Bloody Waters by Jason Franks – review

Bloody Waters

Bloody Waters is the first novel of Australian author Jason Franks (better known for his work with comics and graphic novels). It was nominated for the Aurealis Award for best horror novel in 2012.

The blurb according to Franks’ website.

When guitar virtuoso Clarice Marnier finds herself blacklisted she makes a deal with the devil for a second chance. Soon Clarice and her band, Bloody Waters, are on their way to stardom… but cracking the Top 10 is one thing; gunfights with the Vatican Mafia and magical duels quite another. Clarice is going to have to confront the Devil himself – the only question is whether she’ll be alive or dead when it happens.

I really enjoyed this novel. The style was very different to a lot of the horror I’ve been reading recently, with a clarity and deceptive simplicity that really suits the story. The protagonist, Clarice, is a no nonsense, kick arse kind of person, and the writing reflects that attitude.

The supernatural elements of the story build slowly. For the first little while, the book seems focused on the utterly un-supernatural rise of Clarice. She is a guitar god, who gets her skills from years and years of borderline obsessive practice . She sacrifices her free time and all semblance of a social life on the alter of her talent. It is refreshing to see the hard work needed to master any skill being reflected so effectively on the page. This section is well executed, but I can see that if a  reader wanted all horror all the time they might get a little impatient here. Stick with it – the work done here to establish Clarice pays off handsomely later in the book.

Clarice herself is an excellent central character. “Doesn’t play well with others” would be an understatement. Clarice is rude, tactless and doesn’t take crap from anyone. She has a clear vision of what she wants, and anything that gets in the way does so at its own peril.

This single minded attitude helps with the building of guitar skills, but not with much else in the musical world. When she becomes black listed by record companies, the supernatural enters her world when a deal with the devil is needed to kickstart her band’s career.

The book is filled with rock and roll references. To be honest, I’m not intimately familiar with rock and roll lore and I suspect a more knowledgeable reader would get more out of those aspects. But it is not overplayed – there is no rock and roll entrance exam needed to enjoy the book!

The escalating series of supernatural encounters had a balance of kick arse action and absurdity that appealed to my sense of humour. The pacing of the story was good through this section, moving from one skirmish to the next at a fair clip.

I really enjoyed the ending, as in many “deal with the Devil” tales, the Devil plays a crafty game and it isn’t until the very end that you find out what’s been behind all the events. The resolution felt fresh, without a cliche in sight.

I can see why Bloody Waters was nominated for the Aurealis Awards. Highly recommended – especially if you love rock and roll.

I also reviewed this book on Goodreads. View all my reviews.

Creative Commons License
This work by Mark Webb is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Australia License.


Author: mark

A writer of speculative fiction and all round good egg. Well, mostly good. OK, sometimes good.

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