THE BONE EATER KING by Steve Van Samson
When an author states that one of Robert E. Howard's stories was a direct influence and inspiration to his novel, my ears perk up. When the author then notes "Hills of the Dead," rather than the expected Conan nod, you have my rapt attention.
"Hills of the Dead," of course, features REH's hero, the God-driven Solomon Kane, striding through vampires in an Africa of the 1500s.
Though inspired by Robert E. Howard's "The Hills of the Dead," this story is no re-tread. Van Samson chooses Africa as his setting but he wisely uses current (near-future) Africa rather than a past, pulp styling of the Dark Continent. Van Samson's Africa, while a post apocalyptic wasteland, touches on modern Africa - poverty and success, wealth and knowledge, game reserves, poachers, industrial complexes and modern cities.
Once there were no more plant eaters, carnivores had to turn on each other for food. Lion preyed upon the jackal and the hyena upon the leopard, but all cowered before the new apex, the matsatsaku maza.The matsatsaku maza are monstrous vampires and Van Samson plays with traditional tropes and African myth to create his own unique breed of vampires.
Welcome to Predator World.
The story tells of the red man, who we learn is in some form of vampire transformation. He is befriended by a hard warrior woman, with her own secrets and emotional baggage. They make their way through the deadly terrain, heading for sanctuary - of which there is little to be found.
Van Samson handles the narrative very well. Confusion and fear are palatable. The non-linear unfolding keeps the reader interested and engaged. The African setting is stellar - another intriguing facet of the story.
THE BONE EATER KING is a startlingly original horror action novel that grabs you tooth and claw and does not let go.
I'm already excited to read its sequel, MARROW DUST.