‘Dark Hilarity’ by Joseph Sale – Review

*Disclaimer – I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*

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The cretin took in by boxy grandeur of the Rockefeller building, the broadsword blade of the Empire State, piercing the clouds, and the twin monolithic towers of the World Trade Centre, like chromed slabs of ancient stone stolen from Celtic moorland and dumped amidst the architecture of modernity. It was the last time he would look at them for a while, so he wanted to savour their shape and colour, and above all, the sheer arrogant bravado of their design. Clearly, the men and women that had constructed these modern ziggurats had never heard of the Tower of Babel, and the moral lesson of overreaching. He smiled at the thought. His lips were so thin they were virtually nonexistent, making his mouth look like a wound in his face, pregnant with white teeth. Despite its ugliness, there were men and women who would kill to kiss that mouth, would kill to feel one touch from him.

Synopsis –

Tara Dufrain and Nicola Morgan are eleven year old girls growing up in the ‘90s, obsessed by Valentine Killshot, a metal screamo band. In particular, they’re enamoured by the lead singer, the mysterious yet charismatic Jed Maine who bears the epithet “The Cretin”. In Jed’s lyrics, he describes a world beyond the Dark Stars that he hopes one day to reach. The girls think it’s all just make-believe they share together, until a freak, traumatic incident makes this world very real.

As adults, Tara and Nicola try to come to terms with the devastating catastrophe that changed their lives growing up, but to do so they will have to step once more into Jed Maine’s world, and confront the man who took everything from them.

Dark Hilarity is My Best Friend’s Exorcism meets The Never-Ending Story, a fantasy that explores addiction, depression, and the healing power of friendship.

Thoughts –

Dark Hilarity is a black as night fantasy novel that explores fate, evil, the long standing effects of grief, and the unshakable friendship of two young girls. Set in a 90’s UK setting that quickly morphs into a fantasy land called Dae’shta, this is a novel that blends reality with unreality, good with bad, and the obscene with the precious.

Sale’s depiction of two adolescent girls on their first unsure steps into a timeless friendship is flawless. The strength of their friendship carries the plot forward and strengthens the other themes present in the book. While there are fantastical characters like the Laughing God, the wolf-people of Wolf Town, and giant telepathic crabs hellbent on avenging their fallen brethren, Dark Hilarity grounds the reader in a reality fraught with grief, addiction, and fears that we can all relate to, carried from unstable childhood, to even more unstable adulthood.

Dark Hilarity is a fantasy tale that mixes in plenty of horror and hardship, a novel that explores the strains of friendship, of loss, and a god with a permanent smile.

About the Author –

Joseph Sale is an editor, novelist, writing coach and co-host of Monaghan & The Mindflayer. His first novel, The Darkest Touch, was published by Dark Hall Press in 2014. He currently writes and is published with The Writing Collective. He has authored more than ten novels, including his Black Gate trilogy, and his love-letter to fantasy: Save Game. He grew up in the Lovecraftian seaside town of Bournemouth.

He edits non-fiction and fiction, helping fledgling authors to realise their potential. He has edited some of the best new voices in speculative fiction including Ross Jeffery, Emily Harrison, Christa Wojciechowski, and more. His short fiction has appeared in Tales from the Shadow Booth, edited by Dan Coxon, as well as in Idle Ink, Silver Blade, Fiction Vortex, Nonbinary Review, Edgar Allan Poet and Storgy Magazine. His stories have also appeared in anthologies such as Lost Voices (The Writing Collective), Technological Horror (Dark Hall Press), Burnt Fur (Blood Bound Books) and Exit Earth (Storgy). In 2017 he was nominated for The Guardian’s ‘Not The Booker’ prize.

He is obsessed with Attack on Titan and Community.

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