Review: Halloween Jack & The Devil’s Gate by M. Todd Gallowglas (@MGallowglas)

(Note: I read HJ&TDG via the Amazon Prime KDP Select lending option. My reading device was a combination of Kindle for PC and Kindle for Android.)

To be up front, I read Halloween Jack because I am a huge fan of Gallowglas’ First Chosen, which incidentally was named one of my Top 5 Books of 2011. I am also what you might call ‘friendly’ with the author on Twitter, who’s a great guy and I always love to read his tweets.

Halloween Jack and the Devil’s Gate is, at its heart, a folk tale. It stirs up feelings of stories featuring other characters named Jack – like Jack & The Beanstalk, for example. This is a story of whimsy and hearkens back to an age of storytelling when history was a murky blur and legends ruled and had power.

In fact, the power of myth, story and legend is one of the central themes in HJ&tDG. The mythical figure Jack o’ the Lantern (who keeps the demons away from Earth, chasing them back into Hell after they are allowed to come out on Halloween) loses his power, and it’s up to his distant descendants to do something about it.

The characters are larger-than-life, as they are in any good folk tale. This tale of the triumph of human ingenuity over adversity is a rollicking good read from beginning to end. John and Moira are heroes you can really root for, and the supporting cast (including my favorite side character, the ogre named Mickey) lends great color to the story.

The story has a steampunk-esque feel to it – the Devil’s minions use something called Steam Soldiers as part of their world-conquering army, which seem to be Victorian-esque robots, though they are never described in great detail. There is a gas-lantern feeling about the whole story, which covers locations such as Boston, rural Ireland, London and even ranges all the way out to Texas. A folk tale with globe-trotting heroes is exactly what this story sets out to be, and it accomplishes that task with panache and daring.

I do have to deduct minor points for a few technical issues – namely, editing ones. More than once, there is a homonym confusion. The most prevalent one is “heals” to refer to the back of one’s feet – the correct word is, of course, “heels”. There was one other homonym confusion I noticed which I do not now remember.

On the more technical side, I only encountered one actual typo, and for a ~40,000 word work, that’s excellent.

One of the joys of indie publishing is that all of these things could easily be fixed with a quick edit and re-upload to the sites, and nothing is committed to a massive print run where these minor mistakes would be set upon parchment in indelible ink.

With that, I award the final score for Halloween Jack and the Devil’s Gate:

For a great and engaging folk-tale about the terrors of Halloween and the triumph of human ingenuity, marred only by a few minor editing mistakes, I award 4 1/2 stars.

Note: Because the story itself is fantastic and editing errors can be easily fixed, in places which do not allow half-star reviews, I will be awarding 5 stars.

Thanks once again to Mr. Gallowglas for a great story; I am eagerly awaiting the next installment in his Tears of Rage series!

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