Review: Neverlasting (2016)
It comes as no surprise that one of the lines in Johnny Daggers' Neverlasting, out now from Burning Bulb Publishing, includes the words "ushered" and "raven." The narrative poem, which tells the delightfully gruesome story of two young lovers haunted by the legend of a deceased baron and his bride, is clearly influenced by the master of macabre himself, Edgar Allan Poe. But more specifically, the doomed and bloody tale of Roderick and Madeline Usher, and the form and meter of "The Raven," seem to linger behind the lavishly-illustrated pages of Daggers' book. But rest assured, Neverlasting is not an emulation of another author's work; rather, it is an entirely original poem of great horror and humor, of romance and Halloween-inspired gloom, of imagery and wordplay that will haunt readers long after they turn the final page.
Neverlasting opens with the tragic story of Victor von Herring and his beautiful wife, Eva LaMoure. Described in rhyming lines that feature both arcane and modern touches, their relationship ends abruptly and painfully, driving von Herring into melancholy desperation and forcing him to commit a grisly act at the moment of his beloved's burial. From this pivotal moment Daggers spins a macabre and epic poem that reveals the impact of legends and superstitions on future generations to come. As the chapters of Neverlasting unfold, which often include beautifully-rendered, full-color illustrations from artist William Cope, readers become immersed in the Gothic romance of Edward and Nora Grace. One of the most exciting scenes in the poem comes during the couple's marriage ceremony, a grand event that takes place in a graveyard on Halloween--"for Nora had always longed to be a cemetery bride." Filled with ghoulish imagery and clever diction choices, the wedding sequence would appear to have a happy ending, but then the rocky soil begins to erupt, the tree roots begin to rise, and the legend of Victor von Herring rears its terrifying head once again. What follows is a series of unexpected twists and turns--many of which are quite grim and terrifying--with a final chapter that will have readers questioning the laws of human mortality and the horrors that may exist from beyond the grave.
Fans of Poe and films such as Tim Burton's Sleepy Hollow and Corpse Bride will find much to love in Johnny Daggers' Neverlasting, but any reader interested in well-crafted stories, lyrical phrasing, and cinematic imagery will enjoy this unique hybrid of epic poetry and graphic novel. While Neverlasting is available electronically, readers would be wise to pick up the print version. It's a work that you'll want to hold physically in your hands and even read aloud, letting the words roll off the tongue as swiftly as October leaves fall. With Halloween soon approaching, I can't think of a better way to usher in the spooky season that getting your copy of Johnny Daggers' Neverlasting today. Click here to buy on Amazon and check out Mr. Daggers' website here.