All Al Shipway wanted that day was some cheap Chinese food. What he got was nightmare upon nightmare as he discovered the reality of magic from the wrong end.
Albert Shipway is just an ordinary guy, with a failed marriage, an alcohol problem, and a lackluster job under his belt. The last thing that he expects is a curse from an unknown woman and an attack from possessed mice, as well as various repercussions for poor life choices. As we find out more about his situation, it is difficult to decide whether he deserves pity or condemnation for being both selfish and clueless.
Cursed! is a relatively quick read, one without extraneous scenes. It stays focused on Al's quest to get his curse removed and to rescue an innocent child from the hands of a killer, in that order. Yes, he is a self-centered individual with an overactive libido, though the situation, along with some prodding from his companion, forces him to act otherwise. In terms of personality, the authors make sure that these salient traits remain consistent throughout the novel, even when he is pushed to act contrary to his own nature. His estranged wife's psychological changes and the factors that caused them are also fascinating. They prompted me to do some cursory digging into her condition, and from what I can tell, the shoe fits.
Some of the images created by the authors succeeded in making me shudder, specifically the ones involving mice or blood. Al's disgust and fear became my own, and I found myself anxiously reading through the scenes, hoping against hope that the repulsive sights would go away and everything would be fine. Childish? Perhaps, but it is a testament to the authors' ability to transport us into their world.
This story is told from Al's point of view, and to some extent, that warrants leniency in terms of grammar. The terse, half-formed sentences matched the poor man's voice quite well, as did a habit of confusing direct objects with pronouns. Even so, the repetitious monologuing got to me after a while. In the first chapter, nearly every paragraph contained the word "booze". Yes, Shipway is overly fixated on alcohol, but it felt redundant and dulled my interest in the story itself. His thoughts also seemed to a bit formulaic: he would wonder at the strangeness of something-or-other, then make a reference to his need for alcohol, his overuse of alcohol, or the possibility that said strange occurrence may be reason enough to cut back on his alcohol consumption. Al Shipway's character was established enough that it didn't need this sort of gimmick to solidify his status as an alcoholic: the number of drinks that he imbibed over the course of the novel renders his thoughts about needing the beverages moot.
While the plot is tight and cohesive, it felt too short. More interactions with various characters or an extension of several plot points would have given a richer experience. For instance, the final confrontation with the kidnapper was an adrenaline rush, but it felt as if it came too easily; the antagonist should have been more difficult to find. The lack of screen time for the golem was also dissatisfying. The concept held a great deal of potential, yet it was underutilized.
Cursed! is a short, straightforward novel with interesting characters and intriguing ideas about dark magic and psychology. While I would have appreciated a bit more development, the conciseness may appeal to those who want a fast-paced, thrilling story that gets to the point.
(Review copy provided by the author)