Hellboy: The Ice Wolves by Mark Chadbourn
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book started out slow, but I ended up very sucked in. I think that the author was successful in writing a layered story that had some very 'literary' elements. I liked that although this was a Hellboy book, the story was more about Brad Lynch, a young man suffering from PTSD after being a journalist in Iraq and witnessing some truly horrible events, his broken relationship with his father William, and his evolving relationship with his best friend and co-worker, Lisa. Although this was very much horror/dark fantasy, it was also a drama about family dynamics. How a horrible event can tear a family apart, and leave the survivors walking woundeds who go on to live emotionally dysfunctional lives.
Hellboy is tasked with finding the Kiss of Winter to prevent a catastrophic takeover of the world by werewolves. He finds out that it's being kept in the famed Grant House in Boston, and ends up on Brad's doorstep, because Brad's father owns the house. He convinces Brad (with Lisa's help), to go to Boston and get his father to let them in the house so they can find the Kiss of Winter. Hunted by hungry werewolves, they barely make it into the house as an unseasonal and fierce blizzard hits Boston. Inside the house is some protection from the wolves, but it's full of spirits, some benign, and some very, very malevolent.
I do have to say that this book was very scary at times. The house was extremely menacing, with negative entities out for blood, although there were also some helpful presences in the house that help save Hellboy and his companions' bacons quite a few times, and also help them to obtain the Kiss of Winter. Mr. Chadbourn writes one heck of a haunted house story. To be honest, I enjoyed these elements more than the werewolf aspects, and that's saying a lot since I love werewolf fiction. The construction of the house is very creepy, adding to sinister feel of this book. Also, hearing the ill-fated histories of the family who lived in the house added to the atmosphere. I reached a point where this book was a bit too scary to read late at night, but I didn't want to put it down because I was sucked in. There were also some intriguing time travel/warp elements, as the Kiss of Winter and its sister artifact, the Heart of Winter, together help to manipulate and fold time.
Hellboy is his usual witty, tough self. I like his wisecracks, but I like how he sees the emotional aspects of the interactions between Brad, Lisa, and William. He has his hands full, fighting hungry werewolves, evil ghosts, and trying to encourage Brad to make up with his dad and to let Lisa know his true feelings. Hellboy is pretty darn awesome, I must say.
I liked the use of various arcane/occult devices in their struggle against the werewolves. The witch candle was pretty awesome. It protected the house, and it set the werewolves on fire as they tried to enter.
This ended up being a very enthralling read, although it was occasionally a bit slow. Once I got used to Mr. Chadbourn's writing style, he delivered a very good story, and he makes good use of Hellboy and the elements that make this character and his world distinctive, but in a very personal, character-driven fashion. Not an easy task when you're dealing with subject matter that by nature is more action and event-driven. I hope he writes some other haunted house books, because he knows how to make this horror fan cringe in fear.
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