Phrases like “sick galaxies of staring, slitted orbs” and “trails of poison paint” evoke the lush-yet-terrifying quality I associate with H.P. Lovecraft’s mythos. So it’s fitting, then, that these phrases are found in Max Gladstone’s Lovecraftian tale of a painter, his model and the twisted things his twisted paintings produce.
Gladstone’s masterful prose gives the story much of its impact. His style evokes Lovecraft’s without cleaving too closely to it, resulting in a story that feels both thoroughly Lovecraftian and yet also thoroughly modern in its presentation.
It’s a simple premise on the surface, yet Gladstone mines it for every ounce of tension, every dram of cosmic horror he can eke from it. The reader knows from the very beginning that something is off, and we discover the source of that strangeness with a slow build that’s always suspenseful and never boring. The climax itself will raise the hairs on your neck, but Gladstone never gives away too much of the monster, preserving the sense of mystery.
A worthy addition to the genre.