Siege of Providence

Siege of Providence

This novel was kindly provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review, and I can honestly say that it was not the story for me. I’ve used this disclaimer before, but I think it’s time to restate it. I say in my FAQ that I give praise where I think it’s deserved and this story unfortunately contained a lot of little things that irritated me. More on that shortly.

Siege of Providence was first published in 2014 and written by Michael Kaiser of Mike’s Stories and Scripts. It is a horror novella with a medieval setting which focuses on an army of vampires on a quest to save the world from its imminent destruction.

Since the Nine-Faced God took up residence in Providence, the world has been rapidly falling to decay. The creature has grown so corrupt that nothing can survive for long in its presence. Plants are dying beneath its touch, misshapen monstrosities roam the forests and the days are growing shorter and shorter. Although the vampires have no love of the humans, they can see that soon conditions will grow so severe that their race will die out and know that they cannot allow that to happen. Without humans to feed from, the vampires’ extinction will soon follow.

Recruiting an army, a vampire elementalist called Krossos leads them on a bloody march across the land. They know that their journey will be difficult and that the humans will fight them every step of the way yet they know that they have no choice but to continue. They are the world’s last hope and if they fail, the entire planet will be wiped clean of life within a matter of years.

Siege of Providence is a very short read, totalling only 63 pages in its Kindle edition, but has the feel of an epic. In a limited word count, Kaiser tries to build a dark and complex world. This is the thing about the novella that I did find somewhat interesting. There was always a sense of a bigger a picture, that a whole comprehensive world existed just outside of our vision. Unfortunately, the story was restricted by its word count and so I never felt as though I caught more than fleeting glimpses.

There is an old adage about a group of blind men who discover an elephant. Each grasps a different part of the creature and, because they don’t know what the elephant looks like, believe that what they hold represents the whole thing. This is how I felt reading this story. It felt as though there was this whole world there and I wanted to know more about it. I wanted to understand vampire culture so I could get a better appreciation of Krossos’s motivations but I was left just holding a tusk. If Siege of Providence was a full length novel, perhaps more time could be spent developing the world and its inhabitants as the novella that was left felt flat and unsubstantial overall.

The plot is simple. An army of vampires need to take a heavily fortified human city in order to give them a stronghold from where they can assault the Nine-Faced God. There is a twist which adds a little more complexity, but I won’t spoil this for you here. My feelings on the twist were mixed – it certainly gave me food for thought but I felt that it warranted slightly more explanation than it was given. The story just focuses on this one campaign, the last of a bigger war. Anything that happened before is merely exposited to us in Krossos’s monologue.

While a simple story is not a bad thing, this one is riddled with tiny nagging holes. Krossos’s strength fluctuates wildly as requiredby the plot. One moment, he is shown to have the strength to slice through the chains supporting a drawbridge with a single strike but the next he is parrying the blows of a human’s sword and unable to get the upper hand. I also couldn’t really get my head around the animosity between the two races. The vampires engage every human along the way but I could not understand why. Humans are valuable to them as a food source and if they are desperate to preserve them, why not try reasoning with them. Also, the humans seem to be defending the Nine-Faced God. Why? They can surely see that everything the God touches withers and dies. They must be able to see the benefit in destroying such a cursed creature.

The density of the text also made the novel feel quite difficult to get through at times. Krossos very much enjoys the sound of his own voice. The first person narrative is very heavy going and full of purple prose, making the story feel as though it was moving at a crawl even during the action sequences. There were also a couple of random chapters there were told from the perspectives of others, particularly the opening which was written in third person, and I’m not entirely sure why. They just seemed out of place when 95% of the rest of the novel was told exclusively by Krossos. I was not even sure that I would really call this novella a young adult story. Although there was nothing really in that would exclude it from being enjoyed by an older teen, it did not really seem to be written with them in mind at all.

I also found it difficult to empathise with Krossos, even as an anti-hero. As I have made clear in the past, I love a good villain. With Krossos, I just found that there was nothing really there for me to like. His power levels fluctuated as the story dictated and he lacked any kind of charisma. Although the ethics of his crusade were intriguing (save the humans only because he wanted his race to be free to hunt them) not a lot was really made of it in the novella. It was just a little detail that was exposited towards the start and then gradually seemed to lose importance as the tale progressed.

Women are also represented very poorly in the novella. No female vampires are mentioned within Krossos’s ranks but no explanation is given as to why. Are girl vampires not allowed to be warriors? Are there no female vampires? We never find out. Human women in the novel do appear but only as easy prey for the vampires. We are told on a couple of occasions about how vampires enjoy luring them with promises of immortality, ravishing them and then brutally killing them. As a female reader who enjoys reading about strong female characters, this was somewhat tiresome. I prefer to read novels where the females exist for more than easy sex and demon chow.

The only character I was really interested in was the Nine-Faced God himself. Here was a monster of Lovecraftian proportions – something shapeless, terrible and nigh on impossible to destroy. I was genuinely curious to discover just how this creature came to be and the revelation of this towards the end of the story was actually fairly satisfying. It still left a lot of open questions (which I am curious to know if the author intends to resolve in a future book) but it is an interesting idea for a monster and is certainly unlike anything that I’d ever seen before.

So, what did I think? Well, the universe in which Siege of Providence was set shows promise and the Nine-Faced God was a very imaginative creature but beyond that I was underwhelmed by the story. It was shallow, heavy with purple prose and contained a main character who I felt no kind of emotional attachment too. The treatment of women within the story also irritated me, leaving me feeling increasingly frustrated as the novella progressed. While I would be curious to read another instalment from this author, just to see how the setting develops, this novella failed to grip me and is not one that I would recommend.

Siege of Providence can be purchased as an eBook on Amazon.co.uk

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. A.D. Martin
    Aug 14, 2014 @ 23:14:01

    Very nice. Inconsistency in characters and physics for the sake of driving the plot forward is a big no-go for me.

    Reply

    • Kim
      Aug 15, 2014 @ 06:43:57

      I agree. Although I can suspend my disbelief to a degree in a fantasy story, it does have its limits (especially when what a character is capable of varies wildly for plot convenience).

      Reply

  2. Trackback: Seeking Dr. Magic | Arkham Reviews

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