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Song Of The Sandman J F Dubeau Main

"Song of the Sandman" Book Review

Written by Tony Jones

Published by Inkshares

song of the sandman j f dubeau poster large

Written by J-F Dubeau
2021, 400 pages, Fiction
Released on 21st April, 2021

Review:

Back in 2017, J-F Dubeau made a fair bit of noise with his eye-catching horror debut, A God in the Shed, which appeared on many best-of-the-year lists and flagged him as an author to watch. Once in a while a novel truly does match the hype and A God in the Shed is a rare example of where the bite chewed out the bark. Almost four years later, Dubeau is back with a sequel, Song of the Sandman, which closely follows the events of its bloody predecessor. Picking up the story some months later, many of the same characters return, and much of the story takes in the long-term consequences following the brutal ending. Ultimately, I would not recommend reading Sandman unless you have already read book one, although there are recaps here and there, much of it might not make much sense and going in blind would be a mistake. I read God four years ago and struggled to remember the smaller details, so new readers will definitely find themselves thoroughly confused.

By way of recap, A God in the Shed is set in the small Canadian town of Saint-Ferdinand, which is being stalked by a serial killer who has eluded the police for twenty years. Soon, Inspector Stephen Crowley is swimming into very dark waters in the shape of a trapped ancient god (more of a demon), which has a long and dark association with the town going back hundreds of years. However, the demon/god does have its limitations (hence why it is in a shed) and local teenager Venus McKenzie finds herself becoming dangerously close to the god, who has the power to get beneath the skin, leading to torture, murder, the rise of doomsday cults and other catastrophic events. I thoroughly enjoyed A God in the Shed, which is a fresh and intense read, and was more than happy to carefully sneak open the garden shed door for a second peek inside.

First of all, Song of the Sandman answers some, but not all, of the lingering questions from the conclusion of the first book and obviously the god is back, even if he is no longer in the teenager’s shed. Although I enjoyed this continuation, an initial gripe is the simple fact that the god does not feature in the book enough and gets limited page time. Considering he is such a horrific character, it is a shame to see him so underused, as the scenes where he is featured really crackle and he might have been more fleshed out. The title refers to one of my favourite story strands in the novel, a doomsday cult connected to the god which believes it can control the creature through a teenage girl.  When Alice sings, she has the power to put people to sleep under the direction of the cult leader, known as ‘Mother’ to all.

The action plays out via five interchanging points of view: Venus, Alice, Daniel, Abraham and Jodie. Because of this large number of points of view the action moves fairly slowly, taking a while to reveal what the main story was, with the characters movements being rather disjointed from each other. After her horrific run in with the god in the earlier book, Venus has left town and finds herself in the big city, but her past soon catches up with her as she connects with someone leading a bloody one-man vendetta against the cult. This is another top-notch plot development with a particularly weird supernatural twang. Not all of the characters, however, have abandoned Saint-Ferdinand, which is now layered in magic, mostly unpleasant, with restless spirits roaming around and paintings seemingly much realer than they should be. For example, there is a dead cat which has been reanimated and wears a costume to give the impression it is still alive.  Abraham, from the first novel, has remained in town and much of the events which unfold in the original location revolve around him.

I loved the introduction of Alice, who is able to sing the god to sleep. She is a fascinating and haunting character who is held prisoner by the cult and has been there so long, she has been brainwashed by the abuse and the isolation. Like Venus from book one, she has strange dynamics with the god who haunts her dreams, but these scenes are too fleeting, and I would like to have seen them have more page time. I thoroughly enjoyed the sequences where Alice sang, these are outstanding, and are amongst the strongest in the book.

Moving away from the god for a moment, the story also has a terrific human villain in Francis, who was just as nasty as the god and almost as dangerous. This character is strong enough to have his own point of view and would have been a good balance with the other main players. The police officer Jody, who does have a narrative voice, has the least page time and seems surplus to requirements in the main story thread, and I would happily have seen her dumped and replaced by Francis.

Although I enjoyed Song of the Sandman, it does feel slightly like a middle book in which the many characters prevent the main plot from truly hitting top gear. However, it has many entertaining high spots, from the inner workings of the cult to the incredibly visceral bloody sequences where the god goes crazy. I am sure fans of A God in the Shed will get a kick out of this sequel and I will certainly return for the big finish when the trilogy concludes. But please don’t wait another four years!

Grades:

Overall: 4 Star Rating Cover
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About The Author
Tony Jones
Author: Tony Jones
Staff Reviewer - UK
Such is Tony’s love of books, he has spent well over twenty years working as a school librarian where he is paid to talk to kids about horror. He is a Scotsman in exile who has lived in London for over two decades and credits discovering SE Hinton and Robert Cormier as a 13-year-old for his huge appetite for books. Tony previously spent five years writing The Greatest Scrum That Ever Was, a history book very few people bought. In the past he has written for Horror Novel Reviews and is a regular contributor to The Ginger Nuts of Horror website, often specialising in YA horror.
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