Gulf by Shelly Campbell

Review by Brennan LaFaro

I’ve started more than one or two reviews by doing something we’re told from an early age to avoid—that’s right, people. I judge a book by its cover. Kealan Patrick Burke’s design for Gulf is just as imaginative and atmosphere-inducing as we’ve come to expect. Another triumph on his long list of other winners. What sometimes gets glossed over is the interior art, usually done by Bob Veon, in Silver Shamrock releases. From the five paneled door at the center of the store to the four claws reaching out from underneath, gouging the floor, Veon’s work here sets the tone for every chapter.
The artwork may convey the tone, but the story masterfully establishes it in the first place. Campbells explores a range of tropes, from time travel to alternate dimensions to hell hounds even back to the horror of losing identity. She captures a snapshot large family life—after all what member of a multi-child household doesn’t have a story of being left out, forgotten about, or just plain feeling invisible. Gulf takes the elements that make finding your role within a family difficult and speaks to them with an authenticity.
Despite some of the tropes listed above being represented in multiple other works of horror, Campbell brings them together in a way that feels unique and original. You know those stickers or placards that read “For fans of…”? You won’t find one on Gulf, because it’s not a mirror image of a familiar path you’ve traveled time after time.
Instead, let’s call this one for fans of character-driven horror. Our main character, David, is pretty easy to get behind. The reader understands his motivations from the get-go and Campbell delivers a satisfying arc. We could also call this one for fans of creature features. Not in a traditional way, but the elements are present if you keep an eye out.
Gulf is bleak and eerie, but brimming with heart, and Campbell is an author to keep an eye out for. She’s got a fantasy duology with one book out and the other on the horizon, as well as a forthcoming book on writing, that looks like it will focus quite a bit on world building. Check out Gulf now.

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