Review: Deadroads by Robin Riopelle

Occasionally I am approached by another author or their publisher for a cover quote they can use to promote an upcoming book. To me, this is both an honour and a huge responsibility—not just to the author whose book I’m reviewing, but to my readers as well. In other words, I don’t want to (and won’t) give a gushing review of something I flat out didn’t like or thought to be just plain badly written.

Fortunately, Robin Riopelle’s debut novel, Deadroads, didn’t fall into either of those categories. In fact, I’m thrilled to say that it was a thoroughly enjoyable read. (Phew! ;) )

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Here’s the back cover blurb:

The Sarrazins have always stood apart from the rest of their Bayou-born neighbors. Almost as far as they prefer to stand from each other. Blessed—or cursed—with the uncanny ability to see beyond the spectral plane, Aurie has raised his children, Sol, Baz, and Lutie, in the tradition of the traiteur, finding wayward spirits and using his special gift to release them along Deadroads into the afterworld. The family, however, fractured by their clashing egos, drifted apart, scattered high and low across the continent.

But tragedy serves to bring them together. When Aurie, while investigating a series of ghastly (and ghostly) murders, is himself killed by a devil, Sol, EMT by day and traiteur by night, Baz, a traveling musician with a truly spiritual voice, and Lutie, combating her eerie visions with antipsychotics, are thrown headlong into a world of gory sprites, brilliant angels, and nefarious demons—small potatoes compared to reconciling their familial differences.

From the Louisiana swamps to the snowfields of the north and everywhere in between, Deadroads summons you onto a mysterious trail of paranormal proportions.

And here are my thoughts:

Deadroads is a far cry from your usual fantasy/horror. I keep finding myself wanting to call it a slow read–not because of a lack of suspense, because there’s plenty of that, but because of its richly nuanced language and tightly woven characters. You can’t rush this one without missing out on both critical details and overall experience.

Centred around three main characters, all siblings, the story is as much about a coming to terms with personal demons and past ghosts as it is about dealing with the physical kinds. The story struggles a bit to get going, but once it finds its stride, you find yourself tugged along much as if you’re caught in a deceptively gentle river current that keeps picking up speed, heading for rapids you know are there but can’t quite see coming.

All in all, a vivid, languorous, chilling tale of the supernatural. Recommended for fans of dark fantasy and horror, especially if you enjoy a more literary approach to your fiction.

One note of caution to prospective readers: Riopelle employs a liberal use of French words and expressions, particularly in the opening of the book (the characters are from the Bayou). For the non-French speaker, this could be both distracting and off-putting, but if you’re willing to give up actual meaning in favor of tone, you should be okay. And the story really will be worth the effort.

The e-version of Deadroads will be available March 15th, and the print on April 1st. Find out more on Robin’s website!

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