P D Dawson
Tenebrae Manor by P. S. Clinen (Book Review)
Imposing, sinister and infernal, Tenebrae Manor stands perched upon its hill, a beacon of darkness...
There is much to be said for the darkly gothic imagination. Some writers manage to evoke powerful images and lasting characters, but what’s even more interesting and exciting is when a writer decides to pay as much attention to atmosphere as to the story. I’m thinking Poe, and I’m thinking of course Lovecraft. Two fine writers who didn’t just scare, didn’t just write to tell a story, they wrote to douse the reader in lasting imagery and to be dunked in a literary tapestry so rich and so atmospheric, that the stories seem to take on a life of their own. And so much to my surprise, I was absolutely delighted to find, Tenebrae Manor, to be all such things.
Bordeaux is a friendly demon; dressed in a burgundy coat, pale faced, with two blood red branch-like twisted horns on his head, who is very particular about the way he looks, not that anyone will see him outside of Tenebrae’s considerably large grounds, sheltered by the surrounding dark woods. The manor itself is a thing of antiquity, a ruinous building that many strange and memorable beings call home. Among them there is, Usher, an oafish and ugly monster sewn together like Frankenstein, Edweena, a female vampire, Arpage, an ageing composer who lives in the attic, two rascals, Comets and Deadsol, a mute chef in the basement, and a young girl called Madlyn, who serves the head of the household, the lazy and ever-fattening Lady Libra. They all have their problems, but Tenebrae Manor is the only place in the world this strange set of characters call home, and something is happening to it. There is a sense of impending doom in the air, and Bordeaux is the first to be concerned by it.
While outside walking around the Manor, Bordeaux finds the remains of a dead wood golem and fears they are getting closer to their only sanctuary. The golems are slow moving but can be dangerous if not dealt with quickly, they can wrap their branches and vines around things, and in greater numbers could even spell the end of Tenebrae. Bordeaux raises his concerns with Lady Libra, but she appears disinterested and can only seem to turn her mind to food. Things get worse, there is a sweltering heat over the manor caused by a spell put on by Lady Libra, and Bordeaux is preoccupied by the demands she has for her birthday celebrations. As the story progresses many story strands unfold and the relationships between these oddball set of characters starts to get strained, adding to that the golems become more and more bothersome and we as reader start to feel the pressure brewing like a melting pot waiting to explode.
What is apparent from the start is the richness of the language used by Clinen throughout, for rarely does his prose and vivid description fail to be anything but beautiful. And talking of the description, he manages to soak his prose deep in atmosphere and render startling images with subtlety. He doesn’t bombard us with complex images, yet he has a penchant for easing the reader’s mind into a world steeped in darkness, where even the description of motes of dust in the hallway seem to bring this world alive with a vibrancy and weight akin to that of something you’d find in a tale by Lovecraft or Poe. I could also sense that Clinen perhaps drew some inspiration and style from Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast series.
By the end of the story I realised relatively little had happened over the course of this fairly long book, but I didn’t care. What did happen was this here reader was drawn into a world full of odd yet strangely likeable characters, and when I say drawn, I mean every part of me was put under Clinen’s spell, every fibre of my being seemed to find itself wrapped up in the thick and addictive nuances of his world. I urge you to seek out the riches of this world too, for I am glad to have found a writer of such depth and wonder, and I’m glad to have taken a trip to Tenebrae Manor, a place to which I shall certainly return.
I received this book in a Goodreads giveaway and this is my honest and unbiased review according to FTC guidelines.