Blood Forge by Kathryn Meyer Griffith
Review by Jo Fitzpatrick
An ancient snake-demon lays trapped behind the stone walls of an Incan prison, for centuries demanding blood sacrifices and scheming to escape. Then it discovers a pathway into the world of men, forging itself into a malevolent 357 Colt Python, and making itself capable of incomparable destruction and misery. Through decades it torments the unfortunate people whose lives it comes into until a loving married couple, Emily and Sam Walters, have enough love and faith – and the help of a mysterious priest who’s much more than he appears to be – to fight against and destroy it forever… and to send it back to hell where it belongs.
Blood Forge starts off with an intriguing, twisting plot that begins in Peru in 1530 and goes full circle to America in 1982, with the Colt Python revolver weaving its way through all of the character’s stories and wreaking havoc wherever it goes. It is fast paced, unsettling and the various apparitions which are conjured up for the gun’s victims can be quite frightening, ensuring that I dashed through the first hundred or so pages desperate to know the outcome. Of course this method of narration, jumping between character and even time periods, makes it very difficult to form any sort of attachment to anyone in the novel as well as effectively culling any character development that could potentially take place.
Unfortunately, the writing begins to tail off at this point, with Griffith preferring to describe the everyday laborious tasks that her characters complete rather than keeping the pace that the first hundred pages had. This also means that when something exciting does happen the change in tempo is so jarring that it knocks the entire novel off course, almost resulting in two plots running side by side. One concerns the Colt and its victims, the other discusses the inner turmoil of a middle aged woman who is alone in the city, or a wife whose teenage son is having difficulties, resulting in jumps from the mundane to the insane within a few sentences. It doesn’t necessarily make this a bad read, it’s all interesting in its own right, but after reading the blurb I expected more about the atrocities the Colt has engineered and the mundaneness experienced in the rest of the novel detracted from it as a whole.
Personally my biggest issue is the lack of editing that has apparently taken place – for example, at one point Griffith uses the word ‘uneatable’ – and nothing takes me out of a reading experience more than stumbling over a word or sentence due to bad grammar or misspellings. Overall Griffith seems to struggle to reach a balance between creating a fast-paced thriller whilst also exploring her character’s lives, meaning both end up falling a little flat in the course of the novel. Taking all of this into account I still enjoyed reading it, the concept of the gun itself and the carnage it inspires is interesting enough to carry the novel over it’s less successful sections. Griffith’s most pressing point however – the concept of whether it is guns or people who kill – is fantastically explored, and comes to some insightful, if chilling, conclusions.
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