Red Valley is real boondock country. There’s a Walmart, a dive bar, a diner with a tree growing through it, and a river. There’s also the King. You don’t cross the King. You never, ever, go in the river. Oh, and you don’t trust the Liar …
The Liar’s powers allow her to turn lies into reality by writing them in her ledger and marking them with blood. Cover up that receding hairline? Sure. Bury a troublesome love affair? No problem. The liar’s price is time taken off your lifespan depending on the gravity of your lie, it’s up to you to determine if you’re willing to pay it.
Sadie grew up in Red Valley and inherits the title of the Liar of Red Valley. Suddenly all of the town’s secrets are Sadie’s, even the dangerous ones people are prepared to kill for. With both human and otherworldly entities all fighting to know her secrets, all Sadie knows is that her mom told a real bad lie before she died and now it’s caught up with her.
Walter Goodwater’s The Liar of Red Valley is Rebellion Publishing’s flagship Autumn title this year and for good reason. It is an American gothic tale with a strong and mystical hook that makes this book a serious page burner. This is testament to Goodwater’s intimate small town setting. Red Valley gives me Under the Dome and Fables vibes as under the town’s deadsville surface is a whole host of ancient power that seeps through the cracks of reality.
Once Sadie becomes the Liar of Red Valley after the passing of her mother, the previous Liar, she has no clue how her new powers work. All she knows is that the ledgers she has inherited are filled with over 100 years of the town’s lies, which are something the crooked town law enforcement and gibbering Laughing Boys (think a gang of chuckling Billies from Stranger Things Season 3) are desperate to get their hands on. The lies also concern the King, an entity who maintains a protective and vigilant hold over the town. The King’s bidding is carried out through the mirrored-glasses of the Kingsmen (often with violence).
When Sadie has no choice but to reveal a compromising lie told about the King by her great-great-great grandmother, also a Liar, the stakes are ramped up to apocalyptic proportions. This is the book’s main strength. Little lies here and there are seemingly nothing to worry about but the snowball effect their power creates leads to several ancient evils descending upon the town in a flurry of demonic violence.
The magic of Red Valley is mysterious and ancient. Mansions disappear and reappear into reality, the tree in the diner regenerates when damaged, spirits can be contacted as they travel the long road in death; the stakes are huge and they all funnel toward the King. I liked the world and I could have happily sunken even more time dedicated to knowing more about the ancient evils and entities the book mentions.
Goodwater doesn’t leave us hanging though. We find out who the King really is, which is why we’re so distracted and surprised when the rug is pulled out from under us in the third act of the book. Yet somehow, we knew something wasn’t right all along. The pacing of the novel was just right. Sadie transforms over the course of the story from a hapless, dead-end protagonist to one who changes the age old rule of “don’t trust the liar” to “don’t fuck with the liar”.
When the book shifts from its The Horror at Camp Jellyjam for adult readers schtick it screams into a real end game that doesn’t disappoint. A solid title that is definitely worthy of the hype it will undoubtedly be receiving over the coming months.