Horror Book Review: Knuckle Balled (Drew Stepek)

Knuckle Balled is the sequel to the gory & visceral vampire horror, Knuckle Supper. A story that followed the plight of heroin-addict & vampire, RJ as leader of one of the many gangs in Los Angeles.

Knuckle Balled will be released Thanksgiving 2017.

RJ lives for two things…heroin & blood, he needs both to stay alive. His world is turned upside down when the 12 year old abuse victim/prostitute ‘Bait’ enters his life. Suddenly RJ finds he cares about someone other than himself. However those in his gang are less than pleased about her influence on him.

Knuckle Supper 2

A thrilling story filled with fascinating characters, incredibly dark plot points & a hint of tongue in cheek humour. We absolutely loved it & you can read our review of it here as well as an interview with the author, Drew Stepek here.

Note: this review of Knuckle Balled will contain spoilers for Knuckle Supper.

Carrying on from the events that occurred at the end of Knuckle Supper, the gangs of LA have been wiped out by The Cloth. King Cobra is dead, Bait is dead but RJ & Eldritch live. Having assaulted the Battlesnakes’ compound in an attempt to save Bait from Dez’s betrayal they’ve now left LA.

Knuckle Supper ended with RJ visiting the once-home of Bait where her cancer suffering (now in remission) sister (Paulina also known as Pinball), abusive step-father & mother live. He kills them both in front of Pinball in revenge for their treatment of the two girls before taking her away with him & Eldritch.

Knuckle Balled picks up with the trio in Austin, Texas where their plan is to get Pinball to safety. She is far younger then Bait & far less trusting especially after seeing what RJ did to her parents. She believes the abuse she suffered was because she was ill & saw her step-father as a hero rather than a villain.

The situation isn’t helped by RJ’s total lack of tact, his constant teasing of Eldritch’s behaviour & his desperate need for drugs (the Gooch). It’s not long after arriving in Austin that he quickly runs afoul of the gangs there.

The plan is to get Pinball to the vampire actor, Rodderick where they believe she will be safe. It’s hardly the most well-thought out plan considering how little they really know about him but it is the best they’ve got.

It’s up to Eldritch to keep RJ focused on the task at hand. Something that he finds incredibly difficult when people from the past begin to turn up.

Knuckle Balled is an impressive sequel that feels familiar but offers enough new plot lines, characters & moments to make it stand out. While Austin, Texas may not have the same flair that LA does the gangs that run the drugs certainly do. The silliness of it all mixes well with the horror of what addiction has done to a lot of them. The McCoys in particular with their constantly rotting bodies are fascinating.

Once again, RJ takes focus here with the story told from his point of view. He is the same arsehole he was before but with the heavy burden of guilt now too. The expectation that his time with Bait would have changed him is wrong. He knows he has made mistakes, he is aware of that & he feels guilty about it. Enough that he wants to help Pinball out. However his natural ability to just be a massive arsehole always seems to win out.

If there is a chance he can get drugs, he’ll take it. As seen in a very tense & violent drug-store sequence.

This might be RJ’s story but other characters get to take centre stage here too. To offset the general unpleasantness of RJ, we get to learn a bit more about Eldritch. He’s a really interesting character. A bit of a joke in contrast to all the other vampires we see but one that genuinely seems to care for Pinball & getting her to safety.

Pinball, being younger, doesn’t get quite as big a part as Bait did but her lack of awareness of the abuse she suffered & her cancer makes for a character you can genuinely hope gets out alive.

One of the of the most impressive things about Knuckle Supper was the descriptive drug use & violent bloody battles. The blood flows as limbs are snapped, eyes are gouged out & drugs are injected. This is no different in Knuckle Balled & once again it really is fun to read. If you’re already a gore-hound then chances are the nastiness on display here won’t have a major effect on you. If you do get queasy easily then the visceral style here might just turn your stomach.

Knuckle Balled mostly focuses on resolving the Pinball storyline while showing a how wide-spread the vampire/drug gangs are. Story arcs that were started in Knuckle Supper are pushed to the side for now (there are future sequels to Knuckle Balled planned) & others take minor steps forward. Such as the size of the Cloths operation & what happened to surviving LA gangs. It’s not a complaint as Knuckle Balled is a satisfying & addictive read but you just can’t help but want to see Dez get his skull ripped off!

Another excellent book from Drew Stepek. It once again leaves you wanting more. Roll on the next in the series!

Knuckle Balled 2

A portion of the profits from the book series go to Children of the Night. A non-profit organization dedicated to getting teenage prostitutes off the streets. Thanks to Drew Stepek for providing us with a copy of Knuckle Balled for this review. You can find out everything you need to know about the author, books & Child of the Night cause over on the Knuckle Supper website.

Knuckle Balled (Drew Stepek)
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