Dubbed The Sisters of Slaughter by the editor of Fireside Press, Michelle Garza and Melissa Larson make their novel-length debut with Mayan Blue. I think the Fireside folks were on to something with their proclamation, and the sisters earn their bloody stripes well here.
First off, let me just say how glad I am to read a horror book that is influenced by ancient continental American lore, rather then the johnny come lately Christian influences that predominate most modern works. Granted, those influences have produced some great stories, particularly in terms of my recent reads like Paul Tremblay's A Head Full of Ghosts and Hunter Shea's I Kill In Peace. But it's fun to spice things up a bit by reaching into a deeper, richer history of the Americas.
Mayan Blue, as the title indicates, reaches back to the peak of the Mayan heyday, drawing on the occult beliefs of Mesoamerican and Central American people to craft a present-day horror story. Building off the debunked speculations of Mayan civilization reaching as far north as Georgia, the sisters craft a novel in which such speculations are on the verge of being validated. Unfortunately, the professor in possession of the evidence has gone missing, and his small team of university researchers are en route to recover him.
From the outset, Garza and Lason let the blood spill, plunging their small cast of characters into the depths of Mayan hell. There's plenty of action to go around as the group is confronted with a number of horrors, from the labyrinthine and booby-trapped maze of the newly discovered Mayan temple to the angry gods and their owl-headed, sharp-clawed servants.
This is a fun and quick bit of adventure horror, with a number of well-drawn splatter scenes. Bodies are flayed and entrails spilled all over the place. My only real complaint about the book is that the characters are paper thin, with several of them never rising above a quickly drawn stereotype before being dispatched in some nicely grisly scenes. While their deaths are certainly interesting, it's a shame that their demise is the most interesting thing to happen to them in the brief moments we spend with them. In order for horror to be truly effective, there needs to be characters to root for and against, people you can become attached to and sympathize for and with. I didn't feel particularly attached to anybody in this book. While the gore and setting may be memorable, the characters, unfortunately, are not.
Aside from that, I had a fun time with Mayan Blue. I greatly appreciated the change of scenery it provided, and the way its influences in both the creature-feature and slasher genres merged to form a truly appropriate temple of doom.
[Note: this review is based an advanced, uncorrected proof copy supplied by the authors in exchange for an honest review.]