Cover Image: Born to the Dark

Born to the Dark

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Member Reviews

Thirty years after the events in The Searching Dead, forty-year-old Dominic Sheldrake has long put the days of his childhood investigation of Christian Noble and his practice of spiritualism behind him. Now a husband and father, as well as a university film professor, Dominic is worried about his son Toby’s nocturnal seizure disorder and finding a treatment that will cure him. When Dominic’s wife Lesley learns of the Safe to Sleep program from a pediatrician that will cure Toby of his seizures, they are elated.
Almost immediately after sending Toby to Safe to Sleep, Dominic overhears him and another child playing strange games and learns that Toby has been telling outlandish stories in school. Stories that Toby has learned by reading Dominic’s old copies of Christian Noble’s journals. Toby begins to tell his parents about dreams of traveling the universe and drawing pictures that remind Dominic of Christian Noble’s sermons from his church. Trying to learn more about the Safe to Sleep program’s mysterious origins and the widespread seizure disorder affecting numerous children in the area, Dominic begins to wonder what became of Christian Noble and his precocious daughter Tina. With the help of his old friends Jim and Roberta, Dominic seeks answers to not only the motives of the Nobles, but also to save his family.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to read the first book in The Daoloth Trilogy, The Searching Dead thanks to Flame Tree Press. I wasn’t initially sold on the first book, but Ramsey won me over with his world-building and fleshed-out characters. I’ve been eagerly awaiting this book since I finished the first in March, and I wasn’t disappointed. If it at possible, I think I enjoyed Born to the Dark more than The Searching Dead. Just as in the first book, Ramsey nailed the character development. Grown-up Dominic was just as compelling as he was a kid. I loved seeing the nods to his past in his relationship with his father and seeing his friends Roberta and Jim again. Yes, The Tremendous Three are still friends! Most of all, I loved the character of Toby, Dominic’s young son. I cannot wait to see what happens in book 3 when I get it.

Thank you to #NetGalley and #FlameTreeBooks for providing me with the eARCs to both this novel and its predecessor in exchange for my honest reviews. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Another great book by a Master of Horror.
30 years after the first book takes place history may be trying to repeat itself.
Looking forward to book 3.
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This book is the second in the series and follows Dom, Jim and Bobby as adults.

Well who should pop up again? Christian Noble and his “all grown up” daughter Tina. And they are up to no good….again. This time they are using children instead of the dead. Dom’s own child, Toby is caught up in their newest cosmic plot.

I didn’t like the Tremendous Three (Dom, Jim and Bobby) as much as adults. Jim was the same; very much a rule follower and hyper religious, Bobby, now a journalist called Bob, is pretty naive for for an investigative journalist and Dom who unfortunately picked the most unsupportive partner. Dom’s wife, Lesley, was my least favorite character. She was stubborn to the point of me throwing the book across the room.

I did love the setting as always. Dreary and dismal atmosphere that fit perfect with the Nobles and all their creepy rituals. Probably the most terrifying thing for me was their attachment to the children and the strange sleep therapy they had developed. And the end left the reader on a cliff, dangling. I need to know what happens next!
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Born Into Darkness is the second book in the Daolath trilogy. The reader meets up with Sheldrake as a middle-aged adult with a young child. He has gotten married and has a family. He has a young child that is plagued with night seizures. All treatment has been futile. They find a place call Safe To Sleep that says they have a cure. However, Sheldrake learns some terrible secrets and must work to save his son.
	This book plays on fears of being helpless against a great terror but also on common fears found in adulthood, married life, and parenting. The reader feels a real sense of dread and helplessness that builds up throughout the story. This book has a different feel from the first, mostly because the main character is now an adult and the stakes are higher. Campbell has a masterful way with words and I don’t know any other author than could make me feel creeped out by describing a simple landscape. 
	The story arc is not predictable which adds to the terror and dread.  There were a few parts that I was able to anticipate, but overall the ending was quite satisfying.  I wouldn’t call it a happy ending but it wraps things up while still leaving enough to keep you curious about the third book. Campbell is a true master of modern cosmic horror.
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5 Stars!

This is two new Ramsey Campbell novels in the space of a couple months from Flame Tree Press.  It does not get much better than that.  Even better is that Born to the Dark is the follow up to The Searching Dead as it is the second book of the Three Births of Daoloth trilogy.  Second novels of a trilogy can tend to drag at times so I was hoping to avoid that lag and knew that Campbell was the author who could do just that.

Dominic Sheldrake now lives is a new town and is a professor of cinema but he can never leave his past behind.  He and his wife, Lesley, have a son, Toby, who suffers from seizures while he is sleeping.  Doctors have not been able to figure out these nocturnal seizures and the couple is getting more desperate to find a way to help their son.  Lesley gets a tip about a private sleep therapy business, Safe to Sleep, that may be able to help Toby.  Lesley acts immediately and enrolls Toby in their program.  The couple is immediately relieved that the company's therapy seems to be working as Toby is sleeping better than he ever has with no seizures.  When Dominic decides to look behind the curtain at what is really happening with his son, however, the past is laying in wait.

When Dominic begins to look into the methods used by Safe to Sleep, he is shocked to discover that a ghost from his past, Christian Noble, is involved in this as well.  Dominic thought that he had rid himself of Noble for good 30 years earlier (read The Searching Dead) and cannot bring himself to believe that Noble could be behind anything good.  Dominic's suspicions begin to put a strain on his marriage and he is determined to figure out what is happening at Safe to Sleep.  The only way to learn, however, is to take part in the sessions.  Unfortunately, one you take part in one of the rituals, you may never be able to find your way back out.

Born to the Dark is a sequel to The Searching Dead and I am sure that reading the first book adds to this novel (especially in the backstory between Noble and Dominic) but it is not necessary to read it.  This book stands well enough on its own and can be enjoyed by new readers although I am sure it will make you want to go back and pick up the first one.  Campbell brings his vivid storytelling to this novel so that the reader can easily become immersed in the story and lose track of time and reality.  The book, while you are reading it, becomes reality.  And the terror that lies within the pages is a very subtle one but also one that will haunt the reader after the book is put down for the night.  This is one of the things that makes Campbell so good:  He almost seems to control the reader even while the reader is not aware it is happening.  I would read a chapter of the book and then just stop and realize that I was terrified even though I had not really realized it yet.  This book is definitely haunting.

Born to the Dark not only avoids the rut that a second book of a trilogy can fall into but even eclipses the first novel.  I enjoyed The Searching Dead but Born to the Dark is just a great novel, horror or otherwise.  It works on two separate levels:  the all-too-human story of a man fighting to defend his family as well as a Lovecraftian plot of an ancient evil from the stars bent upon taking over the world.  There are monsters here but the question Campbell seems to be asking at times is if it is the monsters or the humans that are truly evil.  Born to the Dark drew me in from the first page and did not let me go until it ended.  This is a story that I found thrilling on the surface and deeply disturbing in its dark depths.  Reality seems to warp throughout the novel which is fitting given its theme of dreams and nightmares.  Where does the real horror of the story lie?  That is for the reader to decide.  Campbell just provides a twisted yet somehow beautiful backdrop in which the moral tale that settles in the reader's mind plays out on the pages.  I cannot recommend this book any more for a reader looking for some intellectual debate mixed with otherworldly chills.

I would like to thank Flame Tree Press and NetGalley for this review copy.  Born to the Dark is scheduled to be released on September 21, 2021.
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Ramsay Campbell is just so reliable. I've been reading his books for years. He rarely has a misstep.

I didn't realize that this was part two of a series so even though you could fairly easily pick your way through the connections to the first book, it did somewhat diminish the experience. You can't help wondering what you've missed or at least which references/connections you're missing.

I just love the time in more recent history (1960s-80s) in which he sets his books, I can really relate to them and the simpler times means that he can get away with stretching the limits of believability. 

It may be unfair of me but I've given it three stars mostly because of what I could be missing from not reading part one so I'd really recommend that you read the first book before tackling this one.

I appreciate the opportunity to read it, thank you NetGalley.
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The Three Births of Daoloth returns! Though thirty years have passed since the events of The Searching Dead, we must revisit the past to fight the present as a strange condition spreads through the young population. The cult of Christian Noble remains ...

Full review coming soon to the usual platforms.
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Brooding, Lovecraftian, and Ultimately Horrifying

Ramsey Campbell, a master storyteller, leads readers step by step into a nightmare in this second book of his series, set 30 years from the events in The Searching Dead. Now a husband and father, Dominic Sheldrake has put the terrifying events of his teen years behind him. He seems to have a fulfilling life, a wife, a child.

But, can such a dark threat really be vanquished? Or does the fear of it only get lulled to sleep? 

I don't really care for Dominic. He's prickly, repressed, and impulsive. It's hard to tell if his personality is naturally bent that way or if he's been irrevocably damaged by his brush with darkness.  

And it does seem as if he's been sleepwalking through life, which only makes his awakening more shocking.
His past impulses have led to far reaching consequences that will surely wake him up.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to read an advance review copy of this book courtesy of NetGalley. I've been left with an uneasiness since I finished -- and I love every minute of it!
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While I haven't read the first book in this series, I don't think it really matters. This book works as a standalone text and doesn't leave readers struggling to try to figure out who's who and what's happening. Overall I think this book really works: it's dark and compelling but doesn't seem like it's trying too hard. It evokes dread and anxiety, but in a fun way that shows how deeply atmospheric the book itself is. 

Sometimes the verbiage felt a bit clunky or awkward, but that's my ONLY complaint. This was such a great read.
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Thirty years after the gruesome encounter with Christian Noble, Dominic Sheldrake is a grown man with a son of his own. While he may not have forgotten his past, he somewhat managed to banish his memories to the furthest corner of his mind. However, when his son, who suffers from nocturnal seizures, starts visiting a private medical center intend on helping children with such sleep disorders, the past seems to repeat itself. While Dom's wife does not believe his suspicions, he is convinced that the Noble family has returned, intent to finally accomplish what they started so long ago and what he prevented back then. Fighting to get his son back, Dom loses it all when his wife throws him out, wanting a divorce and accusing him of being delusional. Dom turns to his old childhood friends for help. In a desperate race against time, Dom must stop Christian Noble once again and rescue his son before it is too late.
While I enjoyed the first book, I loved this one much better, maybe because the writing felt more comprehensible to me this time. While I'm an avid English reader, I still encounter authors whose sophisticated wording makes me struggle - interestingly, they are all British English authors. Also, I got a much better understanding of the mysterious Christian Noble 'cult'. Now I am eager to find out how it all comes together in the final installment of this fascinating trilogy.
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Dark and compelling.  I enjoyed this story even though I didn’t read the first book in the series. It still read well as a stand-alone. Creepy and classic horror at its finest. A good read. 

Thank you NetGalley for this arc
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Born to the Dark is a superbly atmospheric, dread filled follow up to the Searching Dead, picking up the story 30 years or so down the line.  I was concerned this might be a bit of a stretch that the key characters would be able to pick up again so seamlessly (it’s not IT after all!) but I needn’t have worried. There is a genuine reason for the sinister aspects of the Nobles to have not played a part for so long, and there’s no attempt to either pretend the three kids from book 1 have  stayed massively in touch, all in the book’s favour.

Some very effective cosmic horror in this book, developing the themes of the first. Really looking forward to the final part.
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Book 2 in the Three Births of Daoloth trilogy.

1985. Dominic Sheldrake is now a lecturer on cinema. His and Lesley’s small son Toby has begun to experience strange nocturnal seizures that no medical help seems to be able to treat. Meanwhile Dominic assumes the occultist Christian Noble is out of his life, but his influence on the world is more insidious than ever. Roberta Parkin has become a journalist and infiltrates the new version of the Nobles’ cult, but are the experiences it offers too powerful for her to control? In order to rescue his son from the cult, if he can, Dominic must undergo them too… 

Good book!! I definitely enjoyed reading this one!  ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
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“Go to the dark where the dead people grow.”

With Born to the Dark Flame Tree Press continue to have fun mining one of the finest back-catalogues in world horror. This latest Ramsey Campbell rerelease is a direct sequel to The Searching Dead (2016) which reappeared earlier in 2021, with the final part of the trilogy The Way of the Worm (2018) dropping next year. The originals are highly sought after limited editions from PS Publications, so it is fantastic that Campbell’s unique brand of brooding horror is now reaching a wider audience and available on ebook for the first time. The series is also known as both the Three Births of Daoloth and the Brichester Mythos Trilogy, with the originals picking up universal praise first time around as superior examples of cosmic horror.

I would not bother reading Born to the Dark unless you have read The Searching Dead as they are very strongly interconnected. The plots are set three decades apart and feature many of the same characters, locations and form part of a very long three book story-arc. The first entry in the series was a departure for Campbell, as the main characters were children who were just starting secondary school and the plot nails their developing adolescence perfectly. Set in Liverpool of the 1950s, the novel beautifully recreates a city which still lived in the shadow of the war and where schools were strict and cruel places. The setting was a major strength of the original and by moving the action forward thirty years, the sequel lacks the natural childhood vitality and innocence the youngsters bring to the original.

The Searching Dead is narrated in the first person by Dominic Sheldrake who is about to start secondary school, making his parents proud by winning a place at the local Catholic grammar school, his best friend Tommy also attends, and the third friend Bobby (Roberta) goes to another school for girls. On the cusp of puberty, the three friends do everything together and their interactions, embarrassments, and trials were a major strength of the book. At a certain point Dominic realises one of his favourite teachers, Mr Cristian Noble who lives locally, leads a local Spiritualist Church and after developing some suspicions goes snooping where he should not, leading him into a dark and sinister world involving life after death and experiments into it. 

Born to the Dark picks up the story in 1985 with Dominic (now known as Dom), once again, narrating the tale and with his two old friends returning in supporting roles. Simply put, eighties Liverpool is not as atmospheric as the fifties, and an argumentative middle-aged man does not engage in the same manner his younger self does in The Searching Dead. Sadly, the spirit of youth has long since departed Dom and he has turned into somewhat of a bore who seems to rub everybody else the wrong way, including his wife, old friends, and boss at the college where he works. He was reminiscent of other leading characters in recent Campbell fiction, from the beleaguered author in Somebody’s Voice to Patrick Torrington in The Wise Friend. He was supposed to be in his early forties but came across as much older and crankier, in some sections he tested my patience by repeatedly answering questions with other questions or losing his temper far too quickly. 

Like its predecessor, the supernatural for the most part was beautifully understated, atmospheric and low key until the last fifty pages or so. There are no “Boo!” scares or demons rising from the depths of Hell, it is much subtler that that and is in tune with much of Campbell’s character driven recent fiction, focusing on disintegrating family dynamics, supernatural ambiguity and secrets. However, that is not to say the novel does not have its scares and the second coming of Dom’s old teacher Mr Christian Noble was well worth the wait. 

I do not want to say too much about the plot of Born to the Dark as it might provide spoilers for those who have not read The Searching Dead. As a boy Dom dreamed of being a writer, instead he has become a lecturer on cinema and has a fractious relationship with his boss and also seems at odds with some of his students. When his young son Toby begins to experience strange nocturnal seizures that no medical help seems able to treat, it is suggested that he tries alternative therapy, ‘Safe to Sleep’ is suggested, and this brings him into the orbit of his old adversary Mr Noble and his strange organisation. More on the cult is being held back for the final book, but I would still have liked to have found out a taste more on their innerworkings and also seen Noble play a bigger role.

The relationship (or is it an obsession?) between Dom and Noble is an interesting one, as although they share very few scenes together, Dom definitely has an unhealthy obsession in his old teacher and has obviously never truly come to terms with what happened when he was a boy.  The Lovecraftian influences hinted at in book one is developed considerably in this continuation and these scenes, generally seen through the eyes of his son Toby, were amongst the strongest in the novel. The childish interpretations of these dream visions were also incredibly unsettling, and one could feel the helplessness the parents felt towards their child.  

Born to the Dark is a fine middle volume which slowly unveils the malevolent cosmic menace that was only hinted at in the first book in greater detail, but Campbell takes his time, and much is held back for the conclusion in the trilogy. Make sure you keep the lights on for the (almost) ending where Dominic and his policeman friend find themselves in a seemingly abandoned house and make a very unwise turn. If you are discovering these books for the first time you are in for a treat.
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