Review: Saxon's Bane / Author: Geoffrey Gudgion / Publisher: Solaris Books / Release Date: Out Now
There is a uniquely British subgenre of horror – which really isn’t as common as it should be – that mixes the aspirations of clean-living middle England with the darkness of the country’s deeply pagan past. Saxon's Bane is a worthy addition to this all too short a list, and stylistically, seems to hit the sweet spot that comes somewhere between Nigel Kneale and Alan Garner.
The plot is the classic sort of arrangement; a young man has a near-fatal car crash and finds himself living the good life in the quaint English village of Allingley. Meanwhile, a young lady makes an amazing archaeological discovery of an ancient Saxon warrior preserved in a peat bog, and begins to have nightmares. Things get steadily stranger, and of course, the Beltaine/May Day festival is on its way. This is a mystery thriller with more than its share of creeping horror.
Geoffrey Gudgion’s style is gentle and flows relatively easily; he builds a picture of the village slowly and his skills are very suited to this sort of thriller. It is a little rocky in places, however. The main protagonists seem a little lacking in sympathetic characteristics and on occasion it’s hard to relate to them as they just feel somewhat wooden at points. The author attempts to give the setting a heavily rural feel, but tries a little too hard, making the place feel surreal and forced. Though this adds to the atmosphere slightly, it tips the ambiance from spooky to corny on occasion. There are little factors here that don’t quite mesh; for example, in an attempt to give one of the characters a modern pagan feel, they come out with a popular fallacy about Easter and Ēostre that jars with the rest of the character.
Saxon's Bane is a strong example of its genre, let down only slightly with some poor moments of characterisation. It’s one of the those novels that really does pay off towards the last third or so and if you enjoy books like Some Kind of Very Tale and movies like The Wicker Man, you’ll love this.