Mage of the Hellmouth by John Wayne Comunale

Jake loves his job working for a local family-owned craft ice cream factory.

That is, until he’s transferred to the company’s main facility on the other side of town. The new workplace means new rules. And that means no more showing up on the job stoned and having two beers for lunch. The new position makes him uncomfortable and, while he’s told there are numerous coworkers, they never seem to be around much when he’s there. When his best friend goes missing and his new supervisors show up at a party, Jake begins to dig deeper. All of the strange occurrences seem to connect to a discontinued role-playing game Jake owned as a child, Mage of the Hellmouth. It all leaves Jake wondering what secrets are hidden in the ice cream.

The IndieMuse Review

Satanic Panic Meets Clerks!

When somebody finally gets around to writing a top ten list of must-read stoner horror-comedies about demonic tabletop games then Mage of the Hellmouth is surely destined to top that list!

Jake and Max are best buds, both working a dead-end job making ‘dietary-restriction-friendly’ ice cream on a production line. The pay is low, job satisfaction non-existent, and to top it off, their supervisor is as uptight as he is unbearable. If not for the steady consumption of drugs and booze, they wouldn’t make it through another day.

When Jake is transferred unexpectedly to the company’s main facility across town, he likes the sound of the pay-raise, but something doesn’t feel quite right. Max has gone missing, seemingly sick but completely uncontactable. His new boss is hostile, the building itself feels off somehow, and his co-workers are all acting very strangely indeed. Jake is about to learn that there is more to the company than meets the eye and the strange goings-on may somehow be linked to a long-forgotten board game from his childhood.

Horror comedy is a tough thing to get right. Too much comedy steps on the toes of the horror and too much the other way and you end up too traumatised to appreciate the funny bits. Mage of the Hellmouth manages the balance pretty well. It is a very funny book, especially early on when there is more back and forth between best-friends Jake and Max, who felt like horrors answer to Jay and (not so) Silent Bob. The comedy comes largely from the characters rather than the situation, which is played fairly straight given the outlandish subject matter, and this works in favor of the horror elements of the book. When demonic rituals and dog-headed women start appearing, it isn’t played for laughs and a few scenes are surreally creepy and effective as straight horror.

Not content to deliver a book as scary as it is funny, Comunale puts his own bizarre twist on the book, throwing some fantasy in the mix by bringing in a fictional role-playing game as part of the plot. Fans of Dungeons and Dragons or other similar table-top games will enjoy the references, while non-fans won’t feel left out. To counterbalance the more fantastical elements, the way in which Comunale depicts the day-to-day drudgery of working a wage-slave job was very authentic and gave the book some much-needed grounding in reality.

Both disparate subjects combine to set up an intriguing mystery about the factory and what exactly is going on behind the scenes, making the story unpredictable and gripping and, at a breezy 129 pages, this is a book that is fun to sit and devour in a single sitting.

Mage of the Hellmouth is a unique reading experience, mixing together a lot of different genres into a weird and wonderful story of a stoner versus the forces of hell. A quick and fun read recommended for horror fans looking for something truly distinctive and different.

RICHARD MARTIN

Richard started reading horror books at a young age, starting with R L Stine’s ‘Goosebumps’ and ‘Point Horror’ series. He traumatised himself at the age of twelve when he read Stephen King’s ‘IT’, and never looked back. He is currently based in the UK, where he lives with his partner, and an inappropriate amount of books.

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