“Merfolk” by Jeremy Bates

Merfolk (World’s Scariest Legends)

Jeremy Bates
Ghillinnein Books (2021)
ISBN 9781988091570
Reviewed by Tammy Ruggles for Reader Views (01/2022)

“Merfolk (World’s Scariest Legends)” is a chilling novel that might make the head of the master of horror, Stephen King, do a three-sixty. Part of the World’s Scariest Legends series, Bates takes you for a ride on the rails of horror where the tables turn on a marine biologist looking for a mythical creature. The suspense builds at a perfect pace, and the scares are unleashed in just the right amounts, at just the right times. This novel combines all the elements you crave in a satisfying horror novel: a solid plot, interesting characters, and a mysterious entity that scares you to death.

The word “merfolk” may sound, well…folksy, but don’t let that fool you. Bates is skilled at unearthing classic monsters from their tombs. And if Jaws scared you the first time around, you have an idea of what you’re in for with Bates and his “merfolk.” Things that lurk in the sea always spark the imagination and curiosity. Maybe it’s a killer whale, an octopus, angry piranha, or…something even more mysterious and legendary.

I personally liked a litany of things where this book was concerned. Spotlighting a few, I must say that I loved the ordinary characters who are minding their own business as a fisherman, an oceanographer, and a shark scientist, but soon find themselves sorting out a mystery that goes far beyond logical explanation. And just when you think things are explained, a new mystery emerges. The fear and dread are palpable. Tension mounts. Bates delivers the goods. You will relish the conflict, dynamic characters, and memorable dialogue. The struggle to survive is all too real, and you wonder how you would fare in such circumstances. (While praying you never have to find out.)

One thing I like about Bates’ style is his multi-layered approach to horror; you witness mild mystery that builds to gradual suspense that explodes into blatant horror and then ends in solid, graphic gore—and he uses each step on the ladder strategically. I like the dilemmas the characters find themselves in, as well as the underwater quest. Bates’ detailed descriptions and explanations add realism to the deep-sea aspect, the story arcs and character arcs are satisfying, and the ending is one I guarantee you won’t see coming. The only suggestion I have is that I would’ve loved to have read more about the indigenous tribe that was introduced. (Of course, that might be in another book just waiting to be released. Fingers crossed.)

This novel will appeal to horror fans who like full-on gore and explicit scenes, so be mindful of triggers if you’re going to read it. Overall, Bates has created solid entertainment with “Merfolk”—a book that has the power to make you trade your days at the beach for a nice, safe waterpark.

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