[From Critical Wave #30, 1993. Originally published by Headline, this novel is now available as a Kindle e-book.]
Whilst Joyce’s debut novel, the critically-praised Dreamside (1991), voyaged across the metaphysical inner landscape of its protagonists’ subconscious desires, its successor remains on the more traditional terra littera of supernatural dark fantasy.
Maggie Sanders, already uneasy with her role as supportive wife and mother-of-two, finds a vent for this relentlessness when an ancient diary is discovered in the chimney of their Victorian villa; through the cryptic entries and their mystical resonances, Maggie is seduced by forces she can barely understand into completing a transmigration held in stasis for more than a century, reckless as to the price she might have to pay.
Well-constructed, with solid pacing and characterisation, Dark Sister nevertheless lacks certain of the subtleties of its predecessor; the flavour of its narrative is smooth rather than rich, whilst the conclusion holds few surprises for those versed in this particular genre form. That said, Joyce again displays a firm grasp of language and structure, and I for one look forward to his third novel with optimism.