What that means is that Mike Carey has taken care to follow horror stories back to their traditional roots and use the elements that make a story scary in a decidedly new way. There are dozens upon dozens of horror stories popping up in cinema and books, but hardly any of them offer anything truly scary because they are more focused on the aesthetics of the genre.
For starters, Carey is a fine writer who understands that fear has everything to do with the mind and what it doesn’t comprehend – the unknown. Houses of the Holy feeds off of this by offering up an interesting premise in an even more interesting setting.
The main characters in this case happen to be the house itself, which is a basilisk in its last stages of transformation, and a vampire girl named Magda Bescu who must continue to feed on blood to keep a brain tumor at bay. If she can’t keep it under control, she will lose her mind and memories.
Some of this has already begun to happen as the story begins. The first feeding readers witness is the careful trap Magda sets for Reinhart Fohl, a despicable Nazi who appears to be hunting her at first. Carey uses a lot of misdirection early on to provide neat twists on the plot that heighten the tension of the story while setting readers up. His use of Berlin in 1935 as the setting also creates the perfect atmosphere for terror.
Since Carey set readers up earlier with the tidbits on Magda’s problem, it doesn’t seem out of the ordinary when she begins talking to something she refers to as Welcome. Readers might be inclined to think she’s simply talking to herself because of her particular condition.
Again, Carey flips expectations by slowly revealing that Welcome is the house, and the house must also feed like Magda. They have formed a partnership that provides sanctuary to Magda while providing fresh victims for Welcome to feed on when Magda isn’t finishing them off.
This relationship also creates an interesting tension between Magda and Welcome because of their competing interests. At some point, the two could be end up being against each other, which would create another interesting wrinkle to the plot.
Artist Dave Kendall does a remarkable job drawing these exquisite settings and characters for the story. One of the coolest features of Madefire’s motion book tool is the ability to create a wraparound panoramic panel that you can explore in a full 360 degree turn by swiping the panel along. This involves taking three standard panels and connecting them.
Kendall creates one amazing panoramic panel that really puts readers in the middle of the action and helps drive the horror elements of this story by immersing readers in the middle of something terrifying. It’s a terrifyingly beautiful gallery of Magda and Welcome’s victims that have been turned to stone.
Overall, Carey and Kendall are telling a thrilling and chilling story full of original ideas and craft. Of course, the use of tradition plays heavy here, but in the best of ways. Add another story to your list of good reads as the pair ready another episode of Houses of the Holy.