The Liar of Red Valley – Walter Goodwater
Solaris, p/b, £10.88
Reviewed by Steve Dean
Sadie lives in the small Californian town of Red Valley. Her mother is the town’s Liar, a kind of reality-altering witch. When her mother dies, Sadie finds herself promoted to the position, despite not knowing how to do the job or wanting it in the first place. Right from the start, it seems everyone is out to get her. She has only one friend and many enemies. It seems Sadie has little choice but to learn very quickly or go under.
Red Valley, on the surface at least, is an ordinary, modern-day place, just like many other small towns across the US. It soon becomes obvious that something isn’t right here. There are the semi-immortal King’s men, the King himself, who definitely isn’t human, and who knows what lives in the river.
Right from the start, the author creates a deep and totally believable atmosphere of strangeness and lurking terror. It almost flows out of the book like dry ice every time you turn a page. Even as more of what’s going on is revealed, the author manages to keep the effect going. For me, this was the author’s greatest accomplishment in this book; it’s the foundation on which the plot sits and makes the suspension of disbelief really easy to achieve.
The characters are all well-written, everyday folk trying to get on with their lives and not thinking too hard about where they live. Sadie’s life journey is particularly good, as she goes from being a normal(ish) young woman to someone much more able and even dangerous, and mostly by her own efforts.
The one small downside for me was the main battle with the dark forces. I would have liked it to be longer, more involved and have shown more of the too and fro of battle.
Otherwise, I can’t fault it and would really recommend it to anyone who’s looking for something different, something more original than yet another story filled with zombies or elves or zombie elves. (Would that even work?)