Those of you that visit the site regularly will undoubtedly be familiar with Simon Marshall-Jones, the founder of Spectral Press. Spectral have been releasing strictly limited edition chapbooks quarterly for just about a year now and Paul Finch’s King Death is the latest addition to an output that has never ceased to be excellent.
King Death is a story of greed and misery set in the time of a medieval plague. The protagonist, Rodric, is somehow immune to the disease and has taken a twisted delight in the demise of those more wealthy and prosperous than him. He takes great delight in looting everything around him as the world slowly crumbles into nothing.
Rodric’s motivations are borne almost completely out of spite and make him a fascinating character. He craves nothing but material wealth and appears to be unfazed that society has reached an almost apocalyptic point. His ensemble and persona as King Death are excellently written and give a great insight into his psyche.
Whilst initially disappointed that the story was set in the Middle Ages, after reading Finch’s excellent Victorian novel Sparrowhawk, this feeling was offset almost completely by the end of the first page.
Paul Finch creates a genuine and authentic world and set of characters through remaining as faithful as possible to the time period. The fact that King Death contains a medieval glossary should not be seen as a hindrance to enjoying this story – it should be celebrated. There is not a single moment of the book that compromises the plausibility of the setting or disrupts the carefully constructed atmosphere.
The two characters featured in the book are both completely fleshed out and their motives are believable if occasionally surprising. In the world of epic suffering and pestilence that Finch has created, including a child as one of the two people left alive in this brutal land makes for deeply unnerving reading.
King Death is a taut and tense story set against a backdrop of inhuman and catastrophic destruction. The description in the book is consistently eloquent whilst veering between the stark and the beautiful. It has a disturbing ending yet leaves the reader feeling completely satisfied. King Death is a worthy addition to the already impressive Spectral catalogue.