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Top Customer Reviews
The Weight of Chains
Sinister Grin Press
Author: Lesley Conner
Synopsis: Gilles de Rais has control over every aspect of his life: the servants he employs, the village he lords over, the carefully crafted visage he shows to the world. He dictates where his subjects live, what they eat, if they live or die. He has ultimate power and wields it with a flourish to conceal the dark desires that lurk behind his smile and the despair within his castle in Machecoul.
When a wizard tasked with raising a demon loses control of the beast, Gilles's tight grasp on his world begins to slip. His cook plans to flee, taking her son away from the dangers of the castle. His guard wants to claim Gilles’s lifestyle as his own. His wizard frantically searches for a way to survive both his lord and the demon he has called into the world. And the villagers – like Jeanetta and her family –move through life in Machecoul too consumed with the task of surviving day to day, and oblivious to the turmoil building within the castle that is threatening to break out and consume them all.
Taking place in France circa 1436, Conner masterfully weaves a period piece with seemingly little effort. The time period feels perfectly crafted and Conner makes it very easy to settle into the world. Sheering off all of the romantic sentiments of the era, Conner pulls us back into the mud and horror of living during this time. Each page feels gritty and gross with a high sense of realism. I still cannot wrap my mind around the fact that this is a debut novel.
After expanding her short story into a novel, Conner has amassed the largest list of dispicable and absolutely deplorable characters I have ever read. Having little room for niceties, the characters without sinister flaws are pulled and dragged through a crushing world of brutality. The emotional heft becomes daunting at times, but it does not slow down the story. It only enhances the victories in a Clive Barker by way of Game of Thrones style. Gilles de Rais has a taste for the young boys in the village that surrounds his castle. The entire village knows it, whether they say it or not, and this only adds to the crushing look at daily life in Machecoul. When not showcasing the atrocities of their lord, Jeanetta is entrenched in a very terrifying reality of her own.
When not crushing your spirits, Conner is also not afraid to take you on a trip through some dark corners. Rais’ tastes are not limited to just killing the children. While most of the vile acts are relegated to his character, he is also surrounded by men that have similar desires. The extreme nature of the subject matter, including the way in which they are described, keeps me from recommending this book to the average horror reader. Interested in the more extreme stuff? This is a great place to start.
Lesley Conner’s debut novel is easily one of my favorite of the year. The unfiltered look at extremes while presenting a fresh new story is something to behold. The novel is a bit long, but trust me, the ending is worth your patience. The tension builds and twists along, giving glimpses of things to come as each plot line develops. Not a fun read, but damn is it good.
Set in 15th century France, this historical-horror novel contains two fast-pace plot threads that combine for a satisfying and horrific conclusion. We’re introduced to Jeanetta, a hardworking eleven-year-old girl who has moved to the village of Machecoul with her family. In true peasant fashion, they’re poor and the family is always on the brink of starvation. To ease the burden on her family, Jeanetta is promised to a kindly, widowed smallpox survivor.
Gilles de Rais, the lord of Machecoul, is on a constant search for young boys… preferably fair-haired and no more than eight years old. The guy is a nasty piece of work who’s heinous crimes are documented facts. Unfortunately, de Rais is surrounded by a group of enablers, in particular, his guard, the sadistic Poitou.
As the novel progresses, Gilles de Rais’s appetites become more demanding. He enlists the help of a wizard named Prelati to summon the demon Barron with the hopes of trading blood for gold. Poitou’s search for victims becomes more aggressive as more and more boys are sent off to be a court Page in Paris by their master. It is when Poitou brings Jeanetta and her eight-year-old brother to Gilles de Rais’s castle that our two plots collide and we’re given a page-turning and somewhat unexpected conclusion.
The author has a knack for writing despicable characters: Gilles de Rais, Poitou, and Prelati all felt three dimensional and are memorable. Our young heroine, Jeanetta, comes across as a realistic eleven-year-old in an old soul’s body.
Be warned, there are buckets of gore and plenty of chilling scenes that will set off a whole set of trigger warnings. If you check out the Wikipedia page I linked earlier, you’ll understand why.
Parents with young children might wish to stay away from this one. I have a fair-haired eight-year-old son (Gilles de Rais’s favorite type) and the book made me uncomfortable at times for obvious reasons.
If you’re looking for a great Halloween read, then The Weight of Chains is worthy of your attention.
One last though: the final chapter is one of the best I’ve read in a horror novel.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I can sum up author Lesley Conner’s debut book THE WEIGHT OF CHAINS in two words: viscerally...Read more