by Paul Finch
Published by Abbadon, 2010
The Tomes of The Dead series from Abbadon books may have a classic pulp sensibility but it uses some of the strongest horror writers around to deliver its smorgasbord of zombie goodness. Writers like Gary McMahon, Simon Bestwick and Weston Ochse have all delivered highly entertaining books in the series so far and now they are joined by one of my favourite horror writers, Paul Finch.
Stronghold takes us far back into late 13th Century Wales where those pesky English are cutting a swathe of violence through the indigenous population. The taking of Grogen Castle and the subsequent physical and sexual abuse of the lady of the Castle, Countess Madalyn and her daughter Gwendolyn are the final straws. With her daughter held prisoner Madalyn seeks help from the practitioners of the old magic, the fabled Welsh Druids, and it’s not long before armies of the dead are rising up to reclaim the castle.
What follows is a gruesome account of the battle for Grogen Castle between the English defenders and the newly risen Welsh zombie army. It’s a veritable dictionary of anatomical terms as body parts are skewered, severed, chewed and burnt in increasingly bizarre ways.
Paul Finch utilises his excellent skill to weave historical detail into a horrific storyline. So not only do you get a full biology lesson but a thorough understanding of 13th century siege methods. It’s all excellent fun delivered in the worst possible taste fitting the series mentality perfectly.
My only criticism is that with such a broad canvas of the Welsh/English conflict the possibilities of extending the zombie battle onto a larger battlefield existed. Instead we are faced with a fairly small and claustrophobic encounter that feels like it should be part of a bigger campaign. I would also have liked to focus more on the druids and the “old magic” as this felt like it only skimmed the surface of what Finch could be capable of in that area. The mystical druidic tradition of Wales has huge potential in the hands of a writer of Paul Finch’s ability but maybe he is saving that for another day.
None of which matters at all of course as this series is about excitement, the thrill of the chase and zombies and on those fronts the book delivers perfectly. So for history lovers with a thirst for some zombie carnage this is highly recommended.