Book Review: Brian Niskala’s “Rhinehoth”

Reviewed by Tony Harrington

Last month I wrote a review for F. Paul Wilson’s “The Keep”, a novel that tells the story of a massive structure built centuries ago and an evil vampiric entity that lurks within the walls and a hero destined to stop that evil from escaping and infesting the world.

This month’s review also deals with a stronghold in the mountains that contains a myriad of creatures within the walls including vampires and werewolves and a battle that takes place between supernatural forces and one man destined to save the day.

Brian Niskala’s novel “Rhinehoth” has the makings of something truly epic and the first chapters are written with an adept hand and describes in laborious detail the high stone walls of the prison dripping with condensation, the rustle of metal bindings and the smell of burning torches that light the walkways of the prison.

The publisher’s extensive blurb explains the basic premise of the tale:

Centuries ago a great castle was built in the mountains of Germany’s Black Forest. Its ancient guardians still thrive in its walls forever protecting its dark secrets, holding captive an enemy that threatens their very existence. Foretold is a story of an ancient warrior that is to return to the castle to free the captive Vampire Prince.

Simon Roberts was a petty thief who fled England to escape Scotland Yard after a series of unsuccessful jewelry store heists. He was recruited to do a job in Germany where he was to simply drive the getaway car while providing a look out. He thought this was going to be an easy job and a way to break into the German crime scene. But things go terribly wrong and he ended up being the only survivor of the botched heist. Simon is quickly sentenced to a prison called Rhinehoth. This is where Germany sent the worst of the worst, surely not a place for a petty thief such as himself.

Rhinehoth is a great German castle that was converted in the late 1930’s to a Stalag for war criminals of World War II. The converted prison’s modern day inhabitants are relentlessly tortured, starved and sleep deprived. This contributes to the prisoners’ delusional visions that help hide the truth and keeps Rhinehoth’s secrets. Their captors are the army of Werewolves who have survived the centuries off the very flesh and blood of Germany’s worst forgotten criminals.

Simon, imprisoned becomes plagued with visions from his subconscious ancient past with confusion of his modern-day consciousness. He discovers through his visions that he is the ancient warrior, Guthrie who has come to free the Vampire Prince and all the captives while saving the world from a dark plan of biblical proportions that has been orchestrated over the centuries.

For the most part Niskala succeeds at crafting the tale promised within the write-up. I have to say that the story is actually well constructed and the mythology established within the novel is intense and richly layered. Where the novel falls apart is in the actual writing. The novel clocks in at just under 1,000 pages, an epic tome by Stephen King standards and one that I was not ready to take to task mentally. This may not be the fault of the author, more of an issue with ADD on my part. I found my attention drifting at the halfway point as one character melded with another as one plot closed and another opened.

“Rhinehoth” is a novel that twists and turns and spans ages and sometimes it feels like it is happening in real-time.

Underneath the labyrinthine narrative though there is a great story that is written with painstaking descriptions, passion for storytelling, and when all is said and done, it entertains. I think a lot of my dissatisfaction with the novel stems from it taking place in the world of vampires and werewolves, a sub-genre of the supernatural field that is not my favorite. But if you are a fan lycanthropes and blood suckers then you should dig your claws into “Rhinehoth”.

You can purchase Rhinehoth by clicking here

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