Gideon Ira in Castle Bloodghast [Amazon link] is the fourth volume in the Deus Vult Wastelanders series, but the third featuring Gideon Ira. The basic structure of the Gideon Ira books I have read are all similar: Gideon receives a mission from God, and proceeds to shoot, smash, or chop any evildoer that stands in his way. It is fundamentally pulpy and episodic and I like it that way.
I take Castle Bloodghast as a reference to Gormenghast [Amazon link] , the fantastical novels of manners by Mervyn Peake. This is not a novel of manners, but rather a horror story, which is a departure from previous installments of the series. The setting of the Gideon Ira novels is not a nice place, but the preceding books are more like Doom, a god of war power fantasy in a hellish milieu.
Gideon’s quest to venture into the halls of the cursed castle is unlike his previous efforts, as Castle Bloodghast is a place even angels fear to tread. Gideon Ira is not the scariest thing to wander those halls, and it changes the dynamic of the story. Now Gideon creeps about like a mouse, trying to avoid notice until he can finish his mission and escape.
As JD Cowan notes, horror stories are fundamentally about “the unnatural intruding on the natural in an attempt to subvert it replace what should be with what should never be.“ If Castle Bloodghast had a motto inscribed over its gate, that very well might be it. There is an overwhelming sense of dread and menace within the castle, one that is an emanation of its orientation against nature.
Cowan further divides horror into stories that enforce morality, or ones that show the consequences of breaking the rules. Castle Bloodghast is the first type, because despite the stomach-churning tableau within the castle, this story is ultimately about hope and redemption. This theme is what unites this story with the previous ones in the series, as Gideon’s steadfastness is explicitly offered up to us as a model in difficult times.
Gideon Ira in Castle Bloodghast is a fun read, a solid adventure story in the horror tradition. It is pulpy and masculine, and very very Catholic.
Other books by Adam Lane Smith