When Cole Seavey sets out into the frontier to meet up with his estranged brother, he never expects to find himself face to face with the stuff of nightmares. When he is caught in the hell of a surreal storm, Cole is attacked and left for a dead by a creature that defies belief. He manages to free himself and stumbles onto the path of Pakim, a Delaware who helps to save his life. Cole is allowed to heal among the kindness of strangers, John and Palmer, as well as Pakim. They live on the outskirts of the local town and none of them are looked upon kindly.
This doesn’t change as violent and unpredictable attacks begin to tear through both the white settlement and the Delaware village. Cole and his new friends must lead the battle against a seemingly unnatural force, one bent on killing everyone. As they do so, Cole and Pakim start to explore the beginnings of a relationship. But even if they are brave enough to act on their feelings, they may not live long enough to do so.
Man & Monster is the second in the Savage Land series, but can easily be read as a standalone novel. It was a mixture of action, myth, and violence and all of it rolled up into an enjoyable, though uneven story. Cole is our narrator and through his eyes we see the rise of an apparent Wendigo, a demonic spirit, usually confined to the colder climates of the north. This creature tears through the barely habitable town of Hugh’s Lick, killing anyone and everyone. This reign of terror adds a palpable tension that really comes through and pulls the reader in and keeps them there. Cole, Pakim, and the other main characters are generally well defined and they add a layer of vulnerability to the story that works on multiple levels. The romance between Cole and Pakim is understated, and while it takes second place to the chase for the Wendigo, their relationship has believability about it.
As good as the building tension of the Wendigo is, the end of this grand mystery is a huge let down. The last quarter of the book takes on the hallmarks of an episode of Scooby Doo rather than providing a satisfying resolution. It comes off as altogether silly and none of it makes much sense. This said, I do give the author credit for attempting to provide some kind of a realistic explanation for the Wendigo. And while it didn’t really work, at least the attempt was made. The writing in Man & Monster was an odd mix of lyrical and awkward. This novel reads smoothly at times and at others it is jarring and uneven. There is a strong descriptive bent that does a good job of setting time and place, but the episodes of jagged writing tended to pull me out of the action and it always took time to get back into it.
Overall Man & Monster was an enjoyable read with strong characters and an intriguing supernatural story set against a believable historical backdrop. The conclusion to Man & Monster isn’t particularly satisfying and a previously strong story dissolves into silliness, but up until then, I think this novel is a good fit for anyone who enjoys historical fiction with a streak of the paranormal.