Corporal Hopkins just wants to go home. After many years serving with the Laird’s Men, he deserves his freedom. But while the long war that fractured New Britain is over, Raiders in the Scottish forests still pose a deadly threat.
Charged with dismantling a roving horde, Hopkins and his elite unit are outnumbered and woefully unprepared for the real horror that awaits them. From the shadowy depths of the great Loch Ness, an ancient evil is rising.
When the battle for survival in an unforgiving country never ends, Hopkins knows it doesn’t matter which side you’re on. In the darkness, everybody bleeds the same.
Tabatha (TL) Wood is an Australian Shadows and Sir Julius Vogel award-winning author of weird, dark, speculative fiction and quiet horror from Aotearoa New Zealand.
A former English teacher and school library manager, their first books were nonfiction guides for professional educators, published by Bloomsbury Press. They now tutor from home while also working as a freelance writer, translator and editor.
Tabatha strongly encourages the use of writing and creativity for positive mental health, and is the founder of Well-Written, an online group which supports writing for wellness. Tabatha’s work is often inspired by their lived experiences. When they’re not writing, they like strong coffee, soft cats, and spending time by the sea.
(4.5/5.0) I recently (finally) got around to reading Tabatha’s first story collection, Dark Winds Over Wellington, this summer, and loved it. If being her friend wasn’t enough reason to follow her work, those stories did the trick. I’m now a fan of both the person and writer that is Tabatha Wood.
Her latest release, All the Laird’s Men, is a novella that mixes military fiction with creature-feature. You can read it in about an hour, so there’s no reason not to see what Tabatha has up her sleeves. And if the promise of a quick introduction isn’t enough to warrant your attention, let me go on to say it’s heartfelt and gruesome in all the right places. Though a short read, it packs a punch. Though it seemed obvious to me this story could be expanded into a full novel, I also think it was the right move to do it at this length. It feels complete, but not drawn out. The story isn’t complicated, but still intelligently designed, enough so that I enjoyed the structure more than anything. I would have liked a bigger and more difficult battle between Hopkins and the monster in the end, but that’s my only complaint.
All the Laird’s Men is a nice bite of Tabatha’s art; it shows her love for horror, her education, and her humanity in a wonderfully brutal and compact package.
Don’t be fooled by its length - this story packs a lot of punch in its small package. Themes like the horrors of war, environmentalism, lost history, and the meaning of family are all handled thoughtfully. And who can pass up a great Nessie story? Nessie has always been my favourite cryptid, and her origin as set out in this book is as plausible as any explanation I’ve heard. A quick read, but one that will leave you thinking afterwards.
Content warnings for: body horror and mutilation, death, and gore - of both the monster and the war variety. Lots of swearing, and implied discussion of rape.
However many pages of soldiers swearing at one another before a monster pops up and kills everyone. Dull. Dire. Gory. Made me wonder how much I'd paid for it (fortunately not much). Would have DNF'd if it wasn't nice and short. Not recommended.