Book Review: Mon Dieu Cthulhu! by John Houlihan

Historical Fantasy (my weakness) mixing with Napoleonic Wars and Cthulhu mythos – what’s not to like?

What to Expect

‘Mon Dieu Cthulhu’ is a collection of two stories with the inimitable Gaston d’Bois, a hussar lieutenant fighting in the Iberian peninsula against Wellington’s army. While dealing with the war, he comes across monsters far older and far worse than anything he encountered on the battlefield.

‘The Crystal Void’ is a novelette, d’Bois’ first encounter with lurking supernatural horrors. The story is told as an old d’Bois reminisces to an unnamed listener over a bottle of brandy. What starts as a normal evening party turns into a kidnap, and gets worse when the nature of the kidnappers is revealed.

‘Feast of the Dead’ is a short novel, with d’Bois commanding his own little force on an expedition in a hostile country. While dealing with Spanish partisans and a strange doctor serving the wounded of both sides, he runs into an old monastery that the locals avoid – seemingly with very good reason!

What I liked

I absolutely loved the voice of both the author and the character. d’Bois is very charming (he’s French, after all), and the smattering French and his eccentric referring to himself in the third person add spice and flavour to the story. The setting feels real, the characters feel taken out of any period novel, and the introduction of Lovecraftian elements is seamless and fitting into an excellent adventure.

I particularly enjoyed the action scenes, but in general Houlihan’s style is flowing easily, with a quick pace and engaging characters.

What to be aware of

d’Bois isn’t as active in the first novelette as I’d normally prefer, but this is excusable as it’s his first encounter. He’s much more engaged in the second part, which is a joy. The smattering of French added flavour and my high-school level (from many moons ago) was quite enough to enjoy it. Houlihan does make most things understood en le contexte – pardon, in context – and even if you don’t speak a word of French that shouldn’t detract from your enjoyment.

The links to the Cthulhu mythos are in vile creatures that lurk in dark corners, rather than the god-like monstrosities from outer space. The tone is not horror, but rather adventurous.

Lastly, take note if you are overly sensitive about misplaced commas and the occasional formatting oddity. I never let that stand in my way of enjoyment of a good story, but YMMV.

Felix’s Review

Felix found d’Bois a bit on the boisterous side, but sympathised deeply with his experiences and reactions. He’s sure that despite his vainglorious way of speaking he’d be a formidable ally when facing nasty critters, and that they’d certainly be able to enjoy a cup (or an amphora) of wine afterwards. He’s keen to hear more of his stories.

Summary

Highly entertaining, quick reads, mixing history and fantasy for great adventures. Try them out and you’ll very quickly discover if you fall in love with d’Bois and his inimitable style.

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