First published back in March of 2013, British author Graeme Reynolds’ novel ‘High Moor II: Moonstruck’ formed the second instalment into the author’s highly-claimed ‘High Moor’ werewolf trilogy.

DLS Synopsis:
Now that John Simpson was safely within police custody the residents of High Moor were finally able to lick their wounds after the numerous horrors that had befallen their small town.  Made out to be a psychopathic serial killer by the press, since his arrest Simpson had been kept under permanent lock and key as his trial drew closer.

Meanwhile, Steven Wilkinson was slowly recovering from his near-fatal wounds at the University Hospital of Durham.  However, no matter how long he had to heal.  No matter how good the medical aid was.  Wilkinson knew that there was one thing he would never be cured from.  He had suffered and survived an attack from a werewolf.  He knew the consequences of this all too well.  When the next full moon illuminated the night sky, he would turn into one of his life-long enemies.  He’ll become a feral blood-thirsty beast.  A werewolf.

However not all werewolves were the same feral beasts as what Wilkinson was to become.  There were those that could draw upon their inner-wolf whenever they liked and still retain control when they did so.  They called themselves The Pack, and these werewolves  would do anything to keep the existence of their kind a secret.  Anything at all.

Unfortunately for both John Simpson and Steven Wilkinson this caused a problem for them.  Simpson had survived his ordeal, but was now in police custody.  Moonstruck or not, if he didn’t change before the next full moon, his beast would do it for him.  This was something that The Pack couldn’t allow to happen.  If Simpson changed whilst in custody, their race would finally be exposed for the world to see.  And the consequences of this would be too horrific to contemplate.

Similarly if Wilkinson was left to fully recover within the hospital then upon the next full moon he could also expose the werewolves to the world.  The law was ultimately quite clear on what must be done.  The moonstruck had to be eliminated.  And fast.

However, now that Steven Wilkinson was finally in their sights, one particular werewolf was desperate to move in.  Not only had Wilkinson stalked and slaughtered dozens of werewolves over the last decade, but he’d also shot and killed Connie Hamilton’s eight-year-old daughter, Megan.  Now Connie craved revenge for the murder of her daughter more than anything else.  She wanted blood.  And she would stop at nothing to finally get her vengeance…

DLS Review:
Author Graeme Reynolds launches into Book Two of his werewolf trilogy with an explosive prologue that slings us back to 1996 where we’re given the emotionally-charged backstory for the character of Connie Hamilton and her justifiable hatred for Steven Wilkinson.

With Connie’s plot-crucial backstory now firmly in his back pocket, Reynolds jumps forwards to 2008, picking up exactly from where Book One left off.  With Simpson now in custody and Wilkinson in hospital (not to mention Marie Williams’ body having been carted off to a morgue for dissection) the after effects from the dramatic finale in ‘High Moor’ (2011) have caused quite a complicated situation for the werewolf community to sort out.  As a result of the ‘out in the open’ showdown at the end of Book One, Reynolds now has the task of cleaning up the mess in such a way that his whole hidden race of werewolves aren’t exposed right then and there.  To achieve this Reynolds incorporates a tense and action-rich series of well-plotted assassination attempts, which for a handful of early chapters, steers slightly more towards the fast-paced excitement of a good thriller than that of a textbook horror novel.

And of course whilst all of this is all going on Reynolds is introducing a couple of key new characters – Detective Inspector Phil Fletcher and Detective Constable Olivia Garner.  Fletcher knows there’s far more to Simpson’s killing spree.  Thankfully Reynolds doesn’t dance around Fletchers ‘gradual discovery of the truth’ too much – far from drawing out the matter and instead getting the two officers almost straight into the thick of the mess and engaging with the unbelievable situation their uncovering.

In fact there’s very little build-up or intricate plot-forming before Reynolds starts getting his teeth into some serious gore-drenched werewolf action.  Once the characters are put into place and the scene is once again set, we’re pretty much flung straight into the adrenaline-pumping thrills and spills of this increasingly explosive situation.

The pacing has increased substantially compared to Book One – which to be fair wasn’t exactly a slow-pacer anyway.  Furthermore Reynolds maintains this constant urgency throughout the length of the novel – darting back and forth between characters and timelines as the story charges forth with more adrenaline-fuelled gusto than you can shake a wolf-gnawed stick at.

Clambering on the shoulders of Book One, Reynolds builds further upon his werewolf mythos; redefining and re-establishing his own werewolf race and the two fundamentally different breeds within it.  Indeed, whilst the furious storyline is racing onwards, Reynolds continues to slip in more and more details on the whole mythos – underlining what had previously been set down whilst elaborating further upon those wonderfully imagined intricate details.

However, where ‘High Moor II’ has considerably upped its game since Book One is with the blisteringly graphic levels of werewolf violence which are delivered on a blood-soaked silver platter at every possible opportunity.  What you’ll find with High Moor II’ is that whenever the shit starts hitting the proverbial pan Reynolds jumps head first into the feral savagery with a complete no-holds-barred approach.  Tooth-and-claw ‘werewolf on werewolf’ clashes burst out from the pages throughout the course of the story.  Similarly the ‘werewolf on human’ attacks are hauntingly brutal; with absolutely no hiding behind the pillow when it comes to the delivery of the resulting blood drenched horror.  We’re talking near-splatterpunk levels of visceral gore on offer - akin to some of the more gruesome scenes in Neil Marshall’s ‘Dog Soldiers’ (2002).

Where Book One really capitalised on Reynolds’ imaginatively created werewolf mythos – redefining and reimagining the age-old traditional werewolf into something completely new – in Book Two Reynolds has instead chosen to home more into his characters and their individuals stories and motivations.  Connie Hamilton is by far and away the best example of this.  Her story is complex and laced with bitter hatred and conflicting loyalties.  In Connie, Reynolds has carved out a character whose plight is so emotionally heavy it feels like there must be some real-life flesh behind what we’re presented with.  This is what fleshing-out a character’s emotional turmoil is all about.  And this is what makes ‘High Moor II: Moonstruck’ so stupendously successful.

In a nutshell what you get from ‘High Moor II: Moonstruck’ is a strong and confident step onwards from where we left off in Book One.  The characters are rich in personality and fleshed-out individuality.  The tale’s awash with flesh-ripping claws that splatter the pages with blood at every opportunity.  And underpinning the explosive violence and unashamedly graphic levels of gore is a perfectly layered and elaborately inter-woven plot.  Gorehounds will have their bloodthirst sated within seconds.  Horror fiends will lap up the exquisite detail afforded to the werewolves and their imaginatively redefined mythos.  And pulp fans will find themselves in their element with the unrelenting pace and unstoppable momentum behind the plot.

Werewolves have never been so savage or so gut-churningly terrifying.  Prepare to be ripped to shreds…

The novel runs for a total of 352 pages.

 © DLS Reviews

Other ‘High Moor’ instalments:

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