Southern Rose Productions
Trade paperback $10.00
Reviewed by Nickolas Cook
Beasts is a werewolf story that explores the parallels that exist betwixt animal nature and our human capacity for animalistic brutality. But don’t be worried that this is a clichéd take on the old hairy tales. Riley has a telling dedication at the beginning of her story that sums up her agenda nicely.
“To The Survivors of the true beasts, in all their many guises”
And as the brutality is made all too real, one can feel the author’s empathy and compassion ring true for her characters.
Diana, the perfect name for our unwilling young lycanthrope, is in an abusive relationship that quickly turns to attempted homicide, as her husband tries to first kill her than her infant child. During this tumultuousness, she begins to have dreams of her own bestiality- a core of violence that, compared to her husband’s insane rages, seems instinctual and natural. On the run, she finds herself with Katie, the old woman who helped raise her, who knows the secret of her true birthright and eventually helps peel back the suppressed memories of her infancy, to reveal Diana’s innate inner power.
Beasts, presented in chapbook format, rises a step above the competition. Southern Rose Productions comes across with some original artwork and other artistic material created especially for Riley’s work, including a full color cover. There’s an insightful and apropos introduction by genre legend Robert Dunbar, who does an admirable job of picking out the relevant classical literature elements that Riley uses to spice up her prose, adding a sense of iconography to her characters. Given her knowledge of said classics, Riley makes Beasts feel as if it might have easily been included in some ancient tome of Greek folklore. Certainly Ovid would have found much to recommend this story, for it is a story of empowerment – sexual and otherwise – of change, both physical and emotional. Our villain, the deadly husband certainly fits the mindless rage filled half human creatures that people such legends.
This reviewer is eager to see more from Riley and hopes she has a novel in the works, a length that will allow her to possibly explore similar themes and characters.