Review by Jamie McNeil
William Kitka and his family died in the Barrow massacre three years ago, and now his brother Brian and nephew Marcus have moved to Barrow, Alaska. This is partly because Brian is the new sheriff in what is becoming a lawless town, partly because Brian wants to investigate what happened to William and possibly clear his brother’s name. The authorities declared the Kitka case one murder/suicide among a rash of bizarre killings. Brian knows that vampires were responsible thanks to Stella Olemaun’s book, even if he doesn’t quite believe it. The locals won’t talk about it. Only John Ikos, Barrow’s grizzled protector against the vampire onslaught, is prepared to give Brian the answers he wants, but he may not like them. There are four days of sunlight left until the long winter night and the vampire horde descends, under a new leadership with orders to bury the secrets of Barrow forever. Brian has a choice to make: stay to fight and die, or run and live.
Return to Barrow demonstrates how far Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith have developed both as 30 Days of Night’s creative team and individual creators. Niles’s plot builds on the previous two books (30 Days of Night and Dark Days), weaving in characters and subplots introduced there. There are new twists to the way different vampire factions decide to interact with mankind, making for an unnerving tale. It’s emotionally driven with bitter-sweet moments, a lot more transpiring beyond the main storyline, and while Niles’ dialogue can verge on the overly twee, well executed plot twists keep it on the level. Templesmith immediately sets a tense atmosphere: red streaks of blood on silver snow, a black car emerging from icy fog. The contrasts between the cast and the surrounding are clearer, allowing little details within the frames to augment the story. Rage and the ensuing violence add a visceral horror quality, but Templesmith renders some tender moments too that enable both creators to toy with feelings beyond fear. It adds depth to those cast members- both human and vampire- trying to hold onto their humanity, and the story works all the better for it.
Return to Barrow both revisits ideas to develop them and introduces a new cast in an increasingly interesting world. The success of this series led to Niles being able to revisit an earlier idea with Templesmith that became known as Criminal Macabre, eventually crossing over in Final Night. 30 Days of Night can be read in any order after the first two books, but those who like to follow the chronological sequence can do so with Bloodsucker Tales.