Reading Time: about 6 hours
Dance of the Damned is another series set roughly around the time of Ghouls of the Miskatonic, although the stories are related in theme only. This is the second series released based on the Arkham Horror board game, and is the first book in a planned trilogy. Unfortunately it suffers from some of the same problems that plague Ghouls of the Miskatonic.
This story takes place in New York, Arkham, and Kingsport, a coastal fishing town that was an expansion for the board game. The main characters are Daisy the librarian; Annabel, flighty and scared friend of Daisy; Morgan, bodyguard/convict; and Henri Damascus, the undead sorcerer. These characters are developed more than the ones in Ghouls of the Miskatonic; with fewer characters, Bligh can devote more pages to each. The interactions between the characters seems well thought out and believable.
The main struggles I had with this book revolve around the amount of detail Bligh uses to set a scene…it’s too much and bogs down the flow of the story. Several times early in the story I had to put the book down and come back to it later due to disinterest. Bligh tries to introduce action sequences in these early stages that are the result of minor characters meeting gruesome deaths, but these sequences are disjointed and don’t flow naturally, and they are few and far between.
Like Ghouls of the Miskatonic, Dance of the Damned builds up to a climatic ending, but with much different results. The story gets better as it nears the end, where Bligh focuses more on action than detail. And this is where Dance of the Damned differs greatly…where Ghouls of the Miskatonic wraps things up with a somewhat happy (using that term loosely) ending, Dance of the Damned is dark and twisted through to the end, with gory details provided along the way. In the board game, characters win by closing gates before the “Old One” can come through…in Ghouls of the Miskatonic the way in which this was done made no sense, but in Dance of the Damned, the attempt to close the gate is explained better. The story leaves more questions than answers at the end; the conclusion occurs rather abruptly, and answers are likely forthcoming in the next book.
Will I read the sequel? At this point I’m not sure. I will look to see if any of the same characters return and the story line continues. As far as a recommendation, if you can wade through the lagging beginning, you’ll be rewarded with more action, despite a few inconsistencies that make it feel staged. It is my belief that there were page constraints from the publisher (since both books are exactly the same length), and that with another 200-300 pages, Bligh could have written a fantastic novel. Still, for a game board adaptation, it’s not too bad…