scared to watch season two of The Alienist. All this kid butchering is making me sick. Again, I’m not saying you can’t kill a kid in a story – I think I’ve possibly done it – but don’t go into detail. Please! It immediately puts people like me off on a book. (Then again, this is horror, and horror is expected to shock you or, at least, make you feel uncomfortable in some fashion.)
Lastly (well, not really, but I’m going to wrap up things here), I found a lot of what was going to feel skin-deep. I wasn’t entranced, in other words. I never felt “hooked” or thought, I need to read at least one more chapter before I stop for the night! And yet, I didn’t feel like reading the book was a chore either. The Portal was, essentially, a middle of the road kind of book for me. There were about as many positives as there were negatives, creating a wash. I could have been better won over with an explosive ending – I don’t feel like we got that, really – but it is what it is. I wouldn’t advise anyone to skip this book, but I probably wouldn’t feel the need to recommend it either. The Portal was just solid, nothing special.
Review by Aiden Merchant
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