There seems to be something about monster books that really fascinates and intrigues readers of all ages. Children have the books where monsters are friendly such as Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are and Jon Stone’s The Monster at the End of this Book. Young adults have the books with monster romances such as Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Series or Annette Curtis Klause’s Blood and Chocolate. Then there are the classic monster tales normally read by adults such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Whatever the generation of readers and for whatever reason why these stories are so popular, monster tales continue to be published. Some are good, others are a bit far out there, and then there are those that could have been great if just a little more time was put into them. One such story is William Massa’s Gargoyle Knight.
A battle was waged between two brothers in early Ireland. The oldest, Cael, was denied the crown of his father which was given to his younger brother, Artan. In his rage, Cael used dark magic to bring to life creatures known as gargoyles. To battle on even grounds with his brother’s army, Artan had to do the unthinkable: become a gargoyle himself. Centuries pass and, in modern day New York, a young archeology student discovers, in the most unfortunate way possible, that a battle she believed to be history has turned into an all too real war. The war has been brought to New York and could mean the end of life as everyone knows it.
Gripping? Yes. Unique? For the most part. Predictable? Incredibly. Massa is a talented writer and he has quite a few horror books under his belt, but Gargoyle Knight read a lot like a Gargoyles fan fiction. Its main downfall is its length: it is too short and should have been longer. In all honesty, it could have been longer, to the point where it could have at least been a trilogy. To add more information on the legend of Artan and Cael and the gargoyle apocalypse would have been very fascinating to read about. Massa could have had the first book be an introduction to the plot, the second book be about the legend of the gargoyle war as well as character development, and have the final book be an all-out war. Of course, this trilogy set up is incredibly predictable, but it really does work if it is executed correctly.
Certain aspects of the story could have been tinkered with. Massa’s infatuation with blood could have been dimmed down. With any paragraph that involved fighting, there were always references to blood: how someone bled, how something red on the battlefield resembled the color of blood, the color of the person’s blood, where the blood was located, where the blood spilled out from, etc. It became a bit repetitive as the story progressed. Sure, this is a story about monsters, but one does not need this much blood to make it interesting. Not even Dracula had this much blood.
The character development was very flat and could have definitely been tampered with. Why not make Artan a more likeable character rather than having him be just the same, grudge holding younger brother throughout nearly the entire story? Why not make Rhianna a power woman rather than make her think she is, but end up being the damsel in distress nearly every chance she gets? Why not show more of Cael’s anger and pain of not being chosen for the crown? And one major thing to watch out for is consistency. It is mentioned that Artan was only a gargoyle for a few hours before he was turned to stone. Then, when he comes back to life, he mentions how it is painful to transform into a gargoyle, but it is less painful when he transforms back into a human. How would he know this? He had never changed back into a human before. These are small inconsistencies, but a writer does need to be careful with these.
Even though it was predictable, the story itself was actually good. The legend of the fight between Cael and Artan was fun and, somewhat, unique. The use of sound effects such as WHOOSH and SMASH were a lot of fun to read. Massa has a very nice writing style that allows the story to flow, no matter how cliché it may seem (a reader can easily read through Gargoyle Knight in one day). And, though it would have been nice to see more of it, the relationship between Rhianna and Artan was believable and refreshing. It wasn’t a, “Oh, you’re mysterious, you look stoned most of the time (no pun intended for this story), and you saved my life once, so I am instantly in love with you. Hey, you’re a monster? I don’t care, I still love you,” kind of relationship. *cough* Twilight *cough*.
Gargoyle Knight is too short for its own good and is a good one time read for anyone who is looking for short, fun, mindless, monster entertainment. It needed a bit more care before it was published and it should have been longer, for it had so much great potential to be a larger series. If Massa has an idea like this, he should definitely write it down, but he really needs to think about the best way to execute the story before he puts it down on paper.