‘Butchers’ by Todd Sullivan – Review

*Trigger Warning (the book, not this review): vivid descriptions of violence, torture, and sexual violence*

 

Tonight, Min Gun brought his butchering tools.

He clung to the surface of a rough brick wall five stories up. A bone saw attached to his belt by a thin chain swayed gently in the autumn breeze. He had sheathed his machete on his back beneath a rolled rubber body bag. He gazed into the dark room across from him. Cheol Yu, the target, hadn’t left the building since he’d met Sey-Mi, a high school student wearing a plaid skirt and short sleeved white shirt. Somewhere, behind the opaque windows of the apartment, Cheol Yu was with her, alone. 

Min Gun’s superior, Jun Young, clung to the wall beside him. A wood-handled axe dangled in a leather sling at his side, his machete strapped to his waist. Where Min Gun carried a body bag, Jun Young had a leather weapon case strapped to his back. The company had tasked the two with arresting the suspect. Min Gun hoped Cheol Yu resisted enough so that he would be forced to kill him, saving him from months of torture. 

That would be his noble deed of the day. 

 

Synopsis –

Kidnapped, turned, and locked away in a concrete basement, high school student Sey-Mi is taught the ways of the damned. Her captors, beautiful and malignant, cruel and insane, torture her until she pledges allegiance to the Gwanlyo, a secret organization of vampires now obsessed with bringing her into their ranks. But has Sey-Mi really sworn loyalty to such an obscenely cruel organisation? Or will she side with the rogue agents hell-bent on bringing the Gwanlyo to their knees?

 

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Thoughts –

Set in the urban city of Seoul, South Korea, Butchers lives up to it’s harsh and violent name. Following Sey-Mi as her life is thrown into disarray Sullivan weaves a tale of brutality, power, and control. A seventeen year old girl chosen to join the ranks of the Gwanlyo, an ancient vampiric organisation that expects compliance to their rules and will employ the harshest of punishments for anyone foolish enough to cross them, fights to see her family again.

Sey-Mi is dragged into an immortal life that she never asked for and now has to serve a tyrannical organisation set on breaking her mind and making it there own. But if there’s one thing a teenage girl doesn’t like, it’s being told what to do. And Sey-Mi is not alone in her thoughts. There are other agents of the Gwanlyo that are sick of their rules and their torture. Sullivan brings us on a story of resilience, savagery, and deception.

There is no question that Butchers has a lot of violence, some of which could be characterised as gratuitous, or unnecessary, though the story and characters are strong enough to balance out the blood-shed. Sullivan’s writing flows well enough that the flashes of sadism do not overwhelm the plot – and you end up hating the Gwanlyo just as much as their victims.

 

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Butchers is an apt name for a novella chocked full of torture and tyranny, but behind the pain and the cruelty are those determined to stop it once and for all.

 

About the Author –

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Todd Sullivan took his first serious writing class in 1995 and has been writing ever since. In the early 2000’s Sullivan moved to Jeju, South Korea, where he taught English in the public school system for five years. He currently lives in Seoul, and is studying the Korean language at Yonsei University. He is also working on a speculative fiction/urban horror novel that takes place in Korea.

 

Read and Review –

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‘Urban Gothic’ by Stephen Coghlan – Review

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

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Every lick of sense Alec had left pleaded with him to keep walking and ignore what he’d seen, and alarm bells rang in his head like the klaxons of some far-way firebase, roaring that this wasn’t his problem; it wasn’t his duty to become involved. The noise fell silent to his conscience. How would he live with himself if he didn’t help this woman?

The voice Alec spoke in was deep and clear; meant to be heard over the chaos of war, over the crack of guns and thunderous explosions. 

“Stop.”

The single word echoed off the concrete asphalt; slowly diffusing as it climbed into the empty sky. 

If I die with my hands by my side

Tell the sarge I died o’ pride.

 

Synopsis –

Burned out and drugged up, Alec LeGuerrier spends his days faking it, barely eking out an existence while living in a haze of confusion and medicated mellowness. That is, until he stops a gang of nightmarish oddities from killing a strange young woman with indigo eyes.

Dragged into the lands of the dreaming, he must come to terms with his brutal past and his grim imagined future in a land his body knows is real, but his mind refuses to acknowledge.

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Thoughts –

Urban Gothic is the fantastical fever nightmare of a veteran soldier learning to dream again. A short, whimsical story stalked by shadows, Urban Gothic is not your usual fantasy story. Following the gallant Alec and the his quest to save the other worldly Valeda, the reader is taken on a journey into a dream filled mirror world to our own where the awake are the ‘creators’ and the dream world versions are imagined versions of them (think the Tethered in ‘Us’) with dire consequences when either is killed or damaged. Alec makes his way through this world finding friends he thought he’d lost, a revolution that has more to do with him than he is aware, and the strength he needs to find himself again.

Perhaps a tad too chivalrous at times, Urban Gothic is nevertheless a novella with great depth that explores many important themes through the use of fantastic imagery and a surrealist world. It’s an enjoyable story with a happy ending for a character clearly deserving. A short and thought provoking read.

 

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A fantasy style story with a valiant prince and a damsel in distress, the layered themes of this book will have you reconsidering everything you see in this magical world and the struggles of soldiers no longer at war.

 

About the Author –

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Hailing from the capital of the Great White North (Canada), Stephen Coghlan spends his days erecting buildings, and his nights reveling in the dreamscape. Since 2017, he has produced a myriad of flash fictions, short stories, novellas, and noels, including, but not limited to, the GENMOS Saga, the Nobilis series, and has had his works read on podcasts and featured in anthologies.

 

Read and Review –

Amazon.co.uk

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