Review: Rival Sons by Aidan Thorn from Shotgun Honey

Dark. Brutal. Beautifully written, compellingly structured, twists and turns to a dramatic and violent conclusion.

Available to buy via Shotgun Honey, all the details and various formats are here.

rival sons

Have you ever read the first pages of a book and just known you were going to get sucked in completely to the authors world? A writing style that is calm and assured, almost companionable in the way a story is told. It’s a rare gift, but its one that Aidan Thorn has been blessed with. These aren’t characters I know, this is a stand alone tale, but that doesn’t matter here. Aidan creates a world with such ease that you slip into it within a page or so and it feels like you are returning to a much loved series you are that much at home with what has been created.

In this case what has been created is a touching family saga, the prodigal son returning home to see his dying mother after twenty years away. The father and brother he hates and hasn’t spoken to in all that time, his family he has protected from them for so long. All set against a town ravaged by poverty and drugs run by brutal gangsters immune to even the most blood curdling of violence. The juxtaposition of the two genres works to devastating effect.

I’ll warn you now, this can be a brutally violent book, one sequence in particular is reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino. If that isn’t your speed I would proceed with caution. If you can handle it then you will find the story of Kyle Gordon, the son of gangster Frank Gordon, who left home at eighteen years of age to join the army rather than follow in his fathers footsteps. Leading to a long estrangement only broken when he returns on hearing the news that his mother his dying of cancer with only months left to live. The family dynamics are what make this story so gripping, Kyles brother Graham’s animosity to his elder sibling in particular drives the second half of the story. Just when you thought the book couldn’t get any darker, Aidan find a new depth of bleakness to his story. Describing emotional pain and the resultant actions it can lead to when present in an ultimately violent man gives us an explosive finale. Rather than a slow build to the climatic end, we see a sudden and rapid change of pace in the final act, another interesting storytelling technique as it really gives the sense of a man who has reached breaking point and simply snapped.

A quick read, Rival Sons will hold your attention from start to finish through a combination of compelling storytelling and writing at the very highest of standards. This is another novella (Aidan has also published When The Music’s Over, check my review of that one here), if he chooses to remain in this form we will be blessed with more great stories I have no doubt. Nonetheless I would love to see what he can do with the longer page count that a full-length novel brings with it. I suspect it would be something else all together.




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