fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsfantasy book review Alan Campbell Deepgate Codex prequel Lye StreetLye Street by Alan Campbell

Lye Street is a 135 page novella exclusively available from Subterranean Press in two unique, limited editions — a fully cloth bound hardcover signed by the author (numbered to 2000) and a signed leatherbound copy housed in a custom traycase (numbered to 26). Cover artwork is provided by Dave McKean — longtime Neil Gaiman collaborator and noted CD cover artist — while the wonderful interior illustrations are done by the award-winning Bob Eggleton.

One of the best things about Scar Night was the thrilling prologue which first introduced the demonic Carnival, a deranged and immortal angel who feeds on the blood of victims every ‘scar night.’ Lye Street is the prequel to that prologue and ends just where Scar Night begins.
Since Carnival was one of my favorite characters from the book, I found the novella to be particularly satisfying, especially because we get to delve a bit deeper into the renegade angel’s intriguing madness. Specifically, we discover that in addition to the ritual ‘scar night’ slayings, Carnival has also been regularly murdering the descendants of a certain family every fifty years for five generations. Sal Greene is the next target on that list, but the old prospector isn’t going without a fight…he’s hired a phantasmacist to summon the demon Basilis — formerly Ayen’s Hound Master and Heaven’s Lord of Warfare — to kill the scarred angel.

Alas, plans never go quite the way you expect them to, and Sal soon finds himself on a strange quest to free the demon’s physical aspects from the memories of his hounds. Meanwhile, Presbyter Scrimlock has learned of Carnival’s vendetta against the Bucklestrappe family and uses that knowledge to set a trap to destroy the angel once and for all…

Writing a novella or short story is obviously different from writing a long-form novel, especially one that’s part of a series, and not every writer can pull it off. Fortunately, Alan Campbell seems to have a knack for the format and delivers a story that was well-written, fun and interesting — it’s kind of like a gothic, grown-up fairy tale that Neil Gaiman or Tim Burton would cook up — featuring the visually arresting imagery of the city Deepgate and a macabre sense of humor that reminded me of Steven Erikson’s Bauchelain & Korbal Broach novellas. In fact, I was really surprised by how amusing the novella could be at times, which was something that Scar Night lacked.

In the end, I really enjoyed Lye Street. Part of it of course is returning to the unforgettable world of Deepgate and learning more about Carnival, but also a lot of the problems that plagued the debut are nowhere to be found, and in a couple of areas, the novella actually excels over the book. So, if you were a fan of Scar Night, I’m pretty confident that you’ll like Lye Street, which is an excellent companion piece. And if you haven’t read Scar Night yet, then no worries because Lye Street is also the perfect introduction to author Alan Campbell and the Deepgate Codex.

Deepgate Codex — (2007-2012) Lye Street is a prequel. Iron Angel is called Penny Devil in the UK. Publisher: Suspended by chains over a seemingly bottomless abyss, the ancient city of Deepgate is home to a young angel, an assassin, and a psychotic murderer hungry for revenge — or redemption. But soon a shocking betrayal will unite all three in a desperate quest… The last of his line, Dill is descended from legendary Battle-archons who once defended the city. Forbidden to fly and untrained even to wield the great sword inherited from his forebears, he has become a figurehead for a dying tradition. Now he lives a sheltered existence in one of Deepgate’s crumbling temple spires under the watchful eye of the Presbyter who rules the city. Spine assassin Rachel Hael has better things to do than oversee the Presbyter’s angel. Each dark moon she must fight for her life among the city chains, hunting an immortal predator with a taste for blood. But when a traitor brings enemies to Deepgate’s doorstep, Dill and Rachel are forced into an uneasy alliance with the city’s oldest and most dangerous foe. They must journey down into the uncharted chasm to save their sprawling metropolis — and themselves — from annihilation. Once they descend however, they learn that what lies below is far more sinister than what they’ve been taught to expect.

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  • Robert Thompson

    ROBERT THOMPSON (on FanLit's staff July 2009 — October 2011) is the creator and former editor of Fantasy Book Critic, a website dedicated to the promotion of speculative fiction. Before FBC, he worked in the music industry editing Kings of A&R and as an A&R scout for Warner Bros. Besides reading and music, Robert also loves video games, football, and art. He lives in the state of Washington with his wife Annie and their children Zane and Kayla. Robert retired from FanLit in October 2011 after more than 2 years of service. He doesn't do much reviewing anymore, but he still does a little work for us behind the scenes.

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