Dark Hilarity by Joseph Sale

SPFBO Status: Cut


Overview (No Spoilers):

The first third of Dark Hilarity focuses on Tara, a young teen who is obsessed with the band Valentine Killshot, especially their lead singer Jed Maine. We also glimpse the fascinating inner workings of the aforementioned singer, whose intrigue only grows as we learn that the inspiration to his songs is rooted in another world, Dae’eshta. After a sequence of suspenseful and mysterious events set the idol and super fan on a collision course, the end result is one of chaos and horror that left me so very excited to find out what Sale had in store for the rest of Dark Hilarity.

Following the insane events alluded to above, there is a significant time leap within the story where we find Tara and her friend Nicola grown but still coping with the trauma of Jed Maine. With their friendship frayed as a result of their past, both characters are struggling to find purpose. After the fast-paced introduction to Dae’eshta and the extent Jed Maine would go to permanently reside in this other realm, part three felt jagged as it is filled with so much pain for Tara and Nicola. While this void, immersed in suffering, only lasts a relatively short amount of time, it sets the stage for the rest of the story. The remainder of this story shifts to Dae’eshta, where the reader navigates through large jumps in time. Multiple aspects of this adventure felt glossed over and vague by the leaps in time, leaving me feeling as though I were missing out on the crucial growth and worldbuilding surrounding these characters navigating this strange world. Big leaps in time, in and of themselves, are fine, but the story itself ends up only grazing the surface of a much more vibrant adventure. Also, coincidence seems to be a key tool used to have the right people assemble at the right time, regardless of how large or eccentric this world is. Additionally, foreshadowing at different parts of this story works to set up dread and suspense, but also mitigates any surprise by hinting at the outcome of upcoming plot twists. 

Overall, Dark Hilarity is a tale of two books with the first half hooking you and the last part dragging itself to a rather anticlimactic, violent ending.

Additional Insight (Spoilers Abound):

  • If the wolf was not a traveler, then who attacked Amanda and the girls outside the concert? How did he travel to their rooms?
  • Why did the wolf go for Tara and drive her to interact with the band?
  • I didn’t get the connection to the wolf being a father figure to Tara.
  • If there are so many other travelers to Dae’eshta wouldn’t there be other tell-tale rumors of this land existing? 
  • What happened to Tara’s old roommates? Or Justin who threw her off the balcony?
  • I was curious to see how the Frantic Caller would tie into the larger story but why would he have just happened to be on the Laughing God’s island and how was he still alive after all this time?
  • Why was Tara’s period tied into any of this story? That seemed an addition that was never really addressed other than maybe for a shock factor.
  • Was Tara’s father actually lost at sea?
  • Who was speaking through Justin? Who was his master? 
  • The final meeting of Ebisu the Laughing God was brief and abrupt, without many major revelations.
  • The cannibalism of Vengeance Manny was cringeworthy and seemingly pointless. Where had Vengeance been hiding this whole time? Also, his death was so violent, abrupt, and pointless.
  • What happened to Frank after the fallout of Jed Maine?
  • Sagintus, Artemile, and Suzukan were one-dimensional fillers whose deaths felt choreographed, but due to the lack of depth did not impact the reader on an emotional level.
  • Where are the other gods: Ordog, Marduk, or Kukuth? Why do they not hold the same power as Ebisu?

Vocabulary Builder

Cretin: a stupid, vulgar, or insensitive person

Ziggurat: an ancient Mesopotamian temple tower consisting of a lofty pyramidal structure built in successive stages with outside staircases and a shrine at the top

Ayahuasca: a psychoactive beverage containing dimethyltryptamine that is prepared especially from the bark of a woody vine (Banisteriopsis caapi of the family Malpighiaceae) and the leaves of a shrubby plant (Psychotria viridis of the family Rubiaceae) of South America

Ataxia: an inability to coordinate voluntary muscular movements that is symptomatic of some central nervous system disorders and injuries and not due to muscle weakness

Pelagic: of, relating to, or living or occurring in the open sea

Faffing: to make a fuss over nothing


Somnambulist: an abnormal condition of sleep in which motor acts (such as walking) are performed 

Eclosing: to emerge from the eggshell or pupal case

Quiff: a prominent forelock

Insipid: lacking in qualities that interest, stimulate, or challenge

Fecund: intellectually productive or inventive to a marked degree

Proboscis any of various elongated or extensible tubular processes (such as the sucking organ of a butterfly) of the oral region of an invertebrate 

Favelas: a settlement of jerry-built shacks lying on the outskirts of a Brazilian city

Panoply: something forming a protective covering

Gainsaid: to declare to be untrue or invalid

Coruscated: to give off or reflect light in bright beams or flashes

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s