Brian Moreland, author of The Witching House and Dead of Winter, has a brand new novel out this week from Flame Tree Press. It’s called Tomb of Gods, and its mixture of horror and adventure with just a pinch of romance makes it a perfect Summer read for fans of films like 1999’s The Mummy.
Tomb of Gods begins, like so many of these stories do, with a British archaeological team poking their nose where it does not belong.
It is 1935, and an expedition/dig led by Dr. Harlan Riley vanished in the desert. A year later, Riley is found wandering alone. His body is horribly scarred and his mind has been damaged beyond repair.
Just before his death, he passes along a journal to his granddaughter, Imogen, an Egyptologist in her own right. It points to a discovery unlike anything the world has ever known. Two years later, she joins an expedition to uncover the secrets of grandfather’s work led by Dr. Nathan Trummel. What they find could change the world if it doesn’t destroy them first.
Moreland has crafted a nicely-paced novel in Tomb of Gods that keeps the reader on their toes while delivering carefully plotted tension and scares, and while the tropes are firmly in place, he takes them and us on a journey that feels fresh.
This comes almost entirely from the research that obviously went into the world. Moreland seems to have a working knowledge and understanding of mythology and the ancient gods that is sometimes lacking in this type of story. This allows him to be faithful to the source and gives him a solid foundation from which to expand those stories.
The author has also found a happy medium in his description of the landscapes above and below the earth’s surface. You can practically feel the heat of the Egyptian desert and the grit of the sand constantly scouring your skin as you turn the pages without bogging down.
Further, his “monsters” practically leap from the page. I put the term in quotes because some of the monsters in Tomb of Gods are quite human, and there are times in the book when they are far more terrifying than strange beasts that creep from the shadows.
In fact, Moreland practically begs his readers to question where the line between humans and monsters converge and cross. It’s a question that exists at the heart of great fiction both in and out of genre fiction and has forced readers to confront the darkness inside ourselves whether we like what we find or not.
As to his characters, everyone in this novel is on a journey that forces them to confront their humanity, the “sins” of their past, and the greater spiritual questions that often bubble under the surface of both. It makes the story compelling and gives it a much-needed punch of realism amid the terrifying fantasy.
The novel will scare you, confound you, and force you to think, and that, readers, is the mark of an excellent read.
Tomb of Gods is available this Thursday, May 21, 2020 from Flame Tree Press and is available for pre-order at online bookstores, now!