Critics and readers' reviews - see what they are saying about Convict Grade!
Peter Lankston (Cornwall, England)
Convict Grade by A.P Damien, is a fast paced, no holds barred adventure horror novel. A thoroughly modern hybrid work, it grasps its reader by hand and beckons them to follow wherever the journey may take them, be it through the darkened streets of Convict Grade, or to even darker realms, the darkest realms of Hell. The characters, in particular the lead, Hammond, are not your average horror novel fare. Gone are the stuffy 40 something year old heroes, the staple of the horror genre from the 1970's through to today, Damien's heroes are quite literally the youth of today: internalized, flawed, misjudged and very real. People that you can both sympathise with and care about, which is extremely refreshing. The horror, when it bursts onto the scene is another modern and unique spin on accepted staples of the genre. The demonic creatures are dangerous: creeping in the dark, their eyeless shapes shifting to trick the innocent. Even scarier is the fact that there is no easy way of defeating this ancient evil. In this reader's (humble) opinion, Azrael Paul Damien has created with Convict Grade a novel that explores the human spirit, love and friendship by dragging his characters literally through Hell on Earth. At its very base level, the novel is a thrilling adventure, a fast and furious page turner, but it also holds many surprises for readers that know and love the genre, be it with the subtle nods and references to the authors peers and influences, or to its narrative: we explore a scene from one set of characters viewpoints and then find out what happened to our other adventurers - the action backtracking and taking us on a fresh perspective. In this very way the novel is a true hybrid. It is horror, adventure, mystery, romance, drama; but instead of using King's staple - building characters and developing the sense of place and storyline- before the horror forces the characters into action, Damien introduces his horror early on, and allows his characters to develop into the heroes they eventually become. The novel never lets up, never loses its kinetic energy whilst simultaneously allowing us to learn about his characters, watching them fall in love and learn from costly mistakes. Convict Grade is the novel for a modern audience that know (and love) their genre and are looking for a fresh change, a laugh amidst the worst horror and a genuine journey away from the safe and a dip into unknown terror and darkness. A.P Damien is an author to watch out for and to be amazed by.
Infernal Dreams - Reviewed by G.L. Giles
If you're looking for a thick book with gore galore, then this will probably be a good, long read for you! This novel of 340 pages will probably not be a one-sit read, so I like how Damien includes chapter titles (many books don't these days) to help you remember exactly where you left off (even if you forgot to mark it). Plus, chapter titling enables you to get a preview of what's to come. Obviously, I dig that feature of the book. The book's title, Convict Grade, refers to a village; the setting of the storyline. It's described early on as "a sleepy little village" (p. 13). However, it doesn't stay that way for long. And, there's a really good twist, about a third of the way through, where more than one Convict Grade is revealed/uncovered. But, I won't say anything more about it to avoid a spoiler alert. The main storyline centers around best friends Ryan Curtis (a.k.a. Tigg) and Edgar Earl Hammond, Jr. (generally just referred to as Hammond). Hammond ends up being the big hero by the time the novel ends, but he's aided throughout the novel by Tigg and their love interests: Sara Rikker and Bailey Stryker. By the time the novel is complete there have been lots of run-ins with evil once-human demons, blood-thirsty pets, angels and nephlim. All in all, at its best, it reminded me somewhat of Nicholas Grabowsky's attention-grabbing and witty writing style coupled with a large mainstream-appealing side order of the CW's Supernatural. Not one to generally disparage great effort, I think it's definitely worth a read, especially if you're a gorehound. I give it an 8 out of 10.
We live in a time when horror has become unoriginal. From horror movie remakes to the same storylines we've read a thousand times in books, it seems a horror fan can't be surprised or entertained anymore. Well that's changed with Convict Grade! Finally an original story that keeps you guessing and on the edge of your seat. As a lifelong fan of horror, this book gives me hope that the genre can still produce new and exciting ways of scaring people. The writing is excellent, the story great, and I can't wait to read more from Azrael Paul Damien! If you love being scared, pick up a copy today. You will fall in love with horror all over again!
4 of 5 stars. I approached this book with no preconceptions, never having read this author's work before.
This is the debutante work for this author which shows promise for the years ahead. While there are points throughout the copy that set my editor's fingers twitching for their proofing pens, these are probably not of consequence to any but an old pedant and do not spoil the flow or the telling of the tale for the vast majority of readers.
Mostly 'telling' rather than than 'showing', it has the strong feel of an old Oral Telling, Folkloric in style and it's symbolic references. One can hear the author's voice speaking in the darkness as you read.
This is a point most editors, coming from journalistic backgrounds, would miss. For myself, going to school in the Outback with the Tribal kids and therefore strongly immersed in the Oral Traditions from childhood, I made a point in my Lit' studies course of taking all the Oral Traditions credits I could fit in. Mostly dealing with Celtic, Norse and Medieval Literary and Oral Traditions, these none-the-less afford me the perspective to see the unique approach used by Azreal in his chosen style. His voice as a narrator or story-teller-round-the-fire can be clearly heard throughout.
Recommended for the Young Adult market, any teens and twenty-somethings who love their heroes and heroines young and beautiful, their monsters deformed and terrifying, their atmosphere thick with foreboding, and their darkness filled with anthropomorphic terrors will enjoy this tale. It is fast paced and filled with action and gore, never a boring moment. The four lead characters are human and easily identifiable as the 'everyman/everywoman' who might be found in any 'burb or town; they could be 'you'. Their struggle to unravel the mystery of the town and battle for their survival and sanity, and their emotional rollercoaster, while still retaining their very human qualities and evolving as characters, works very well.
Filled with all the standards we have come to expect from a good horror tale, it surprises with many unique concepts and elements to the story. I especially liked the way Azrael blends the old and new towns, the history and the present, into a bizarre merging that undermines our perceptions of what constitutes solid reality. 'Time' really plays out as a sub-character in it's own right here. Learning Hammond's mystic heritage by the end only opens up possibilities for the next installment that are sure to have readers keeping a keen watch out for its release.
I have heard a whisper (in the dark, naturally) that this is already being penned. Keep an eye out, if you dare to peek...
4 of 5 stars. The characters are lovable in there own ways and I care what's happening to them, the story... it's keeping me on the edge of my seat. Can't wait to get to the next page...
5 of 5 stars. Convict Grade is a great story that is well told and fully immerses the reader into the trevails of four teen characters as they face the trials and tribulations that could be the end of the world. Highly recommended, Convict Grade is the first novel from author Azrael Paul Damien and is guranteed to keep you guessing what surprise is around the corner and will make you slide out to the edge of your seat ... and keep you there.
Very Good book.... Take a chance on Damien as a new Writer. I�m certain that you will not be disappointed. Just all around Scary Horror, descriptive and spell binding. I read it in 2 days and barely put it down for anything but sleep.
Convict Grade is definitely a story that will grab you on a visceral level. Very gory and quite violent, it is unflinching in telling a story about how evil consumes and destroys a town, both in the past and the future, and the reluctant and unlikely heroes that rise to the challenge to face an ancient supernatural evil. This novel has various strengths and weaknesses. Its major strength is the compelling protagonist it features, Hammond. He is what the world would call a "loser." Yet from the beginning, he possesses charisma that is undeniable. I wanted to learn more about him, feeling that there were hidden depths and that he would show that he was not the "weirdo freak and juvenile delinquent" the world believes him to be.
A compelling strength of this story is its demonstration of the power of the bond of friendship between Hammond and his best bud and fellow misfit, Tigger. I spent the book hoping that they would both make it out alive. There are also two, count them, two, romances in this book. Hammond and Tigger have crushes on two of the "beautiful girls" in town, who are drawn to them for powerful reasons that are soon revealed as the story progresses. Bailey is the girl of Hammond's dreams, one he never could hope to call his own. Tigger has been in love with Sara for many years. While the world goes to the devil literally, they get a chance at the unattainable girls they long for. A hopeless romantic, these relationships could not help but keep my interest. Sweet and innocent, hopeful and profound, they are a shining light in this dark, violent book.
If the potential reader likes horror, he or she will find it in this book in spades. It is the kind of horror that makes you dread reading the next paragraph; yet at the same time, feeling a powerful compulsion to keep reading. Let's face it, I don't care for gore. I really dislike it, in fact. That this book has more than its share of gore was a bit of a turn off. Despite that fact, the story line and the desire to see Hammond and Tigger make it out alive kept me reading.
Although I feel that the writing in this book is very good, there were some issues with editing that proved mildly distracting. A plus and a minus of this story is the fast pace. It works for a novel in which various characters meet violent death at the hands of demons in mere minutes. I was poised on the edge of my seat, crossing myself in fear as I read this book. However, it was often confusing how quickly the scenes began and ended in this book. The ending was also on the abrupt side, concluding this novel in a way that left me rather desolate and wanting more. The good news is this story would lend itself very well to a sequel.
Fans of horror with a spiritual message would probably enjoy this book. I want to be clear in stating that it is not in any way preachy, but I felt there was a message of hope with a bit of a Christian flavor. However, I don't feel that the author wrote this book to save souls, but was merely writing a book that reflected his faith and told a story he passionately wanted to share with readers. At any rate, readers who do have an interest in Christian lore such as fallen angels, nephilim, and the Knights Templar, even if they don't necessarily have Christian beliefs would probably enjoy reading this book. Despite the violence, gore, and horror, I certainly did. I'd give it 3 1/2 stars.
Todd (Michael T. Fann)
5 of 5 Stars. I have really enjoyed reading Convict Grade. My eyes were glued to the pages as I read, and I did not want to lay the book down. Hammond and Tiggs world really just sucked me in and I was lost. I want to read another one like this again soon.
M B Jones
5 of 5 stars. It is true that I started reading this book out of pure curiosity. The first few chapters set up a classic setting for whatever kind of book you want. 'Meh' I thought. Then WWWHHHHHHAAAAMMMMM!!! Everything is let loose. From then on I wasn't quite sure what was going to happen. The events seemed so real. The story was engaging the entire time. I can't recall there being a dull chapter... and there are 35 of them! I could go and tell about it all, but I don't want to ruin the experience for whoever else is going to read. I got sucked into the book, and I recommend it to anyone. Some disturbing images, but it involves creatures from hell, a gruesome place to come from. Even if you don't like horror, if you can stand some gore (it isn't the whole time) then this is a good book for you. Good work Mr. Damien.