Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: 2023
Content Warnings: Emetophobia, blood draining, broken necks, childhood trauma (neglect)
Four curse-breakers venture into the Paris catacombs to do a bit of clean up. Spells decay over time and someone has to clear the frenzied magic. One such curse-breaker is Thierry Pryor, cursed with a family legacy he’d rather keep under wraps. His companions for this next venture are a novice, his schoolyard bully, and a manager more suited to the office than the field. When spells go awry and a tunnel collapses, gothic delights ensue and we learn the truth of what haunts Thierry both figuratively and literally. Steeped in magic and the gothic, both in mood and theme, a quick read that’s an absolute delight.
I really enjoyed how Cloud depicted the magic. There’s a clear sense of heft and consequence, where magic is something that affects the caster as much as it does the target of the spell. There is wand work with a focus on intention and outcome, rather than saying an incantation. The rules are set organically, and it’s easy for the reader to tell when things go wrong, particularly with how visceral the experience of casting magic is.
The atmosphere itself is claustrophobic, as one might expect from a tunnel story. The way Cloud describes the darkness raises the tension as much as the uncertainty. Plus, I found Thierry so captivating as a character. There’s a clear sense of backstory and this is definitely a work for those who are fans of professional competency stymied by office politics and bureaucratic nonsense. The character interactions are as stressful as the horror, and I really enjoyed how it comes together in the very end.
A really good read for a chilly afternoon with a warm mug of bitter tea. Claustrophobic, erotic, and goth with a surprising ending that makes me excited for more of this world and its characters.
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