Under The Dark Water by Roy Eynhallow (book review)

August 8, 2016 | By | Reply More

Too many writers, especially those who wonder why no-one wants to publish their books, set their tales within their comfort zones. They write about people like them or people they would like to be. Occasionally, there is an author who is prepared to jump straight in at the deep end. Just to say that Roy Eynhallow is the pen name of Vlad Mackevic will immediately give you an idea of how deep. To begin with, he is writing in at least his second language.

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‘Under the Dark Water’ is set in Birmingham, England, which is not the city or country where he grew up. In the few years Mackevic has lived here, he has done a good job of exploring the areas he describes. There is more of a problem with the time period in which it is set. Because of the way in which the plot develops, Mackevic needed to have the action take place in a period before every youngster carries a mobile phone. Clues within the text give a date of around 1990. Not only was this a time when Mackevic wasn’t resident in Britain but if he was born, he would have been very young so the cultural references that I would recognise as pointers to the period are largely missing placing the novel out of time. As a result, there are factual errors creeping into the text.

The story itself is not quite sure what it wants to be. The underlying theme of myth coming to the city is fine, with interesting supernatural elements. This is interwoven within two major plot elements. First, is Mark. He is a fourteen year-old boy and, on a night when his parents are arguing again, he meets Tandi Bryce, a girl of Caribbean heritage and her dog. He finds himself telling her things that he would never normally talk about, such as his parents disintegrating relationship and show her his secret place. Together, they start exploring more of Birmingham. The relationship between these two characters is well and convincingly handled.

Tangled within the story of the youngsters is that of Mark’s parents, Sarah and George Davies. It is told from the alternating viewpoints of both adults. Sarah feels that she is losing her family and, since she was brought up in an orphanage and foster homes, is desperate to cling on to it. George’s problems are of his own making. He is drinking far too much, a situation that began after the death of his sister in a road accident. Not only doesn’t he realise the effect it is having on his family, he is also having hallucinations. In the bathroom mirror, he sees a figure with the head of a horse. This image removes its mask revealing a vaguely familiar face and talks persuasively, urging him to continue on the course of self-destruction. These sections are less successful. This is where most of the factual errors lie.

For the novel to catch the attention of the younger reader, it is not quite young adult and a mainstream publisher would probably market it as for the 13-16 age group, the heavy presence of adults of point of view characters is a no-no. Adult novels can and do have sections from the point of view of younger protagonists, yet this doesn’t have the richness and depth of writing that such a book would require to engage the adult reader.

In any novel, nothing should be present that is not important. ‘If a gun is on the wall, at some point it will be used’. Both Mark and Tandi are given talents. Mark is an excellent wood carver and Tandi can paint, yet neither of these skills are utilised in the story, missing a dimension that could be added. Nevertheless, for an author writing about a time before he was born, a place he not been resident in long, in a language not his own and about an alien folklore, this is an interesting first effort. Writers learn by practicing their skills. Vlad Mackevic has the confidence to go on and improve. I wish him all the best in his future endeavours.

Pauline Morgan

August 2016

(pub: Hallow Books, UK. 272 page paperback. Price: £7.99 (UK), $11.99 (US), €9.99 (EU). ISBN: 978-0-992-92029-6)

check out website: http://www.hallowbooks.com/

Category: Books, Horror

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