NEST OF SALT
By Matthew V. Brockmeyer
Published by Black Thunder Press
Last year, Brockmeyer blew me away with two of my favorite books in years: Under Rotting Sky and Kind Nepenthe. Granted, Kind Nepenthe was a hardcover reissue by the time I was reading it, but damn did I love both of those books. At some point soon, I will go back and reread them (which is something I don’t generally do – too many books, so little time, you know?); those titles generally come out first when people ask me for horror recommendations.
Though I didn’t find Nest of Salt to be as deeply satisfying as Brockmeyer’s previous collection, it still provides some graphic and horrifying stories that will haunt you. Honestly, I think my anticipation for this collection was partly to blame for my expectations not being quite met. I think the other reason is that these stories are bloodier and more grotesque in actions than Under Rotting Sky, which struck me as unsettling and atmospheric above all else.
When I finished Nest of Salt, I checked my notes against the publishing history provided in the back of the book. It seems I preferred the more recently written stories to the older ones previously released elsewhere. I don’t know why this would be – maybe it has something to do with the fiction Brockmeyer was favoring at the time of writing those stories? – but I thought it was an interesting discovery.
Of the stories I really enjoyed, either “The Witch’s Yule” or “A True Child of Woden” came out on top. It’s hard to decide between the two. “The Witch’s Yule” brings back Max from Under Rotting Sky and sets him up for a bloody and magical future. I really wish Brockmeyer would do a novel about this wild boy! He needs it! As for “A True Child of Woden,” I really enjoyed Brockmeyer’s use of music in the story; like with the main character, I was lured by the metal and taken down a dark path. I also liked “The Gyppo’s Clothes” (with its old-time lingo/language and narrative), “Charybdis” (which made me chuckle), and “Noel in Black” (which held a lot of potential for a longer story). I really just hate the horrific deaths of children, though.
I originally posted a different version of this review several months back, based on the ARC I was provided by the author. The reason I have decided to return to this book and update my review is because it has been made stronger with the removal of two stories I found problematic – in the sense they were messy and too gross for my tastes – and replaced by a new tale called “The Happiest Man in the World.” Despite a horrifically triggering beginning, this additional entry reminded me of Brockmeyer’s skill in taking disturbing content and making it somehow hellish and humorous. I enjoyed myself more and more as the story went along.
Though Nest of Salt did not blow me out of the water like Under Rotting Sky, it still features a handful of golden entries, each of which could easily spawn additional stories or expanded versions. And the changes he’s made to the collection following my original ARC definitely helped bring it up. Brockmeyer still knows horror better than most, as clearly evident in these terrifying and darkly marvelous stories!
Highlights: “The Witch’s Yuele” … “A True Child of Woden” … “The Gyppo’s Clothes” … “Charybdis” … “Noel Black”
Shadows: Not as atmospheric or darkly poetic as Under Rotting Sky … relies a little more on gruesome action
For Fans of: Graphic horror that touches on content and themes generally missing in the mainstream
Takeaway: Brockmeyer is a master of horror and storytelling … Nest of Salt further explores his dark and twisted imagination
Would I read this author again? Always, he is one of my favorites