The Sisters of Slaughter, Michelle Garza and Melissa Lason, have been splashing blood and guts all over the horror world for a few years now. When I purchased their debut novel, Mayan Blue, I had already read one or two of their short stories, and was excited to see how their skills translated to a longer medium. I was first drawn to Mayan Blue by the interesting premise:
Xibalba, home of torture and sacrifice, is the kingdom of the lord of death. He stalked the night in the guise of a putrefied corpse, with the head of an owl and adorned with a necklace of disembodied eyes that hung from nerve cords. He commanded legions of shapeshifting creatures, spectral shamans, and corpses hungry for the flesh of the living. The Mayans feared him and his realm of horror. He sat atop his pyramid temple surrounded by his demon kings and demanded sacrifices of blood and beating hearts as tribute to him and his ghostly world. These legends, along with those that lived in fear of them, have been dead and gone for centuries. Yet now, a doorway has been opened in Georgia. A group of college students seek their missing professor, a man who has secretly uncovered the answer to one of history’s greatest mysteries. However, what they find is more than the evidence of a hidden civilization. It’s also a gateway to a world of living nightmares.
Sounds awesome, right? It is. I really enjoyed this book. There is a comforting familiarity to the roster of soon-to-be-maimed characters, who manage to charm the reader early in the story. Alissa and Wes, our bookish/curious and good-hearted heroes are easy to like, while Kelly, Dennis, and Tyler are easy to hate. They aren’t complicated, and that works in the novel’s favor–it means we can get right to the pandemonium. And pandemonium is what we get.
I don’t want to include any spoilers here, but I will say that Garza’s and Lason’s obvious love for horror shows in how Mayan Blue is written. It’s not perfect, but I never got the impression the novel was written because the SOS just wanted to write something. There’s a ring of inspiration to Mayan Blue. You get a sense of their excitement for the story. A particular line that stuck out for me:
“The silt erupted in an azure cloud as decrepit arms reached out from the cenote bed.”
That’s inspired. There are little snippets like this scattered throughout the novel, which poetically serve to bring the reader right down into the story with these doomed characters–whether he wants to go or not. If I had to make one critique, I would say at times I wanted the language to back off a little and let the scene shine through more. There were moments where fewer words would have had more of an impact. I also think some dialogue from the dwellers of the Land of Fear would have helped bring those characters to life. Instead of things like “The Simian Queen told them to____,” maybe her words could have been written out in dialogue form. If they were communicating telepathically and I overlooked that detail, then I’m an idiot and you shouldn’t listen to me!
Overall, great debut by The SOS, who obviously know and love their horror. I will read everything they write for as long as they write.
You can purchase Mayan Blue here.