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March 20, 2018

Review & Excerpt: The Folded Land by Tim Lebbon

by MK French

Angela Gough had learned the hard way that some myths are very real, and there is a black market for arcane items and creatures. Knowing this had put her on the run, but she is drawn back to the United States after finding out that her niece Sammi was struck by lightning and is missing. There is trouble brewing among the Kin, and she has to find Sammi and the Folded Land before they're lost.
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The Folded Land
March 2018; Titan Books; 978-1785650314
ebook, print (336 pages); horror
The Folded Land is a sequel to Relics, which was released last year. In that novel, there is a sprawling underground black market in London for all sorts of arcane items. Angela and Vince are from that novel, and their introduction in this novel refers back to the prior book. Even if you haven't read it, you can easily pick up on the salient facts: Bad Things Happened, the Kin are Weird Things that most people know nothing about, and the two are under their protection. This, of course, means there are a number of baddies after them, so we see right away how they operate under pressure. We also see some of the Kin early on, and see them as the magical creatures of myth, with powers that can affect humans and be affected by them.

Many people think of fairies and magical beings as friendly or childlike because of Disney versions of old stories or nursery tales. The supernatural creatures in this novel are more like the older stories, where they don't conform to humanity's laws or versions of right and wrong. Once the different plot threads come together, we see that eerie inhumanity very clearly. There is limited character exploration in this novel because of the action sequences and the hunt for the Kin Killer and Sammi. The flashes we do get, like Angela thinking of her criminology background and how to use it to escape detection, is interesting. I almost wish we get more of that, but it could be a function of not having read the first book.

The final half of the book flows quickly and was really hard to put down. The action is intense, with the high stakes necessary to really amp up the drama. At the very conclusion, there is an edge of creepiness that remains, and could very well lead to another novel if this is a series. It's still an ending that neatly wraps up the current story, but I can't help but wonder about what will happen to the characters in the long run and I really want to know what happens next.

Buy The Folded Land at Amazon

Read an excerpt:

There were three men running toward him. He stood his ground as they dashed past, and ignored their panicked, shouted warnings, swapping a glance with one of them. There was sheer horror in the man’s eyes.
Gregor smiled. He’d come to the right place.
He walked on toward the source of their terror. It was a direction he was used to taking. When there was fear amongst people, that was where he often found what he was searching for. Sometimes those frightened people thought of him as a kind of savior, that he had come to rescue them from things with teeth and claws, and faces unlike their own. He did nothing to disabuse them of the notion.
They ran, he arrived, and the monsters went away.
Gregor had been watching the illegal logging camp for seventeen days, hiding out in the jungle, circling by day and hunkering down at night. He grabbed ten minutes of sleep here and there, but most of the time forced himself to remain awake. He’d been watching for signs, and didn’t want to miss anything.
The settlement was large. During the day it often took him ten hours to complete a full circuit of the rough camp and the logging operations that spread out from its heart. Down ravines, up steep hills, always alert for movement and careful not to be seen, he enjoyed the physical challenge. He liked pushing himself. The pain was cathartic. Nothing good came to those who did not strive.
The Amazon jungle was sweltering. Even the regular afternoon downpour was warm, but at least the water swilled a little of the stale sweat and dirt from his clothes, and he caught some in his hat to drink. He ate acai and figs from hanging branches, and sometimes he plucked grubs and spiders from damp, dark places in the bark of giant trees. The loggers would be destroying their habitats soon enough. At least he was putting their succulent, crunchy bodies to good use.
With his time here almost over, he felt a flush of satisfaction. It had been wise to wait and watch. The landscape felt right, the surroundings and location perfect, his information had been correct. He’d known that given time the loggers would uncover what he sought.
In the distance he heard mewling in the naked sunlight.
Gregor broke into a jog. In any normal jungle, moving at such speed would have been impossible, but this place was dying. He vaulted felled trees, climbed onto pale fleshy stumps, leapt off and kicked through thigh-high piles of chopped branches and lank vines. Skirting around a massive stack of stripped trunks, he almost ran into two more men who were running away. One of them skidded to a stop and grabbed Gregor’s arms, opening his mouth to shout a warning, snot running from his nose, sweat washing dirt and sawdust into his wide, terrified eyes.
The man saw something in Gregor’s expression that gave him pause, and the warning remained unvoiced. Pushing away,  Gregor ran on, turning his head slightly from side to side, sniffing the air.
A machine idled nearby, sitting at the end of a trail of deep ruts in the jungle floor. Its caterpillar tracks had churned harsh wounds into the ground. Its heavy clasping claws held a tree horizontally, ready to drag it through a macerator that would chew off limbs, bark, and thick side branches, processing it for future use. It was a mechanical version of Gregor himself, albeit larger and far clumsier.
Gregor grinned at this comparison. It pleased him, and he laughed as he ran past.
A flock of birds took flight, startled by the sound.
He stopped at the edge of a large hole. It had once been home to the roots of a massive tree, now tumbled ready to be chopped. The upended root ball formed a tall wall to his left, and crawling blind things still scampered for shelter.
In the hole, the pale thing also tried to crawl back into dank shadows. Tropical sunlight hit its slick skin. Steam rose from its body. It looked up at Gregor. Perhaps it smiled, or grimaced, and the faint whisper might have been an attempted growl to see him away.
Gregor jumped into the hole and landed several feet away from the naked beast. It was the size of a small child, thin and weak-looking, despite its long limbs that seemed to flex and curl around it. It pulsed and moved as if unused to such exposure.
“You’re not afraid of me,” the creature said, the words sounding unfamiliar in its mouth. It must have been a long time since it had felt the need to speak.
“Should I be?” Gregor asked. He pulled a long curved knife from a sheath on his belt. It was razor sharp on its outer edge, the inner blade serrated for sawing through bone. Though well-used, it was still keen and clean. Gregor knew how to look after the tools of his trade.
The creature hissed, but the sound turned into a low, pained sigh.
“Poor leshy,” Gregor said, kneeling in the mud. “How long have you lain here?”
“Too long to remember,” the leshy said, eyeing the blade. It was a tree spirit of this jungle, and it had used the living weight of this giant kapok tree to hide itself away. It might have been there for five hundred years.
Gregor reached out, not with the knife but with his free hand. He touched the creature’s slick brow and whispered words of comfort. Its heavy eyes drifted shut and it purred, twisting itself against his hand.
“Please don’t hurt me,” it said, and although its language was one that no human should know, Gregor understood.
“Tell me where you came from,” Gregor said.
“I’ve been here for…”
“Not here. Before here.”
The leshy opened its eyes again, onto a whole new world. Gregor saw a shred of understanding there now. He would have to be careful. This creature was weak, pitiful, but appearances could be deceptive.
“North,” the leshy said. “There were too many of us there. I came here to be on my own.”
“So sad,” Gregor said.
“Have you come to save me?”
“Yes,” Gregor said. “Yes, I have.”
The leshy blinked and its limbs curled in on themselves.
Gregor lashed out with his knife and sliced the creature’s throat. Its eyes snapped wide. He saw its surprise, but behind the surprise there was something else. Perhaps it was relief.
He cut again, reversing the knife and pressing down, sawing until the leshy’s head parted from its body. Above and around him a heavy sigh passed through the canopies of those trees that were still standing, but Gregor did not let such a thing distract him from his task.
He dug in deep and cut out the dying creature’s heart. As he held it up, sunlight touching where it never should caused the dripping organ to shrivel and cauterize.
A nearby tree began to shed its heavy leaves. Further away, several other trees collapsed with a grief-stricken roar.
“You’re saved,” Gregor said. He pocketed the heart, climbed from the hole, and started walking north.
Half an hour later he came across two of the men he’d seen fleeing. They were huddled in the cab of a truck, doors and windows closed despite the humidity and heat of the midday sun. They were smoking, their frightened faces hazy behind a miasma of fumes.
As Gregor passed by, one of them wound down his window, just a few inches.
“It’s gone?” he asked.
“Gone.” Gregor did not stop walking.
“What was it?” the man called after him.
“Amazing,” Gregor said, and he walked on, looking forward to leaving that awful fucking place.

Born and raised in New York City, M.K. French started writing stories when very young, dreaming of different worlds and places to visit. She always had an interest in folklore, fairy tales, and the macabre, which has definitely influenced her work. She currently lives in the Midwest with her husband, three young children, and golden retriever.

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