Van, by Ramsay Elise

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Ramsay Elise for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

Always up for a good horror novel, I was drawn to this recently published piece, in hopes that Ramsay Elise could pique my attention. The premise seemed good and left me wanted to know a little more about her horror-filled tale with Norwegian undertones. When Alexander Gunderson settles in Minnesota, he has more than his luggage from Norway. Gunderson discovers a Dökkálfar, a dark elf from Norwegian lore in the woods behind his home. Rather than kill Gunderson, the Dökkálfar strikes a deal with him and takes over a van the retired car salesman owned. Anyone who owns a van of this nature is susceptible to becoming a vicious killer, controlled by the Dökkálfar. From a local serial killer in Minnesota to a killer who targeted Spring Break revellers in Florida, the Dökkálfar has been working hard to bring out bloodshed. However, the ultimate test will be Alexander’s great-grandson, Thomas, who must face off against the Dökkálfar and remove the pall enveloping the small Minnesota community. As Thomas returns to the town of his birth, he realises that much remains the same, with the Dökkálfar still lurking in the woods. To destroy the pact his great-grandfather made will be harder and more troubling than he could have imagined, but there is a sense of determination to see it through. An interesting tale that allows Elise to fan the flames on the Norse stories of old. While not entirely my type of book, there are surely some who will revel in its plot.

There is always a gamble when one discovers a new author, unsure how things will turn out and whether it will be worth the time spent reading. I have had many such moments in my reading career and today was another of them. I cannot take anything away from Ramsay Elise or the effort she put into this book, as I can see a gem in the premise and some of the plot developments. However, there is something lacking here, that would add much to the horror and terror, rather than simply serving as a tepid presentation of some past Norse elf with evil tendencies. I liked what was published as a skeletal outline for a larger and more complex piece, as it is sure to keep the reader on their toes, but Elise needs a great deal of time and effort to hash out what it add and how to bulk things up. The chapters flowed well and the three sections of the book proved useful (as did the Norse symbols to divide them), but I would be remiss to let this book stand as stellar or ready to dazzle the general public. More work and assistance would surely help Ramsay Elise rise to the top of her genre.

Kudos, Madam Elise, for a good effort. I’d read a more bulked up piece, should you have one down the road.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: