Here’s a paranormal novel set in the Caribbean that includes creatures from Caribbean folklore. There are jumbies, soucouyants, lagahoos, and a nefarious obeah man intent on letting in more monsters from the Grey.
(Btw, I know the author and received a free copy of the book to read and review; but my thoughts below are my honest reaction to the story.)
The Greyborn are Rising and only the Order can save humankind.
The world consists of three parallel realms; the Grey where Greyborn—preternatural creatures of legend live; the Ether which is the realm of Heaven and Hell; and the Absolute where humans make their home, blissfully unaware of the tripartite nature of their world.
Formed by a group of enslaved men during Trinidad’s British colonial occupation, The Order has maintained the delicate balance between the three realms for centuries, but not everyone believes these worlds should be separate. Some long for the days when fear ruled the earth, and The Order finds itself embattled by enemies outside and traitors within who conspire to unite the Absolute and the Grey.
With the very essence of human existence under attack, Rohan, the last surviving member of the Stone Chapter of The Order, must act. Assisted by Katharine, a soucouyant who has lived on the outskirts of a Trinidad swamp for more than a century, Rohan takes up the Order’s mantle, combining Kat’s wits and his fighting prowess to risk torture, dismemberment, zombification, and death as they face grave threats and gruesome creatures. (Goodreads)
Greyborn Rising is Sandy’s debut paranormal fantasy novel that begins on a slave plantation in 1805 Trinidad. The owner of the plantation finds dead cows on his land and consults with one of his slaves, Kariega, who was a powerful witch doctor in West Africa before his enslavement, who tells the plantation owner that it’s the work of a soucouyant, a shapeshifter (typically an old woman) that sheds its skin at night, becomes engulfed in flames, and feeds on blood. With the owner’s consent, Kariega forms a group to hunt soucouyants on the island, thus forming the Order, an organization that maintains balance between the three realms:
- the Grey, where creatures live
- the Ether, which contains heaven and hell
- the Absolute, where humans live
When Kariega is able to capture a soucouyant named Katherine, he binds her to a promise to help protect the Absolute from creatures from the Grey. Fast-forward to present-day Trinidad. Rohan from the Stone chapter of the Order is grieving his order members who were all killed in an encounter with a pack of lagahoos, a shapeshifter similar to the werewolf. He barely escaped alive and later learns his luck is due to a neophyte psychic looking out for him.
When he later encounters a mysterious old lady and her nimble assistant, he learns that there is imbalance between the Absolute and the Grey — a malevolent obeah man is letting in more creatures and creating monsters of his own — and it’s up to Rohan and his companions to set things right.
I was curious about the story because it’s set in a Caribbean country and includes creatures from Caribbean folklore. However, it was hard to get into the story and after some time, my interest in it dampened. There is a lot of exposition, especially at the beginning, which is why I had such difficulty developing and maintaining interest in the story at first. Some of the exposition is needed for the worldbuilding so that the reader understands the mechanics of the world as the story progresses, but it was a bit dull to read despite it being conveyed in a conversation.
However, my interest in the story began to kindle at about 15% of the way through it. That’s when Rohan meets the mysterious old lady who lives at the edge of a swamp and they are attacked by a swarm of jumbies (like zombies) that are controlled by an obeah woman. (Zombie-like creatures in a story?? Of course I got excited!) From there the pace picks up, but pockets of long exposition sometimes caused it to lag again. I was patient with it and at about 30% of the way through, I was engrossed enough to ignore the pacing issues.
What kept me reading was seeing how the paranormal aspects of the world functions through characters interacting with them. It was interesting to see how the Grey sometimes laps into the Absolute, like when a leviathan from the Grey attempted to push through the table at the Order’s Guild location. I thought that was pretty cool and wished there was more of it, of creatures trying to push through from another world in that manner. I also liked seeing humans from the Absolute in the Grey, like when the psychic goes there to escape a monster.
The action scenes were exciting and fun to read. My favorite is when Rohan and two others go on a rescue mission and get trapped in a sentient house that doesn’t allow people to leave if it doesn’t want them to. I love reading about sentient places, so I got a kick out of that.
The characters didn’t stand out to me and neither did the prose, really, but I liked the description of Charlotte Street in Port-of-Spain. It really brought the place to life and gave me a strong sense of how choked it is with traffic and people and noise.
Overall: ★★☆☆☆ ½
It was decent. I appreciate that it takes place in Trinidad and includes creatures from Caribbean folklore. There are some interesting and exciting moments, but the long passages of exposition and the pacing issues turned me off. If not for that, I think I would have liked it more.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
Quotes from the book:
“Truth is a cold, dark, lonely mountaintop.”