Even with the obvious notion that Master of the Moors is heavily influenced by classic gothic horror, Kealan Patrick Burke possesses a remarkable gift in maintaining a refreshing read without ever letting his novel feel ‘dated’. Burke’s use of visuals and keen eye to detail translates perfectly onto each page, constituting an innovating experience allowing readers to visualize, in great detail, the atmosphere, dialogue, characters, and terrifying sequences that make Master of the Moors an excellent choice for a read. Burke’s attention to detail sprinkled throughout the pages is definitely put to use as an immersive tool, and one that kept me engaged the entire time. Describing the moors in the opening sequence immediately placed me in the midst of fog shrouded by darkness. Yes, I was already freaked out.
Master of the Moors, published in 2008, takes place sometime around the 1800’s within the moors of Dartmoor by Brent Prior (village). A tragic occurrence unfolds in one particular foggy night as the search for a woman in the moors turns deadly when the rescuing party falls victim to an unseen, sinister force amidst the unforgiving darkness that consumes them. Years later, we find Brent Prior as a village plagued with loss as its’ inhabitants are resigned to a constant feeling of impending doom. The haunting visuals effectively reels the reader into the pages of Burke’s evocative writing; materializing each word in building the atmosphere and tension of Master of the Moors.
In Brent Prior, we find aging groundskeeper, Grady, responsible for tending to the manor of his employer, Mansfield, who’s currently in a catatonic state since the fateful night in the moors years prior. Mansfield’s children, Kate and her blind younger brother Neil, tend to be the subject of ridicule, mainly due to Neil’s loss of sight. As tensions build amongst the townsfolk, the arrival of a stranger (donning frayed bandages) wielding a disfigured semblance initiates a series of disappearances, as well as a mysterious fog that shrouds Brent Prior. The town is under siege by a force none can explain. Yet as the townsfolk find comfort within the confines of Brent Prior, away from the dangers of the moors, it is the mysterious fog that brings the threat of the moors to their doorstep.
Burke unleashes the forces of revenge, passion, love, and terror in a character driven narrative that often led me to blurring the lines of good and evil throughout my read. Each character arc was far from predictable, and often times offered a fair share of surprises that had me put the book down to gather my thoughts. Perhaps this was attributed to how ‘real’ these characters felt, making them so much more flawed and unpredictable. Yet I found myself revisiting several sections of the book and found little clues regarding each character that really put things into perspective; such as one’s intrinsic qualities could be the instrument of their own demise.
As an American, I found the dialect to be a nice departure from the more recognizable Americanized expressions I am acquainted with. Burke has a knack for keeping dialogue natural; not once do I ever feel discourse is out of place in any of his work.
Master of the Moors presents a terrifying novel about how the repercussions of love, loss, and revenge can reveal the wickedness in our hearts. What I found most intriguing was the malice not only lies within the moors, but inside Brent Prior itself. Kealan Patrick Burke has an impressive, as well as versatile, body of work that I always enjoy reading. Master of the Moors is a highly recommend read and a great start for those who’ve never ventured into Burke’s world. About three years ago I reviewed a novella by Burke titled, Sour Candy, that I’ll give a notable mention to. It’s that good. Thanks for reading!