This is the year of trying to expand my reading genres, and when I was asked to review Welcome to Halcyon by S.G. Tasz, the first novella in the Dead Mawl series, pitched as a read for fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Supernatural, and Ash vs. Evil Dead, I was in. My husband and I watched Supernatural in its Netflix entirety over a period of four or five months during this fall and winter and I loved it, despite it not being something I’d normally choose to watch. Welcome to Halcyon‘s comparison to that series is dead-on, and this novella had me hooked from the very first page.
Edensgate Shopping Center, located in half-dead Halcyon, Nevada, is on its last legs. The town’s mining industry collapsed years ago, and Edensgate is doing its best to follow suit. Its last anchor department store, Suttermill, is closing for good this afternoon, which means today is sixteen-year-old Cari’s last day at work. She’s only been there for a few months, but this job was the escape she needed from her flaky religious mother and her weirdo pastor/guru boyfriend, and the only place she could see her friend Rex the movie theater employee now that Mom has pulled her out of public school. Cari’s not sure what she’s going to do now that her only relief from home is disappearing, but she’ll do her best to enjoy her last day of freedom.
Not so fast. After watching her boss’s eyes turn disturbing colors, Cari freaks out, then eventually curls up under a desk to sleep off her panic-induced exhaustion. And when Rex finally manages to shake her awake, it’s obvious that something abnormal, something horrible, is happening in the darkened mall where Cari and Rex are now trapped. Does this have something to do with what happened to the mall employee who bled in the fountain last night? Cari and Rex are going to have to think and move quickly if they want to stay alive, because Edensgate is under attack by creatures they’ve never seen before.
Holy crap. This was good. And not just good-for-an-indie good, good because it’s GOOD. Ms. Tasz’s writing flows amazingly well and she does a fabulous job at ensuring that the reader is invested in the characters early on, so that when the attacks begin, you’re absolutely on the edge of your seat with your heart racing. I bolted through the pages where a character had a close call, all the time thinking, “NO! Not (character’s name)!!!!”, but to be honest, I was all in from the well-written first line, because there’s nothing in this novella that doesn’t absolutely shine. This is beyond impressive for a debut.
I absolutely loved Welcome to Halcyon. Ms. Tasz’s descriptions of the Edensgate Mall were just enough so that I could picture it perfectly- the columns, the statues, the shuttered storefronts, the blood-filled fountain, the creeping terror that settles over Cari and Rex. Cari’s desperation and Rex’s past serve both characters well to make them extremely empathetic; reading this is like watching an episode of Supernatural with all its trepidation and breathless anticipation (maybe could use a little more Jared Padalecki. Just sayin’). If you’re at all into horror or supernatural phenomena that go bump in the night, do yourself a favor and grab a copy of this. If Ms. Tasz can continue the series with the same prowess with which she began it, she’s got a long, healthy career ahead of her.
Huge thanks to S.G. Tasz for allowing me to read and review her work. This was phenomenal and I look forward to reading more about the horrors that take place in Halcyon in the future.