Recruited to recover a stolen tome, Salem Hawley journeys to Arkham, Massachusetts, along with an acquaintance he doesn’t trust. As rain sets in and worsens, it seems to summon creatures from the sea, and Salem finds he can’t outrun their horrific schemes, yet help may not be totally out of reach. A mysterious woman shares his determination to retrieve Al Azif, and together they may have the strength to stop the evil that rises from the Atlantic.
(WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.)
The Salem Hawley series begins with The Resurrectionists, which established itself as a top read for me when I first reviewed it back during its release. It was an impressive introduction of a fierce protagonist subjected to terrible discrimination, and Borne of the Deep was no different when it came to merging an ugly shade of history with more cosmic elements. Following the events that befell Salem in New York, it plunged him neck-deep in a miserable, violent, and disgusting mess of a quest: recovering the grimoire, Al Azif. This time around the focus was mostly on Salem himself, and I believe that it worked brilliantly – it was an intimate and immersive experience to be there with him while he endured every bit of misfortune on his journey to Arkham. Hicks went all in on the depressive atmosphere, and it definitely set a mood as the endless downpour tormented Salem, the effective use of weather making a promise that something was brewing, and Hicks more than delivered. I couldn’t tear myself away, and when it reached the last third, my enjoyment piqued. I had expected a chaotic conclusion similar to The Resurrectionists – a whole lot of death and tentacles – but this battle was a step above, involving a Lovecraftian deity as well as amphibious monstrosities; it was an epic way to top it all off.
Salem is certainly a force to be reckoned with, his bravery and intelligence something to appreciate, but he’s not without his flaws, like any good protagonist. He has to traverse a world that’s against him, his efforts hindered rather than bolstered by other people, and it’s enough to feel sympathy but also respect at his self control. Whatever’s still in store for him I’m sure’ll prove challenging, and I’ve no doubt I’ll love it just as much – it’s exciting to know that a character you’re fond of hasn’t yet reached the end of their story. A newfound ally was Louise LeMarché, and I couldn’t help but want more of their blossoming friendship, so I have my fingers crossed for the follow up, despite being fully aware that nobody’s safe from a devastating fate.
There’s something to say about the author himself, as Hicks remains completely unapologetic in his writing. He doesn’t sugarcoat the disgraceful treatment of his characters, especially when it regards their race. There’s harsh language used, perhaps too harsh for some, but I’m a firm believer that it demonstrates something that shouldn’t be forgotten – why censor how badly we failed in the past? He also relies on creeping up and slapping you hard with that shock factor, and I swear, there was one nasty scene in this novella that made me feel sick. I’d say it’s not for the squeamish, but that’s just me.
In conclusion: Borne of the Deep centred on Salem Hawley and his task to get his hands on a very unpleasant book, aka the Necronomicon, with new characters and threats providing obstacles for him to overcome. Returning to Salem’s arc was a pleasure, and I was completely enthralled by all that transpired, from the most vile scene that had me relaying the details to my significant other so that he would share in my revulsion, to the large-scale ending sequence. Being a fan of cosmic horror, it ticked all the boxes with its highly addictive writing and merciless storytelling – there’s a reason it was my first five-star of the year.
In order to create, one had to give.
© Red Lace 2021
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