In Rare Breeds, we meet Aurel and Zora, a married couple living in Kent in the south of England. They live with daughter, Livie, Zora’s child from a previous relationship. Like most couples, they have their own idiosyncrasies and interests, but they get along well. Livie is a moody teenager, Zora obsesses over health and fitness, and Aurel has a problem with sleepwalking. As we join their story, the sleepwalking is developing into more of an issue.
In this book we have a small number of characters and we get to know them enough to care. The most noteworthy and complex of the characters is Aurel, who has a very dark secret. As the story progresses and his secret slowly unravels, it leads Zora to search for answers and to uncover Aurel’s past. It asks the question – how well do you really know your spouse and their life before you met them? There is one point where Zora visits an insular British island community to track down Aurel’s mother, and I’ve always found those closed communities so creepy.
The fantastical and cosmic elements of the story add to what can ultimately be considered a twisted horror love story. In addition, the other major themes I felt were family and obsession. The story is interesting, and the twists are completely unexpected – as in mouth hanging open, what just happened? shock. This is a dark and gripping tale, and scattered throughout the novella are some excellent bleak and brooding illustrations by Jack Larson that match the tone perfectly.
This is a short novella that’s captivating and delivers with a great ending. Due to the nature of the story, I’m intentionally going light on the plot and discussion as I don’t want to give away spoilers. The unexpected revelations we discover are rewarding and actually led me to read the book a second time, armed with the information I learned in the final chapters of the book. It gave me a completely new perspective and that was something I enjoyed doing. Rare Breeds features an introduction by the always excellent author and Hellraiser aficionado, Paul Kane. I look forward to reading what Erik Hofstatter comes up with next.
Reviewed by Andrew Tadman. @thebooksofblood.