Perhaps all of us at one time or another have reminisced about days gone by.  Whether we look back with pride, sadness or regret, the emotions such ruminations evoke are powerful.  Moving out from the family home, relocating to a new city or entering into a new stage of life.  These all make us reflect in a deep and meaningful way about what once was- and nervously anticipate what is yet to come.  Now consider how you would feel if that transition included the passage from one life to another.  To know everything that once was is over…never to be seen again.  In R.H. Hale’s novel Church Mouse-Part 2: The Change, we are able to see these questions addressed- and so much more.  A chilling and terrifying transformation from mortal to immortal takes place before our very eyes.  For lovers of dark, gothic horror which explores the complexities and frailties of the human mind, prepare for a shocking ride!

Essentially, Church Mouse- Part 2: The Change continues to follow the evolution of its main character, Rona Dean.  Having concluded her days as a mortal vampire watchdog, she is set to begin a gripping metamorphosis and enter the realm of the immortal.  This journey is one of pain and horror and inevitably leaves Rona completely changed at its conclusion.  An immortal.  A true neophyte vampire!  What follows is grueling and pure tortuous training as Rona’s vampire family, led by the enigmatic Serge, slowly transform the vampire cub into something entirely more fitting and deadly.  There is no mercy shown or quarter given in this bloody school!

While Rona slowly adjusts to her new situation and family, trouble appears on the horizon.  A territorial challenge with an old foe has been issued and threatens to tear her new world into pieces.  This transports us into a horrific vampire world full of battles, cruelty and death.  Will Rona and her tribe survive this incursion?  Or is her new world about to end as quickly as it all began.

The plot of this novel is one of pure reader engagement.  Mesmerizing and brutal.  I was personally a huge fan of the original Church Mouse, but this story takes it a step further.  No… make that 2 giant steps!  Once again, the theme of the novel explores the very dark side of human nature.  What would it really take for us to become the monster under the bed?  Are we inevitably driven by primal instinct… or is there something more at play?  In perfect juxtaposition to this chilling and macabre theme is the relationship which continues to develop between Rona and Serge.  A driving force in the novel, we are able to see true tenderness mixed amongst the horrific and ghastly story events.  I was transfixed in a state of fear and suspense throughout the pages.

The story is told through a series of diary entries.  This is actually quite brilliant as it allows us to have intimate access to Rona’s innermost thoughts and also provokes lingering questions about the various characters.  We are left in a state of perpetual suspense.  The growth of the main characters throughout the novel is impressive.  R.H. Hale manages to evoke powerful emotions in the reader in regards to her characters.  At various points I felt deep love, hate, fear and sympathy for almost all of the perfectly depicted players.  These are not characters you will be soon to forget.  Believable and memorable.

There can be little doubt that this is gothic horror at its best.  The author’s writing has a beautiful flow and poetic nature.  Plot, character and setting descriptions are evocative and hypnotic.  Even in the most blood-curdling of scenes… it feels natural to be there.  As if we have become part of this world.  I would hazard a guess that this is exactly the feeling the author experienced when putting the words of this epic novel together.  She manages to aptly pass on such an experience to us as the readers.

5 out of 5 Gothic Stars for this one!