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The Qwillery

A blog about books and other things speculative

Retro Reviews: Kill the Dead by Tanith Lee

Retro Reviews: Kill the Dead by Tanith Lee

Kill the Dead
Author:  Tanith Lee
Original Publisher and Date:  DAW September 2, 1980
Still in Print:  No
Formats and Length:  Trade Paperback and Mass Market Paperback
Availability:  Yes - Used.
ISBN:  9780879975623

Retro Reviews: Kill the Dead by Tanith Lee
Brief History 

Tanith Lee (19 September 1947 – 24 May 2015) lived in England. Her parents were both dancers and they moved around a lot. She dropped out of college and held several different jobs. In 1971, she published her first novel The Dragon Hoard. By 1975, she was able to write full time. In 1980, she was the first woman to win the British Fantasy Award for the novel Death's Master. She wrote 90 novels and 300 short stories.


Out of the dusk he comes striding, the stranger, the man in black, inevitable as death itself: Parl Dro—Ghost Slayer.

Some have bought his services for gold, and some have blessed him for his work. But not everyone welcomes an exorcist who will remorselessly deprive them of their beloved dead.

Dro began his vocation at an early age. And now he will not be turned aside, no matter how you may threaten, curse or weep. He is seeking too the greatest stronghold of the deadalive: Ghyste Mortua, the ghost town in the mountains, and he means to destroy it.

If he will face that, what use the pleas of the desperate sisters, Cilny and Ciddey, what use the rage of Myal, with his genius for music and his imperfect talent for crime?

Only one thing, it seems, motivates Parl Dro.

His determination to kill the dead.

"Tanith Lee is one of the most powerful and intelligent writers in fantasy." —Publishers Weekly

"With Lee… expect the unexpected." —Starburst

Brannigan's Review

While browsing my local used bookstore I came across this beauty. I saw the title and immediately fell in love with it. Once I pulled it off the shelf and saw the cover I knew this would be a good book. It just screams classy retro, the double necked guitar at the feet of a man who could be a hero or late seventies rock star. The ghosts on the cover were amazing, a skeleton without a head, a naked lady ghost and the goblin ghost that appears to have a real brain floating in his ghost skull. The triple threat was the awesome back cover description.

Kill the Dead is so much more than I expected. I was thinking it would be a Conan-esq character but fighting ghosts with maybe some cheesy horror or fantasy cliches. Instead, it was the perfect blend of fantasy and horror. When I think of Gothic, this is what comes to mind. It was very much a mood read. Each sentence seemed to be written to evoke foreboding doom. I loved every minute of it.

Parl Dro is the dark mysterious hero hunting and destroying ghosts. He's a man on a mission to find and destroy Ghyste Mortua, an entire town of ghosts. Along the way, he discovers a small village with a decrepit home with two sisters in it. However, one sister is a ghost. Parl does what a ghost killer does, which causes the other sister to vow revenge on Parl. At the same time, a minstrel down on his luck crosses paths with both the vengeful sister and Parl. The three of them find themselves at odds throughout most of the book.

Tanith Lee does an amazing job of introducing each of the characters and slowly but steadily unveiling their backstory as well as their true motivations. The care and timing of the character reveals is something I feel we are missing in today's stories. Things seem to move much faster now, which isn't a good or bad thing, but I do enjoy a slow build up when done right and Lee does it right. Each of the characters add to the mood of unease, as none of them are truly good or evil. They each have multiple layers to them, which ache with reality. It adds to the tone of the overall story, this sense of something being slightly off.

Lee's world blends well with the characters and mood of the tale. It's worn out and in ruin. I don't think there’s anything new or shiny in this world. It has a dull tone and color palette. Even the ivory white bones inlaid in Myal's double necked guitar are stained yellow with time. With all of this ugliness Lee is still able to bring a lot of beauty to the book with her lyrical prose.

Kill the Dead is a haunting fantasy that, once finished, demands to be reread. The ending will leave you surprised and rewarded. I want to reread it just to see if I can find any clues Lee might have left out in the open for me. The pacing is slower than most modern stories, but I would ask you to embrace it and allow it to take you on this journey. There is minor violence, language and implied sexual situations. I would recommend it to teens and adults. I'd recommend you add this book to your personal library.

My Favorite Line:

“'Lend me your knife,' Myal said slowly. 'I can kill you with it. It won't take a minute. I'll clean it after.'” page 55

End of Year Giveaway 1 - Sandman Slim Novels by Richard Kadrey - December 15, 2010

For the next 3 Wednesdays I'll be posting about some of my favorite books of 2010... and giving them away.

First up are the Sandman Slim novels by Richard Kadrey. The first novel, Sandman Slim, was published in Hardcover in July 2009 and as a Mass Market Paperback in April 2010, which was when I noticed it. The second Sandman Slim novel, Kill the Dead, was published in Hardcover in October 2010.

I really enjoyed reading both novels. They are dark and funny. James Stark, aka Sandman Slim, is not your typical hero by any stretch of the imagination. His motives are certainly not altruistic. He's hard-boiled, sarcastic, and violent. And yet, I root for him to come out on top. He calls it like he sees it, but remember his view is more than a bit twisted. These are wonderfully fun noir supernatural thrillers that poke fun at pop culture and just about everything else. Of all the characters I've read about this year, James Stark is the character that I'd most like to have a drink with.

Sandman Slim
End of Year Giveaway 1 - Sandman Slim Novels by Richard Kadrey - December 15, 2010Supernatural fantasy has a new antihero

Life sucks, and then you die. Or, if you're James Stark, you spend eleven years in Hell as a hitman before finally escaping, only to land back in the hell-on-earth that is Los Angeles.

Now Stark's back, and ready for revenge. And absolution, and maybe even love. But when his first stop saddles him with an abusive talking head, Stark discovers that the road to absolution and revenge is much longer than you'd expect, and both Heaven and Hell have their own ideas for his future.

Resurrection sucks. Saving the world is worse.

Darkly twisted, irreverent, and completely hilarious, Sandman Slim is the breakthrough novel by an acclaimed author.

Kill The Dead
End of Year Giveaway 1 - Sandman Slim Novels by Richard Kadrey - December 15, 2010
Supernatural fantasy's best antihero returns, in the high-octane follow-up to Richard Kadrey's acclaimed Sandman Slim

James Stark, a.k.a. Sandman Slim, crawled out of Hell, took bloody revenge for his girlfriend's murder, and saved the world along the way. After that, what do you do for an encore? You take a lousy job tracking down monsters for money. It's a depressing gig, but it pays for your beer and cigarettes. But in L.A., things can always get worse.

Like when Lucifer comes to town to supervise his movie biography and drafts Stark as his bodyguard. Sandman Slim has to swim with the human and inhuman sharks of L.A.'s underground power elite. That's before the murders start. And before he runs into the Czech porn star who isn't quite what she seems. Even before all those murdered people start coming back from the dead and join a zombie army that will change our world and Stark's forever.

Death bites. Life is worse. All things considered, Hell's not looking so bad.

The Giveaway


What:  One commenter will win a Mass Market Paperback copy of Sandman Slim and a Hardcover copy of Kill The Dead by Richard Kadrey.

How:  Leave a comment telling The Qwillery which character from a book you read in 2010 that you would like to have a drink with. The drink does not necessarily have to contain alcohol. If you don't answer the question, your entry will not be counted.

You may receive additional entries by:

1) Being a Follower of The Qwillery.

2) Mentioning the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter. Even if you mention the giveaway on both, you will get only one additional entry. You get only one additional entry even if you mention the giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter multiple times.

3) Mentioning the giveaway on your on blog or website. It must be your own blog or website; not a website that belongs to someone else or a site where giveaways, contests, etc. are posted.

There are a total of 4 entries you may receive: Comment (1 entry), Follower (+1 entry), Facebook and/or Twitter (+ 1 entry), and personal blog/website mention (+1 entry). This is subject to change again in the future for future giveaways.

Please leave links for Facebook, Twitter, or blog/website mentions. In addition please leave a way to contact you.

Who & When:  The contest is open to all humans on the planet earth with a mailing address. Contest ends at 11:59pm US Eastern Time on Wednesday, December 22, 2010. Void where prohibited by law.

*Giveaway rules are subject to change.*
Retro Reviews: Kill the Dead by Tanith LeeEnd of Year Giveaway 1 - Sandman Slim Novels by Richard Kadrey - December 15, 2010

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