Tuesday, December 8, 2015

"Dominion Jar" by Mary O'Reilly

I love a good ghost story, and when I learned that an acquaintance of mine had actually written one of her own I was immediately intrigued. It took me a little while to get around to ordering my copy off of Amazon (I can be scatterbrained sometimes), but eventually I did. I recently had some car trouble which required me to use public transportation to get to and from work for a little over a week. It was a perfect opportunity to read Mary O’Reilly’s “Dominion Jar” as I don’t have much time to read at home. 

Now I know what you’re thinking… this review will be biased. That’s where you’d be wrong. I am actually more critical when it comes to the creative works of people I know. Case in point - my brother directed a feature film back in 2007 called Farewell Darkness (of which I was an executive producer as I donated a few thousand dollars toward its production), and I had absolutely no reservations about telling him that I found it painfully boring and pointless. I keep it real.

The story revolves around young Andy Rast who has recently moved to the secluded town of Donndub Lake in order to escape her tragic past. History begins to repeat itself when a group of locals induct her into their band of amateur ghost hunters and uncover an otherworldly force within an abandoned mansion. 

Let’s get the negatives out of the way first. The story is a mite slow and nothing of note really happens for the first half of the book. Some of the character building goes nowhere for long stretches and to be completely honest I didn’t care for a few of the secondary characters due to this. For example - when the main character’s mysterious past is constantly brought up over and over again as if there will be a big reveal as to why she is the way she is or knows what she knows and we get next to no explanation... well, I gotta call bullshit. Most of the other characters suffer the same fate; there’s lots of set-up to something in their past, like Pegs, but no payoff. This sort of vagueness was more than a little frustrating to me.

Also, when it comes to books I have the same issues that I have with the state of current day movies in that I absolutely hate being set-up for an obvious sequel. I like my entertainment to be self-contained with a beginning a middle and an end. If an author or screenwriter finds a way to organically spin off the story into a follow up, fine. When there are handfuls of threads left dangling when I reach the final page that will lead into a part 2, 3 or 4... grrr. It bugs me to the extreme. Just like I said in my review of Terminator: Genisys, “Don’t anticipate you’re going to have a massive hit on your hands until the money says you do.”

And the book just ends. Finale, boom, Special Thanks. Alrighty then.

With all that being said, I actually found “Dominion Jar” to be quite entertaining. Even though I was having issues with it I was willing to overlook them due to how engrossing the story eventually became. There are sequences that I could visualize in my head as vividly as if I were watching my BluRay of Poltergeist as some of the set pieces were thrilling and eerie as fuck. 

There's a morbid atmosphere that Mary manages to sustain for nearly the entire novel that I find lacking in some of the more mainstream horror fare I usually gravitate toward. I became addicted to it and found myself looking for excuses to sit down and read another chapter or two. Kudos. That rarely happens to me as I normally only read while using the toilet. Crude, but true.

Sure there are some issues I have with the characters, but I really liked the interplay between Andy and Andrew and the awkward flirtatiousness of their dialogue. I also liked the way the Tabitha character was written as an aloof loon that no one in the group can stand whenever she opens her mouth. The characters that work at the diner are a lot of fun too.

Even though I felt the book got off to a slow start, once we get to the mansion where the bulk of the ghostly events take place things pick up considerably with some seriously fucked up shit going down. Everything is described in such striking detail that it was hard to not get caught up in it all. There were times when I was genuinely creeped out. No joke.

And once the finale rolls around… damn! I won’t spoil it for those of you that have yet to read the novel. Just know that it will get under your skin.

I won’t go into any more detail to avoid spoilers and all that jazz.

“Dominion Jar” is far from a perfect novel and I may have sounded like I tore it a new asshole earlier in this review, but when I say that I am looking forward to the next adventure involving these characters I really mean that. I don’t frivolously waste my time and money on things that I don’t want. I want the sequel. I want it now, dammit! If that isn’t high praise I don’t know what is. Just remember that this is the work of a first time novelist. That’s a pretty impressive feat.

4 out of 5

You can order your own copy of Mary O'Reilly's "Dominion Jar" by clicking here.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you so much for the review, Chris!!!! It means a lot, and I really, really appreciate the honest, critical response! Good's great and all, but the bad is probably even more important, and it tends to not be what people want to talk about with me. I really appreciate that you did, and that you did without, yaknow, being vicious. Hahahaha! THANK YOU AGAIN!!!