Your lackadaisical blogger continues his low maintenance activity with another old review, this time one from the pages of Black Static #29, though there is every chance it may have been edited and/or slightly amended when it appeared in situ, but I’m simply too lazy to check:-
Sandy DeLuca’s REIGN OF BLOOD (Delirium e-book, 134pp, $4.99) introduces us to Darcy, whose father was killed and whose sister Jane disappeared, though both their spirits come to visit her and tell her stuff. Darcy knows that her mother Mary Beth and boyfriend Eddie are killers who do terrible things to those who fall into their clutches. She is befriended by the enigmatic Bobby, who promises to always look after her and together they take to the road, but Bobby is a killer too, and Darcy is drawn into his bloody rites of passage, the two of them roaming the country free as birds and a-slaughtering as they go, just like the romantic and archetypal outlaws Darcy read and dreamed about in her ‘old’ life.
Reign of Blood appears to tell one story while actually telling another. The story it appears to tell is the one above, with DeLuca convincing us to feel sympathy for Darcy and the terrible life she has led, one in which bullying and brutality assume an everyday quality, so that we can understand why even somebody as monstrous as Bobby is appealing to her, the possibility of escape that he represents. But Darcy is an unreliable narrator and as we learn her back story there are clues that reveal an entirely different version of events. We get one account in which Darcy is insane and another in which the ghost of dead Bobby leads her along blood trails through the land. The contrast is powerful, with Darcy empowered by her fantasies, her weakness replaced by a terrible strength that enables her to endure anything life can throw at her. And so we end as we began, feeling sympathy for Darcy, but no longer sure if she is the monster or a victim.
This impressive novella takes common or garden ideas of the genre and reinvents them in a novel way, all the time keeping focused on the character of Darcy and the place she lives, where fantasy bleeds into reality and back again.