Review: INK by Damien Walters Grintalis
"...The stink of rot and ruin, of old dreams, broken screams and wicked, dirty little things."
Tattoos are ubiquitous in today's culture, a bit of socially acceptable rebellion, harmless markers of time or youth or self-expression. Jason's wife has walked out on him for her best friend. Their stifling marriage is over and it's time to start his life again. What better way to mark the occasion than a little ink?
Damien Walters Grintalis tosses Jason and the reader into a classic horror tale of monsters and possession, twisting familiar motifs into a taut and vibrant narrative. In one of the most intriguing opening chapters I've read, Grintalis introduces the fantastic Sailor, a villain worthy of any great horror epic.
"...smiled a terrible smile. He was ash and cinder, pain and sorrow, and he was always clever."
Sailor is one of the best depictions of an antagonist I've seen, a classical character given fresh breath and a song of his own. (A memorable villain is rare and I, for one, would love another novel full of Sailor's devilry*.) Rarely have I been so enthusiastic for a main character's adversary. One does not root for Sailor, but relishes his every appearance on the page. Grintalis is a vivid writer, her narrative made up of exact but graceful prose, painting her universe for the reader, playing with expectations and saturating her work with clear affection for her characters. Sailor is a joyous representation of evil and Jason's foolish stumbles into his hands and desperate attempts to deny the truth are as entertaining as they are anxiety-inducing. As Jason fights to keep his grip on sanity and Sailor's will takes hold in his life, as he struggles to keep up a front of normality to the world and his family, Jason's paranoia infects the reader, building to a climax that would be cartoonish in other hands.
One of Grintalis' great gifts is making the unbelievable, not only believable, but making it live and breathe. Her monsters are not cartoons, her demons are not dispelled with the light of day—all of her creations are real. Her love of horror fiction is obvious (I found myself reminded of Peter Straub), but her craft and imagination raises Ink beyond the deluge of lesser works in the genre. I love her short fiction, but Ink proves Grintalis can handle the novel length with ease. No doubt we have much to anticipate in this writer's career and I highly recommend Ink for anyone with a fondness for horror.
*hint-hint Ms. Grintalis