Richard Lee Byers: Warlock Games (Nightmare Club #3)

It took me about five chapters to make up my mind whether I was enjoying this or not. It’s not that the beginning was particularly slow, either; it’s just that it didn’t slot into any of the regular YA-horror categories, and it took me a while to settle in to it.

warlock games

Mark McIntyre’s been sent to Hudson Military Academy while his parents are in Paraguay because of his father’s job. He shows up at the Night Owl Club, popularly known as the Nightmare Club.

The Nightmare Club and its owners (Mr. Demos and his daughter Jenny) showed up in Joy Ride, but just to recap, it’s a teen club located in an old building in the woods. The building was at one point an orphanage, but that burned down (with the orphans inside) and now it’s rumoured to be haunted.

Mark has no friends at the military academy and he’s the only junior. He meets a couple of girls who attend the local high school, Cooper High, and he’s starting to like Laurie Frank when her brother shows up and punches him. Two other Cooper High guys come over to join the fight, and just as Mark’s thinking he’s doomed, two Hudson guys show up to back him up. They get thrown out for fighting, but now he has friends. Yay?

Just so you know going in, this book is entirely about groups of guys fighting, and later on they progress from vandalism through throwing bowling balls and then on up to shooting each other. Yeah.

Mark’s two new friends are Ken and creepy bossy guy Greg. Just from the back cover you already know Greg is a warlock, so: Greg is a warlock. He convinces Ken and Mark, and some other guys he recruits, to join a group called The Chessmen and each carry a chess piece at all times. Possibly I’ve just read too many novels, but the SECOND anyone proposed that I would assume they were evil and trying to control me via a chess piece.

But no, they all join up and start making trips to vandalize Cooper High School. The equivalent group of Cooper High guys vandalize them right the hell back.

In between rounds of this Mark’s still seeing Laurie, who tells him her brother Barry is obsessed with Hudson Military Academy guys because 1) Barry liked a girl named Traci, who 2) dated a Hudson boy named Wes, and then 3) they both disappeared.

The Cooper High Chessmen, who are being manipulated by an evil spirit, are convinced this means Wes murdered Traci. In fact, they keep having these meetings where they sit around vividly imagining/reliving her murder.

The coolest part of this book is when Laurie does a little research and discovers that Greg has been here before: a hundred years ago, when a rivalry between Hudson Academy and the orphanage led to the orphanage being burned down, and then a hundred years before that when war erupted between settlers and natives.

Greg is, as we know right from the back cover (and I actually hate how much I knew going in), a warlock involved in a “game” against an evil spirit.

All the actual power comes from the spirit, but just because it’s evil doesn’t mean it CHEATS or anything, so Greg’s actually won the last two rounds by having his chessmen kill the other side’s chessmen. But if he loses, his immortality will run out because…I don’t fully understand why. The spirit claims it needs to rest and recover and can’t be arsed keeping Greg alive once Greg loses, I think.

So it all comes down to actual combat in the woods, only Mark and Laurie have convinced Barry, and then his friends, to destroy their chess pieces and come see the place in the wood where Traci’s and Wes’ remains lie, both of them clearly having been killed by something else. So one side has disengaged, and they manage to hold off the Hudson guys and Mark fights Greg, and eventually Greg decays and everyone’s in hospital and the police are having to go with “mass hysteria” as their explanation.

In the end Mark’s parents show up to take him out of the military academy, but surprise! He tells them he wants to stay, because now he has friends.



Richard Lee Byers: Joy Ride (The Nightmare Club #1)

This is the first Nightmare  Club book I’ve ever read. I’d never even heard of them until I started seeing them on Instagram. Naturally I was unable to resist yet anotScan_20170620her Point Horror/Fear Street clone.

The premise tying this series together is that a non-alcohol-serving teen club called “The Night Owl Club has opened in Cooper Hollow. Well, outside Cooper Hollow, in what used to be an orphanage. There are also three schools provided for future hijinks: Cooper High School, Hudson Military Academy, and Cooper Riding Academy for Girls.

Joy Ride pretty much lays everything out on the back cover:

Mike doesn’t see anything wrong with drinking and driving. He thinks he’s totally in control. But his girlfriend Karen knows he has a problem.

Then Mike meets a pretty new girl in a slinky red dress at The Night Owl Club. Unlike Karen, Joy doesn’t mind if Mike drinks. In fact, she encourages him to drink—and then to get behind the wheel.

Mike doesn’t know it yet, but Joy isn’t a real, live teen. She’s a dead one. Killed by a drunk driver decades ago, Joy has come back for one reason—to get her revenge. And unless someone can stop her, Joy is going to help Mike drive himself right over the edge…

The only thing you can’t predict from that description is how large a role Karen plays in this: she’s actually the one who figures out that Joy died in the 1920s (because she’s wearing a flapper dress), has her computer-geek tall friend Joan (Joan is a proto-Barb) locate Joy’s grave and her family home, and destroys the talisman (a gin flask) that ultimately gets rid of Joy.

Mike, meanwhile, is an idiot. Actually I guess that’s a slightly unfair criticism, since he’s drunk most of the time we see him. So it could be the booze making him ignore the way Joy appears and disappears, the part where no one else sees or interacts with her, the ever-full gin flask, and the outdated slang (“bathtub gin” and “roadhouse” and “tommy guns,” for instance).

Mr. Lamb, the guidance counselor, presumably isn’t drunk, so there’s no damned excuse for him. When Karen has a full-blown ghost encounter in school (ending with her bolting from a music room and then knocking herself unconscious on the floor), he makes one feeble attempt to confirm her story by calling Mike’s chronically-depressed mother, who naturally assures him Mike is fine. (She sleeps all day, every day, and hasn’t noticed Mike’s newfound alcoholism). After that one phone call Mr. Lamb checks out:

Karen said, “I’m not imagining things! Joy is real! Other kids have seen Mike talking to what looked like an empty chair. Just ask them!”

Mr. Lamb sighed. “We already gave you one chance to prove your story. Considering the circumstances, one was enough….” (p. 71)

I understand not believing her about the ghost, but considering she’s just told him that Mike (also a student at Cooper High) is drunk and absent from school, couldn’t he look into that part a little more? Or just, I don’t know, call one of the other students in and ask them what’s up?

Anyway, in spite of the adults in this town, Karen defeats the ghost and Mike sobers up just in time to survive a drag race and then rescue Karen from the massive fire she caused by trying to burn a silver flask in the attic of an old house.

…okay, everyone in this thing is an idiot. Except Joan.