Well, I love horror, but this one is for lovers of old-fashioned horror.
The Devil’s Whispers by Lucas Hault
In a silent, sleepy castle, evil has awakened…
Famed British lawyer Gerard Woodward is summoned to an ancient Welsh castle to assist a dying lord in his final affairs. But as his host slips closer to death, Gerard begins to feel less like a guest and more like a prisoner. When he finds himself locked inside his room, he realizes he must escape.
After finding his way out of his room, Gerard begins to wonder if he was safer locked inside. The labyrinthine halls echo secrets. A terrible wail and the rattling of chains sets his nerves on end. Something sinister is happening within the walls of Mathers Castle, and when he descends into the dungeons, he discovers a horrible secret…
In nearby London, children vanish into the night, animals are horribly mutilated, and a savage creature stalks the shadows. When Gerard’s wife, Raelyn, becomes the creature’s next target, his need to escape reaches a fever pitch. He must get out alive so he can dispel the evil that threatens to destroy his beloved Raelyn… and the rest of us.
Fans of epistolary Gothic horror classics like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Picture of Dorian Gray will devour The Devil’s Whispers.
About the author:
Faisal Johar, who writes under his pen name Lucas Hault is an Indian Novelist residing in Ranchi. He received his formal education from St. Anthony’s School, completed his intermediate from St. Xavier’s College and graduated from Jamia Millia Islamia in the year 2017. His first novel named The Shadow of Death — The Conquering Darkness was self-published in the year 2018 under Prowess Publishing. Faisal is also a screenwriter and has written a couple of short horror films for YouTube. He considers J.K. Rowling as his role model and aspires to walk in her path of punctuality. Another of his book titled, The Malign : A Collection of 12 Short Stories was published in June 2021. To get to know more about him, you can connect with him on FB and Instagram.
I thank TCK Publishing for providing me with an ARC copy of this book that I freely chose to review.
The description recommends this book to fans of epistolary Gothic classics like Dracula, Frankenstein, and The Picture of Dorian Gray. Being a big fan of Oscar Wilde, I won’t compare the novels, but I have read many reviews querying if The Devil’s Whispers can be considered an homage to Dracula, as it follows the original story very closely, basically changing the names, locations, and some of the details of the monster, but not much else. What came to my mind, when trying to find a way of defining it, is something akin to what music composers call “variations”. It’s been decades since I read Dracula, so I can’t (or indeed want) to write a blow-by-blow comparison of the two, but it is true that they are very similar. Some of the differences I can easily mention are the settings (no Transylvania here, although people who love Cardiff might take issue with the way it is portrayed in this novel), the professions of some of the characters (Raelyn is a doctor, but as many people have mentioned, a female doctor in the early part of the XX century  would have had a very difficult time of it, and that is no way reflected in the novel), some of the myths and the beliefs surrounding the supernatural events are different, and, unless I am mistaken, women and children play much bigger parts than in the original.
This is not a historical novel, and anybody looking for accurate depictions of the era, the place, the language, or even the mores and habits, will be disappointed. Neither the Cardiff nor the London of the story have anything to do with reality, and the characters are not very consistent either. Things develop very quickly, and somebody passes from love to hatred in the blink of an eye (sometimes as a result of supernatural influences, that is true, but not always). Suspension of disbelief doesn’t quite cover the reading experience, as we have characters who can leave their jobs at the drop of a hat and disappear for days or weeks on end with no ill consequences, married people who profess their love for their husbands or wives but don’t hesitate before leaving them without a word of explanation or making contact again, to name but two. What the story has, though, is plenty of atmosphere, and an old-fashioned Gothic feel to it. Rather than a reinterpretation of the genre, this is something closer to what many of the stories from the era might have been like, many of which wouldn’t have survived until now or become classics. It makes me think of Little Women, the scene when Prof. Bhaer is disparaging the type of sensationalist romance stories one can find in newspapers, knowing full well that Jo writes them as well, and advises her to write stories that truly matter to her. Those titillating narrations are the kinds of stories that would have been popular at the time, and, why not? (I will not reveal what happens in Little Women, in case somebody hasn’t read it. If you haven’t, please do. I love it!)
I also kept thinking of Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author of The Scarlett Letter among many other novels (I recommend it as well), who wrote about the differences between a novel and a romance (not a romantic novel in the sense of a love story, but something quite different).
This is what he wrote on the subject in his preface to The House of the Seven Gables (1851):
‘When a writer calls his work a Romance, it need hardly be observed that he wishes to claim a certain latitude, both as to its fashion and material, which he would not have felt himself entitled to assume, had he professed to be writing a novel. The latter form of composition is presumed to aim at a very minute fidelity, not merely to the possible, but to the probable and ordinary course of man’s experience. The former – while, as a work of art, it must rigidly subject itself to laws, and while it sins unpardonably so far as it may swerve aside from the truth of the human heart – has fairly a right to present that truth under circumstances, to a great extent of the writers own choosing or creation. If he thinks fit, also, he may so manage his atmospherical medium as to bring out or mellow the lights, and deepen and enrich the shadows of the picture, he will be wise, no doubt, to make a very moderate use of the privilege here stated, and especially to mingle the marvellous rather as a slight, delicate and evanescent flavour, than as any portion of the actual substance of the dish offered to the public. He can hardly be said, however, to commit a literary crime, even if he disregarded this caution.’
So, a novel has to be plausible, while in a romance, flights of fancy and imagination are allowed, and those are the working tools of the author. From that point of view, this book would fall into the category of a romance, and, readers who approach it as such, are likely to be swept by the story and enjoy the experience, but if you are looking for a well-written and high-quality novel as most critics understand it, you are bound to be disappointed.
To be fair, Bram Stoker wrote to entertain his readers and doesn’t seem to have been particularly concerned about issues such as classic status or high-brow definitions of quality. He had problems in the USA because he wanted his story to remain in the public domain rather than be copyrighted, so perhaps there is something more to the comparison than meets the eye.
I know this isn’t one of my usual reviews, but I hope people will get an idea of what they might find and if it is the kind of thing they’d like to read. There are scenes of violence, bizarre events aplenty, and some gore, but more in the style of classic horror than realistic modern descriptions. And I will agree with the recommendation to read Dracula as well if you haven’t yet. Oh, and don’t forget to keep eating onions!
Thanks to the author and the publisher for this novel, thanks to all of you for reading, and remember to keep the wonder going, the magic, to keep smiling, and to be happy!