Review: Revenants

By Mike Griffiths

Mills, Daniel. Revenants. Chomu Press (February 16, 2011). US $15.00. ISBN-13: 978-1907681035.

Revenants by Daniel Mills is a fascinating novel. Colonial New England is the backdrop for this rich and moody tale. Being from Massachusetts, and having read more than a bit of Hawthorne and other classic New England authors, I would have to say Mills captures the feeling of these early American novels.

The members of the isolated town of Cold Marsh have cut a home out of the stark, lonely forest after following their minister Bellringer into the wild. Life has never been easy for the small town’s inhabitants. Just a generation ago, they were forced to commit genocide on the members of the Native American tribe that had once been their friends and allies. Most of the town’s men were hiding from dark pasts, even before this horrible massacre, and a shadow of dread hangs over Cold Marsh and lurks in the forest which surrounds the small patch of humanity.

The clinging fear the village suffers increases when some of their young women go missing. One is found drowned, while another vanishes within the endless forest. When young Ruth, the girl promised to marry Edwin, disappears, too, the town mobilizes to find her. Despite the small hope of success and the inherent dangers of the encroaching woods, three teams of men set off to find the girl.

The groups are led by Ruth’s father James, Edwin and Edwin’s father William. Each of these men must confront not only the outer forest, but his tangled inner forest, as well. William is a forthright and strong man, but has seen the horror of war and knows that his actions in these past conflicts have left a dark mark on his soul. James is barely keeping his sanity intact after the loss of his only child and is willing to go to any lengths to ensure her return, even if it means making an alliance with the forces that have claimed her. Edwin learns more that he might have wished about the sins of his father when a lone and mutilated native is discovered.

The hopelessness of the men’s task mixes with the hopelessness of their chances at redemption. Soon, violence and insanity may end up being the only ones victorious.

Mills paints an ominous picture of Colonial New England. He seeks to capture the feel of our country’s earliest writers and pulls it off with great skill. It is a bleak time, without much light and with limited choices for those that struggle to survive on the threatening new continent. The stark realities of Puritan living are illustrated well, along with their superstitious beliefs.

This is a fine and enjoyable novel, although there are gaps that leave the reader wondering what really happened. Other parts, although well-written, are predictable.

Overall, an enjoyable read for both fans of horror and historical fiction readers alike. Mills sets off to perform the difficult task of writing in the style of authors that lived centuries ago and succeeds. I look forward to getting a copy of his next project.

Revenants is available from Amazon.com