Ancient is no less than a telling of the classic story of Nosferatu – specifically Nosferatu, the once Alexander the Great – and his relationship with a young girl as he battles the Grand Lich Akhenaton and his werewolf warriors. A monster with a heart of gold, Alexander sets out into a new world after a century of supernatural rest, and with a little help from his friends – mortal and other – he might just find a way to get a life in this crazy world, as well as a solution to his old dues.
Author R Kane carries a trademark, off-the-wall style into Ancient, which straddles the line between horror and farce in the supernatural-romance piece. Ancient carries on the themes of his previous novel, Runner, of situations that arise from spectacular – if just a little weird – powers and abilities. Whereas in Runner, there was once an average boy who finds he can run through walls, here is an ancient character setting melded with a wicked-sharp and classically-tuned edge of the old-school supernatural in werewolves, vampires, and mummies, all coming into the spotlight as they clash, though thankfully never crowding things. After the madcap pace of Runner, no surprise here are the sharp turns the plot takes, somehow maintaining a steady level of interest and some kind of suspension of disbelief as the strange tale unfolds, if only out of sheer desperation to find a safe spot to take a time-out.
The book is creative, if not in its mere concept than in the refreshing metaphor and imagery of which the book holds a bounty. At times the read feels relentless, but often in a pleasing, rollercoaster way. Unfortunately, this relentlessness serves as a persistent setback; a minor stumbling block comes in the form of a great deal of frankly unclear wordings of many sentences in the book. Paired with some of the more abstract plot directions, concepts, and descriptions that cause the book to otherwise stand out, these problems make just enough pauses and moments of temporary confusion to slow the read uncomfortably.
Additionally, a great deal of sexual interaction – though largely left to the imagination – often clutters proceedings with its asides and deviations into the sometimes comically depraved. While feeding into the seductive nature of the supernatural, there’s still a great deal that merely weakens the advancement of the plot, and a sizable word-count drop could likely be seen in the 495-page tome with another comb-through.
Suffice to say, the book has a very specific niche and relevant audience it intends to cater to, and readers not entirely fond of abstract comedy nor the more visceral element are cautioned to hold onto their hats. Readers no less than excited by the concept should feel free to dive in, though it may be a quest to make it to the end of the thrill-ride once the loops and turns become more rhythmical.