Release Date: 13/03/14
Steve Rasnic Tem's new novel Blood Kin is set in the southern Appalachians of the U.S., alternating between the 1930s and the present day. It's a dark Southern Gothic vision of ghosts, witchcraft, secret powers, snake-handling, Kudzu, Melungeons, and the Great Depression. Blood Kin is told from the dual points of view of Michael Gibson and of his grandmother Sadie. Michael has returned to the quiet Appalachian home of his forebears following a suicide attempt and now takes care of his grandmother old and sickly but with an important story to tell about growing up poor and Melungeon (a mixed race group of mysterious origin) while bedeviled by a snake-handling uncle and empathic powers she but barely understands. In a field not far from the Gibson family home lies an iron-bound crate within a small shack buried four feet deep under Kudzu vine. Michael somehow understands that hidden inside that crate is potentially his own death, his grandmother's death, and perhaps the deaths of everyone in the valley if he does not come to understand her story well enough.
OK, you want a story that is a little different to the normal type books that you pick up. You want a story that has a sense of history, that brings interesting characters from the past and present to light where history meets present as events unfurl. What Steve does well is set the story up in the beginning part. You get chance to know the characters within and then for some reason, the book seems to lose its way part way through taking a lot time to pick back up again.
The prose is reasonable enough but when a story loses direction, I do find it hard to get back in once the pace picks up. Yes you expect lulls and peaks to give you chance to recover but for me, this outing felt like it did too little too late for it to come back round for me. I did love the concept, I did love the characters and all round it is a reasonable title but not one that’s going to be repeated in my yearly highlights.