Thursday, January 23, 2020

Dark Shadows: Wolf Moon Rising by: Lara Parker

Reading a series of books can often be an exercise in watching the improvements of an author as they develop their writing style, characters, and prose.  Wolf Moon Rising is the third novel from Lara Parker, and like The Salem Branch was for Angelique’s Descent, showing a marked improvement in the story and the characters.  Like her previous novels, this one picks up on the loose threads and continues in its own continuity for Dark Shadows, going in a different direction for the series than the ‘official’ Big Finish audio dramas.  This of course isn’t to say because it isn’t canon it shouldn’t be read, because it should.  It’s the first story to have Barnabas Collins back into a villainous role, as he’s back as a vampire, and the first to really use Quentin Collins in any meaningful capacity.  It’s also the book where Lara Parker finally perfects the use of flashbacks, instead of separating them, she does what the show did and sends characters back in time to interact with the past Collins family and unbury family secrets.  If there was one glaring flaw in Wolf Moon Rising is the characterization of Barnabas Collins in the beginning of the novel.  As a vampire, Parker nails the bloodlust and hunger that comes with the character, as well as the fact that Barnabas isn’t a protagonist, but in a fit of jealousy she has him slash Quentin’s painting which is used as a contrivance to put his plot into motion.  Barnabas and Quentin’s close friendship is one similar to Barnabas and Julia’s and if Parker wanted this, then she could have had Julia slash it.

If Julia slashed Quentin’s painting, bringing back Magda’s curse, it would have fit in better with the storyline Parker wrote for her.  Julia is now a vampire due to the events at the end of The Salem Branch, which is an incredibly interesting development for the character as it forces her into admitting her love for Barnabas.  She is also tempted by her bloodlust and takes several people, including Toni, as her victims which really allows Dr. Hoffman’s monstrous side to shine.  Her final fate is perhaps a bit convoluted and there is a lot which may need to be explained in further books, but overall it’s a nice different dynamic for the character.  She is contrasted with the arrival of a different doctor, Dr. Nathaniel Blair, brother of Nicholas Blair, come to Collinwood in an attempt to prove the supernatural.  He has come to hunt down a vampire and serves as the true villain in the story, putting David Collins through a basic hell and, unlike his brother, didn’t overstay his welcome and was effective in implementing plans.  His eventual defeat by Barnabas is incredibly satisfying to read and does quite a bit to redeem Barnabas’s actions throughout the novel.

Parker’s real focus for this novel is exploring the relationship between David and Jackie, as they both settle into this romance of which neither’s parents approve.  Roger believes that Jackie would bring shame on the Collins name, while Toni has the better claim of knowing the supernatural trouble the Collins family can bring.  David is shown here to have matured from the terror he was in the television show, building on his interest in cars attempting to get a luxury car from 1929 restored and accidentally being whisked on a strange and mysterious journey into the past with Jackie.  Yes, the portion of the book that is in the past brings David and Jackie right to it, where they interact with a younger Elizabeth Collins Stoddard, Quentin Collins, and an older Jamison Collins during prohibition where the Collins family has taken up bootlegging.  It’s also a chance to bring back some characters from the 1897 story, including Magda Rakosi and Charles Delaware Tate who both make excellent appearances.  The book also goes a long way to have David become disillusioned with the image of his family he has.  Most notably Elizabeth and Quentin have a romance, with Elizabeth wishing to run away together.  This creates some dissonance with David, having to reflect on the possibility that he and Jackie are repeating history.  There is also the revelation that Jamison Collins was a member of the Klan, adding an element of historical realism never really touched on in the show.  It’s a development which creates a sense of danger as David and Jackie are tempted to stop a lynching and end up in a police raid.  Once, the 1929 flashback is over it’s a nonstop race to the finish as David and Jackie try to save Quentin’s portrait, realize Barnabas is a vampire and Quentin is an immortal werewolf, and generally shake the status quo in a way which the show never did.  Overall, Wolf Moon Rising is a book that’s another step up from Parker’s other work.  The plot is perhaps the most Dark Shadows of any of these, throwing together the kitchen sink and seeing just what comes out of it.  There are a few elements which don’t work, but what works is incredibly memorable.  9/10.

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