While the 2020 train wreck continues moving along in spectacular fashion, the bright spots are becoming more and more important to point out. Just because everything seems to be going directly to Hell doesn’t mean we shouldn’t latch on to the things we enjoy and love, right?

Author S.A. Hunt’s Malus Domestica series, which launched earlier this year (in the before times) with the release of Burn the Dark may just be one of those bright spots. Their debut was a swift, action-packed opening salvo that introduced readers to a new take on witchy tales, one that owes as much to Stephen King as it does Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

And now we’ve got book two in what’s quickly becoming one of the more fun series I’ve read in a while, I COME WITH KNIVES. Continuing immediately where Burn the Dark left off, I COME WITH KNIVES is another fast-paced amalgam of horror and fantasy that takes us deeper into the world of celebrated YouTube star and witch hunter Robin Martine.

Following the climactic cliffhanger that ended Burn the Dark, Robin and her newly assembled crew of old and new friends turn their sights directly on the Lazenbury coven, one of the oldest and most powerful covens in the country, if not the world. With her cover blown and the coven fully aware of her plans to end them, Robin prepares for the most epic showdown of her witch-hunting career, if her family’s secrets don’t derail her first.

As a novelist, Hunt’s real talent lies in their plotting. As with Burn the Dark, I COME WITH KNIVES is an action-packed thrill to see unfold, even if both novels suffer somewhat from “first-time author syndrome.” Any problems I had with the book – such as Hunt’s occasionally over-reliance upon modern pop-cultural touchstones in their allusions – were easy to overlook in the face of the fantastic, page-turning story they’ve weaved.

Hunt’s world is one not unlike our own, where the right bit of ingenuity and marketing can make anyone an internet celebrity. In Robin Martine, we’re allowed access to a bonafide YouTube influencer, one whose video recording witch killings are watched by millions of viewers around the globe, all of whom believe she’s simply an above-average amateur horror film director recording thematically related short films for her fans.

There’s something kind of fascinating about this conceit. This is a world where magic and evil are real, though it’s mostly unknown by the masses. Situated as such, we can’t help but wonder about the role of willful ignorance in the larger world of the Malus Domestica series. How many of us would deny the existence of Satanic powers growing stronger before our eyes? Just look at how many live in denial of all that’s going wrong today.

It’s an interesting tidbit that more closely aligns the fictional world of Malus Domestica with the real world we inhabit. Hunt does a remarkable job at making real the fantastic elements of their world and bringing them to life in a believable way. Couple that with their mastery of tense, high octane moments of ultra-violence and demonic terror, and I COME WITH KNIVES is a satisfying second chapter in this planned trilogy.

Like its predecessor, it’s chock full of pulpy horror fun that oozes with thrills and terror and moments of comic book badassery. It might not be high literature, but Hunt knows their lane and stays perfectly within the marks to make for a captivating read. Do be warned, though, it might be best if you read I COME WITH KNIVES immediately following Burn the Dark. The latest novel assumes you remember more or less exactly where all the game pieces remained at the end of the first novel, and Hunt does little to remind you who everyone is and their relationships with each other.

In the end, though, I COME WITH KNIVES is as satisfying a part two as you could ask for and sets a mean stage for the third and final chapter, coming from Tor this September, that might leave Malus Domestica among the brighter spots horror fans can find amongst the slowly unfolding hell of 2020.

I COME WITH KNIVES is now available and can be ordered here.

 

Book Reviews

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