Horror Comes Home

Dusklight is a great follow-up to Chalk, LaPoint’s schoolgirl-vs-abominations intro to the world and disruptive life of Raven Mistcreek, the fastest tomboy to have to draw a sidearm. And a shotgun, and a chainsaw, and a golem, and …! The main action starts a bit slower this time: our heroine is riding to the castle of her dreamy fairytale prince, surrounded by friends and family and knights on unicorns, and isn’t attacked by diabolical fiends until page three. But then in LaPoint’s Dragon-worthy fashion the battle is on, and it hardly lets up for more than a few pages at any time.

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

The plot is more complex than in the first book, and so is the narrative structure. A few of the early chapters are from the POV of a curious trio from the Holy Inquisition whom we met in the prologue, whose mission is inextricable from the evil that menaces Raven and her fiancée. But I wasn’t expecting the Holy Inquisition, either. Their chief weapon is surprise! Surprise, and a fanatical devotion to the pope! Their two chief weapons, that is, are going to be critical to the fight if Raven and her family (now including the fox-girl Kasumi, married to her brother Damien) are going to make it to the wedding alive.

Again, and a bit more blatantly, LaPoint draws in anime colors, to depict a Catholic response to a Lovecraftian menace. Kasumi gives Raven another outfit– a change from the schoolgirl uniform of Chalk— right out of the trope box. The Big Bad here blends the macguffin of Miskatonic U. with the fiends from Fullmetal Alchemist. Her kid sister’s expression is even described once as “anime”. And more references to Japanese mythology appear, as does the Maid of Orleans.

The amalgam works. It continues the adventure and meta-existential crises of LaPoint’s interplanar Continuum, from Chalk, and like Chalk the stakes are colossal but self-contained within the single volume. The series seems to have carved out a formula to some extent, in this, but it’s not formulaic, either. This is no Hardy Boys, where Frank and Joe are eighteen and seventeen forever, and are dating the same two girls in the 1950s that they were in the ’30s, and the book sequence is interchangeable. Not only are Kasumi and Raven’s brother married, and Raven herself betrothed, but they act like it, and the impending marriage, newlywed teasing (of and by Kasumi), and sexual tension an active part of the story. Raven is less of a tomboy than before, and more capable as a heroine, without spilling into that pathetic stereotype that Hollywood mislabels as “Strong Woman,” which ought to be called “Cardboard Butch.” The characters grow, both over the course of the book but from the first book to this, and between books. A serious story arc is discernable to make the Mistcreek series a coming-of-age saga as well as what may well be a cosmic quest to heal the whole Continuum, on lines like those pursued in Brien Niemeier’s Soul Cycle. In reading Chalk, I observed that LaPoint is a rarity as a male writer presenting a credibly female protagonîste. My hat is off to Mrs. LaPoint, whose gentling insights undoubtedly guided her husband’s pen (consciously or not) in his portrayal of Raven and her sisters-in-arms. He’s done it again!

Read Dusklight. You’ll be glad you did.

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