Review: The River of Souls

Posted: April 18, 2014 by in Books We Love (5/5 single_star) Meta: Robert McCammon, Horror, Subterranean Press

I’ve been waiting for this book for two years. You see, once you read a novel by Robert McCammon, you want the next one. Then the next. And the next. McCammon’s writing has an intoxicating nature about it, and since the day I first read his work, I’ve wanted to read every single word he writes. Thankfully, Subterranean Press was kind enough to send me a review copy of McCammon’s THE RIVER OF SOULS (Amazon).

It’s been two years since I read THE PROVIDENCE RIDER (EBR Review). Two years since I last read a Matthew Corbett story. But for Matthew Corbett, it’s only been a few weeks since his time on that island. This is when THE RIVER OF SOULS picks up. Corbett is still trying to recover, and then he is asked to do something relatively simple: escort a young lady to a ball in Charles Town.

Seems simple, right? But if you’ve ever read a McCammon novel, then you know that things are going to go sideways for Corbett, and it will probably all happen quickly. In the case of THE RIVER OF SOULS, the trouble starts right away on page one.

This novel was an interesting one for me to read, and I admit to having reservations. Mostly, this is because the novel is fairly short at around 250 pages. I have to ask myself why I even bother having doubts about McCammon. Has he ever let me down? Nope. Never. And this novel was no different. It wasn’t perfect, but it accomplishes what it needs to accomplish, and it is as long as it needs to be.

I look at this novel as setup. Amazing setup, but setup nonetheless. This is McCammon getting Corbett in place for the REALLY crazy situations. The story itself isn’t anything complex; after the events escorting the young lady (no spoilers here!) were are thrown directly into a manhunt. No wasted breath. No needless time spent describing foliage. We go from one event to the next with hardly a heartbeat of rest. This is the pace the novel follows until the very end.

The thing I admire about McCammon, and what he does so well in this novel, is his unwillingness to compromise. I realize how that sounds, but it is true in regards to his writing. If the situation calls for something absolutely terrible and horrific to happen to Corbett, it happens. No easy routes are taken. No mercy is given to his characters in THE RIVER OF SOULS (or any of his novels for that matter). McCammon writes the novel without flinching. Make no mistake, Corbett gets whupped in this novel. More than once, and brutally. Why is this important, and why do I call attention to it? Because is shows how much McCammon cares about his characters, and how well he understands “character” in general.

Characters are only as interesting as their weaknesses, principles, and their desire to overcome those weaknesses with those principles. Matthew Corbett is the perfect example of this way of thinking and writing. Every time he is knocked down (literally or metaphorically), he gets back up and tries to do better. That’s the kind of character I can root for. That’s a real person.

THE RIVER OF SOULS is yet another incredible piece of literature from Robert McCammon. It is the most fun I've had reading in months.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a McCammon novel without the Horror. He writes it so effortlessly (at least it seems that way from the outside looking in). It’s not that McCammon wrote a Horror novel here, but that he was able to add a feeling of terror and horror to the situations the characters face. Without being too specific, we got mysterious monsters, a murder, a supposed curse, Indians, and quicksand. All that and more in 250 pages.

I can gush for pages about McCammon. He is very possibly my favorite author now. Instead of going on for twenty more pages, how about I just leave you with this:

THE RIVER OF SOULS is yet another incredible piece of literature from Robert McCammon. It is the most fun I’ve had reading in months, and simultaneously managed satisfy me and make me crave more fiction from McCammon even more. Matthew Corbett is one of his finest characters, and to read about his adventure in this novel was an absolute pleasure.

  • Recommended Age: 16+
  • Language: Some, and it can get pretty strong. But it's mostly tame for most of the novel.
  • Violence: Whew. McCammon's ability to go from calm to insane violent in the span of a paragraph never ceases to amaze and impress me. It gets crazy in this book.
  • Sex: Nope. None shown. Talked about a bit, but nothing explicit.

Just read these books. Historical Horror doesn’t get any better than this. But for heaven’s sake, start from the beginning when you do.


  • Rob Donovan says:

    Just discovered your site and your last two reviews are by 2 of my favourites. Joe Abercrombie and my all time favourite Robert McCammon. It as if we are the same person (or something far less creepy).

    Been waiting for this book for ages. Rick is the reason I started writing.

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