The Massacre at Yellow Hill by C.S. Humble

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I received this as an author request. It’s a pretty short book clocking in at only 188 pages, so this will be a shorter review.


Plot:

This book is set in Texas right after the civil war and Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, times are tough out in the west and people are scraping by trying to make ends meet. Yellow Hill is an oil/mining town that’s run by a genuine ass named Jeremiah Hart. He has the entire town on lockdown and threatens people who don’t see things his way or do as he says.

The opening scene is of a person who’s died in the mine from mysterious causes. The miners who witnessed what happened claimed they saw some kind of creature maul him, and that they shot at it but it got away. Jeremiah swears them to secrecy and forces them to take hammers to the body to make it look like he died in a cave in, and not some kind of predator.

The widow of the man who died is trying to make things work for her family, she’s broke, she has nothing left to sell, and she has nowhere to go. She pressures Jeremiah into letting her take her husbands’ place in the mine, it didn’t go over well at first but she eventually gets her way.

Her son and daughter are livid with her taking on this new job that just recently killed their father, there’s a lot of turmoil in the family but before the mother could take on the new job, more people are killed in the mine, including Jeremiah’s son.

In the next town over, there’s a freed slave and a young boy who are vampire hunters. They are tracking down leads about potential vampires in cities across the US, killing them, and sending back their fangs for money. Most people in the world don’t realize that there are vampires and great wolves and other monstrosities running amock in the west. People are easily suckered into being vampire thralls without realizing what’s going on, vampires can mess with your mind and put you in a trance-like state.

When the freed slave and the boy kill a vampire in the next town over they piss off a vampire knight, who comes to kill them because they killed his wife he’s had since the Roman Empire.

These two storylines come together about halfway through the book, and it makes for an interesting and bloody tale about vampires. No sparkles here, these vampires will rip peoples throats out so you can see the backbone.

Final Score: 11/15


Characters:

There are many different characters in this book, and there isn’t a clear main character, you follow around a bunch of different characters in equal parts.

Mrs Miller is the widow of the original murder in the mine, she’s a tough person who’s trying her best but doesn’t always know what to do. She’s bitter and she’s angry about basically everything. She was promised by her husband that things would get better when they moved out west because they’d score rich in an oil town, but they lived in poverty until he died, and things got worse from there. She’s bitter about how Jeremiah treated her husband, paying him pennies on the dollar just because he could. He even pro-rated her husbands last day of wages since he died halfway through the day.

Annie Miller is Mrs Millers daughter, she’s spunky and kind of difficult for her mother to deal with, she’s much more outspoken and angry about things than her brother is and she makes every conversation between her and her mother difficult. She’s also fairly independent and smart.

Ptolemy is the freed slave you meet about a third of the way through the book. He was owned by the young boy’s father until something happened to his father and he died. You don’t know what that is until the end though. He’s very smart, very calm, and very well spoken. He was taught how to read by the boy’s father because he enjoyed having poetry read to him. He’s very religious and finds good in all men because he considers all men to be in the image of God. He talks a lot about the bible and Satan and other Christian references throughout his portion of the book.

Carson is the boy Ptolemy travels with and is training how to hunt vampires. He seems to have a knack for it, they walk into a saloon looking for the vampire and Carson is able to pick her out right away since she was dancing for hours but had no sweat. He’s very attached to Ptolemy and considers him a father figure, calling him Pa. I think their relationship was my favorite thing about the book.

This was a very plot-driven book, since the POV’s jumped around so often, and since the book is so short, the characters were developed but I wouldn’t say they were the star of the show.

Final Score: 9/15


World Building:

Vampires in this world are the old school creepy vampires that are violent and malevolent. They can take on human form, but once they are injured and forced to reveal themselves they revert back to their true form – leathery skin, huge claws, and jaws that can unhinge like a snake.

There’s a lot of racism in this book as well, which, given this is just after the civil war isn’t surprising. Ptolemy has a lot of hardships he has to bare just to make it through each day. He’s not welcome in most establishments and has to pretend he’s a servant of the young boy and keep his distance while Carson does most of the talking.

It does appear as though the Christian religion is a reality in this book, with Satan and his monsters being real.

Old school “propriety” is in full effect, with women being oppressed and thought of as the dainty and weaker sex. One of the POV’s is a very old school kind of woman and believes that women should be demure, seen and not heard.

This is set out in the desert, it’s hot, it’s uncomfortable, and it’s hard to get by.

There’s mention of a Vampire King and I really wanted to see that, but maybe it will come in the next book.

There’s mention of a few secret orders of people, cults mostly, and I would have really liked to have seen more of that.

All in all, since this is a shorter book there’s not a lot of room for extensive world building if you want to have a decent plot – what was there I enjoyed.

Final Score: 11/15


Pacing:

This was a very fast paced book, there weren’t any meandering or ‘unnecessary’ parts to the story. The ending kind of caught me by surprise though, I wanted to learn more about the secret orders and the vampire king but it ended before that could really be addressed.

Final Score: 12/15


Writing:

The writing was clean and there was a lot of southern accents to it. That usually bothers me, but it really worked with the world building and time period. This wasn’t an overly descriptive book, it read very quickly, I went through the whole book in one sitting.

Final Score: 12/15


Originality:

I don’t see a whole lot of wild west kind of books in fantasy, I’ve seen them here and there but I think it’s an underrepresented subgenre as far as I can tell. I liked the fact that these weren’t sparkly sexy vampires, and more tear your face off kind of vampires. There were a lot of Christian over tones which I don’t see very often either.

Final Score: 12/15


Personal Enjoyment:

I liked this book, but I really wanted more from it. I don’t read shorter stories all that much, I don’t know if this would qualify as a novella or not – but I wanted to see more of the secret cults, more of the vampire world, just more of everything really. I felt like I got a little teased and then the book was over. So, I did really like the book, but I think I would have enjoyed it more if it had been a bit longer – which is a good thing, it means what was there was done well.

Final Score: 6.5/10


Audience:

  • For people who prefer plot driven over character driven
  • For people who like a lot of blood and violence and vampires
  • For people who are looking for a western
  • For people who like multi pov
  • For people who like shorter stories
  • For people who like Christian over tones
  • Not for people who don’t like cursing
  • Warning: contains racial slurs

Final Score: 73.5/100

 

 

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