This past week, I had the opportunity to read Pendant by Australian author Stephen C. Ormsby. This is Book 1 in Stephen’s “Undead Hunters” series and it tells the story of Conrad, a young doctor from the seventeenth century who is burned at the stake for the brutal murder of his wife and her lover. When Conrad descends into Hell, he gains power and becomes the great wizard Varnok, who seeks revenge against humanity.
Flash forward to the present day where a woman named Maggie finds one half of a heart-shaped pendant at a sea-side flea market. It turns out this was half of a pendant that Conrad gave to his wife. The other half of the pendant falls into the hands of a reclusive man named Logan, still in pain after the death of his first wife. In the meantime, Varnok has returned to Earth and has unleashed his campaign of terror, while also seeking his reincarnated wife. Maggie and Logan must combine forces to stop the wizard Varnok.
Although the Wizard Varnok isn’t exactly a vampire, he certainly is close kin. He violently rips people apart and my impression was that he drank the life energy of the people and reveled in their pain as much as he was sustained by the actual body parts he consumed. What’s more, there’s a folkloric tradition that witches that rise from the grave come back as vampires. As such, I found the portrayal of Varnok fascinating.
Now, I’ll note that the violence level of this novel went quite a bit beyond my comfort zone. Despite that, I had a hard time putting the novel down. As a writer, I find it important to go beyond my comfort zone from time to time. It helps me keep my own writing fresh by seeing the way another author approaches a subject. I was especially interested in the way Stephen built an engaging and believable love story in the midst of the horror. Finally, one of the interesting side effects I find after reading a novel with such unrelenting and graphic horror as Pendant is that the world somehow seems a little brighter and better place than when I delved into the novel. It’s like a breath of fresh air to realize those horrors are safely confined to the page.