Grimoire of the four imposters - by Coy Hall
This book is something of a paradox for me. It is presented as a novel, yet reads as a collection of short stories with interlinking themes and a shared universe. It nevertheless is bookended by two short stories that tie all of the disparate threads together to bind those short stories into one disjointed story. So, it’s a compilation of stories that is pretending to be a novel? Almost as imposter-ish as the stories contained within it. And honestly, I can’t think of a more fitting way to present the theme. Brilliant, Coy!
The first thing that hits you is the easy-flowing language, and the genuine feel to the book – this is a book that is based on researched folklore, Hungarian history, and English history - the pages leak fascinating insights into the cultures and countries they embrace. Just the small things – I had no idea that Budapest was originally twin cities – Buda and Pest. I’m probably alone in my ignorance there, but there’s an intelligence in the presentation of that knowledge – Coy doesn’t explain that the two cities merged, he leaves the fact that they are twin cities alone on the page, it is up to the reader to put two and two together to realize that the cities merged into one. And that belief in the reader is golden. Kudos, Coy, for not spelling everything out and letting the reader stumble their own way to their own conclusions. Likewise, the comprehension of the connections of the stories, and the hidden information in those stories is only hinted at in the last lines of the last story. It almost makes you want to go back and read the entire thing again to see if you can pick up on those hidden clues. Almost.
In a very brief summary, the four short stories (disregarding the opening and ending stories) document four individual instances of things presenting an outward form of being human or animal, that are in fact anything but, and those glimpses of the creatures are linked to a grimoire, which purportedly has the knowledge (magic) contained within its pages to be able to make the owner of it able to animate something (in each story. the building block of the imposter is different) to resemble a human. That direct connection to the grimoire is not always obvious – sometimes it is merely a connection through a name – perhaps a relative of someone who possessed the grimoire? However, that linking thread is left until the last story in the collection, which ties the theory of the book together, and ties in the first story to the patchwork whole.
So how does it read?
Pretty much like you would expect, as a collection of shorts. Each short has different characters, occurs in different places. The threads are there throughout the stories to hint at a whole work, but it reads more like a collection with a common theme. That’s a good thing, it keeps the book fresh.
I have to say that it does read a little distant – there wasn’t a character I connected with – nevertheless I was fascinated by the puzzle of it all, and the writing is really well done, Hall writes with a scholar’s love of detail and his descriptions are fantastic. It has a gothic folklore-type feel to the narrative – but I was a stage removed. I can admire the novel, I can say that Coy’s writing is good – immersion into the various stories is no problem. I just didn’t connect?
Without a doubt, Grimoire of the four imposters is a fascinating horror novel/collection of shorts – the intelligence to the structure, detail, and research shine through on every page. The last story in the book details a pub in Nottingham that I had visited when still living in England, right around the corner from my home university town of Loughborough. The details of that pub are as fresh in my mind today as when I entered it, some 27 or so years ago – it did leave an impression. Reading about that place, in such wonderful detail, brought it all back to me, and added that touch of realism to the whole - that was the cherry on the cake, and led to me contacting the author to marvel at the detail.
I believe we can expect great things from Coy Hall.
One to watch out for. 4 out of 5 ⭐ ‘s.
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