Pale Hunter, a horror novella from C.J. Sellers is an unsuspecting gem of a story. What presents itself as a historically set piece of horror fiction is really so much more. Everything begins innocently enough in 1666 with Bernard and Clem, traders traveling New France, who come across two runaway boys. It is this chance encounter that will set off a sequence of events that no one, especially our beloved narrator Clem, can anticipate. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: I am a really hard sell when it comes to horror literature. I realize that doesn’t make a ton of sense, but the written word penetrates the mind in a way that film visual never can; for this girl, anyway. I try to begin every new experience with an open mind and heart, but I am human and I have prejudices. Namely, horror fiction usually tries too hard to be scary or gory or somehow over the top, or perhaps I always choose poorly when selecting a title. My point being, I began reading Pale Hunter without any expectations. Positive or negative. Imagine my surprise and delight when I read it in one sitting and was completely unaware of what was going on in my home while I read. Granted, it took me a minute to really get into the story but I think some of that has to do with the character names and backgrounds. We have Cree and Chipewyan’s, who are enemies, and we have characters named Five Tails, Long Summer, Wild Song and Sister. Kind of the same as Gryffindor becoming a normal word after a few chapters, it’s a bit awkward at first, but then you get into the rhythm. Just when all of this becomes normal vernacular, we are introduced to the story of the witiko. “Voracious now, the witiko/manitou ate evil thoughts and preyed on those who did the most cruel deeds, sometimes by possessing evil humans and stirring up discord.” As Clem and Bernard’s story collide with the tale of the witiko, we are taken on a unique horror tale that also touches on some very common, yet very impactful, commonly accepted familial and cultural standards. Quite frankly, it is the ever present undertone of accepting diversity that I really latched on to in this story. I really enjoyed the different cultural aspects and I found the horror to be just right; it suited the story and the characters quite nicely. This is the kind of story where a lack of gore adds to, rather than takes away from, the story. Sellers has included some comments on society and culture, but it is not done with a heavy hand. This is a tight, little horror story that also happens to touch on the everyday adversity that all of us face, but never think much of, because it has become our “normal”. Or, if you prefer something a little bit lighter, it can also simply be read as a story of what becomes of two travelers on their way back to New France in 1666 and how they navigate the various roadblocks, human and supernatural, that are put in their way.
Pale Hunter is available on Amazon