In honor of Halloween, for today’s Twin Thursday Rachel of Chicken-Scratch Plot and I are looking at fiction that honestly scares us. It’s been awhile, so I’m taking the opportunity to also do another of my Characters Done Right series. Be sure to follow the link at the top right to Rachel’s blog when you’re done here!

The character I picked for this isn’t a character so much as a machine: the killing devices in Lady Knight  by Tamora Pierce. It’s not that this book is necessarily a horror novel, per se, and to be honest there are probably things that I’ve read since which are–strictly speaking–scarier.

What made them stick with me after all these years, though, is that Pierce really sells these devices. They’re huge, hulking, nigh-unstoppable killing machines. They don’t feel fear. They don’t feel regret. They don’t discriminate. They simply wreak havoc, and all of the characters on-screen with them react appropriately, especially the protagonist. She’s tangibly, mind-fillingly terrified of these things. And, since I rely on the protagonist as my window to the narrative, this really puts the fear of what they’re experiencing in my belly.

That, more than the mechanics behind them or their place in the story, is what makes them stick with me. I talk a lot about making emotions physical to the reader, and it’s doubly important when you’re trying to evoke something as visceral as fear. Pierce does this with Kel as she’s looking at the killing devices. Brave as she is, just the sight of one of the creatures fills her with cold dread that only doubles the more we learn how they work and where they come from.

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