Review of THE WICKED in LIBRARY JOURNAL:
The 13th-century traveling troupe of players from Nicholas’s debut, Something Red, returns in another meticulously plotted and researched blend of horror and historical fantasy. Irish queen-in-exile Molly and her granddaughter Nemain learn of a supernatural entity preying upon those living along North Sea coast. The two, with help from strongman Jack and 15-year-old Hob, must stop a local nobleman who seems able to drain the life force from people and leave them as either withered corpses or mindless slaves. More suspenseful and gothic than the gorier first novel, this sequel also shows readers more of Molly’s pagan powers as she pits them against the vampiric Sir Tarquin. VERDICT An almost Dickensian level of detail transports readers to medieval England in poet Nicholas’s gorgeously written novel. The players, especially point-of-view character Hob, are nuanced and interesting, but it is the setting and tense action that make this a gripping read.
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Review from the Historical Novel Society:
By Douglas Nicholas
In this sequel to the well-received Something Red, travelling entertainers Molly, Jack, Nemain, and Hob are in 13th-century northern England at Castle Blanchefontaine. Molly is actually a mystical Irish battle queen, Nemain is her powerful granddaughter, and Jack, a former Crusader, is helping Hob learn warrior skills. They have defeated a great evil, but are asked to fight a bigger and even more dangerous supernatural enemy. The quartet must deal with many dangers, such as a nefarious noble couple, fearsome, glowing-eyed familiars, weirdly spell-bound knights, and grotesque corpses of murdered unfortunates. The fate of the world is at stake, and they may not be victorious.
This book is harsher and more violent than Something Red. While it has elements of history, mystery, and romance, they are overshadowed by the horror theme. The faint-hearted may want to sleep with the lights on after finishing this book. Still, by the end of the story Nicholas is writing evocative, poetic scenes for Nemain and Hob that are a joyful contrast to all the terror and violence that went before. Recommended with reservations.
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Review from Kirkus Reviews:
Author: Douglas Nicholas
Review Issue Date: February 15, 2014
Online Publish Date: February 6, 2014
Price ( Paperback ): $16.00
Publication Date: March 25, 2014
ISBN ( Paperback ): 978-1-4516-6024-1
Nicholas’ sequel to his historical saga, Something Red (2012), continues the haunting tale of exiled Irish queen Maeve and her cohorts in medieval north England.
Maeve’s troop rests at the castle of the Sieur de Blanchefontaine, Sir Jehan, the place where she defeated an evil presence, one appearing as a fox “the size of a small horse.” Maeve is with her granddaughter, Nemain; former crusader Jack Brown; and the orphan Hob, now Squire Robert under Sir Jehan’s patronage. Word of trouble comes from lands of the Sieur de Chantemerle, Sir Odinell. A Northumbria newcomer, Sir Tarquin, is “secretive,” “barely civil,” and soon after his arrival, “affairs began to go awry.” Knights are spellbound. Peasants disappear and are found as corpses, “horribly wizened…skin…brown and harsh as bark…interior collapse along fault lines deep in the flesh.” Sir Jehan persuades Maeve to help Sir Odinell. After the journey to castle Chantemerle, Maeve glimpses evil emanating from Sir Tarquin and realizes “there’s a fell being that haunts this coast: something dire, something vast.” Nicholas is a marvelously descriptive writer, littering the narrative with images of table fare at inns (“cruppy-dows, cakes made of oatmeal and fish”), medieval dialects (“a few miles tae t’sooth, sithee”) and battledress (“mail hauberks and coifs, armored gloves, greaves, and helms”). Major character development comes as Hob matures into the future-queen Nemain’s worthy betrothed and warrior-protector, and the dark, violent tale moves rapidly as Maeve’s troop journeys through desperate adventures and into Northumbria, meeting charcoal makers, slaying bandits and staying a “sennight” at Abelard Inn awaiting the summons of Sir Odinell to confront Sir Tarquin. And much like a more profound Harry Potter for adults, Nicholas’ fantasy-laced knights-of-old saga ends with opportunity for more to come.
Nicholas weaves the magic of wizards and sorceress—buidseach and cailleach phiseogach—so naturally into the medieval milieu that Maeve’s tale reads as entertaining historical fiction rather than a fey supernatural tale.
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Nicholas, Douglas (MC1964)
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