Saturday 30 March 2024

Welcome to Arkham: An Illustrated Guide for Visitors - Book Review


'Witness Arkham like you’re walking its streets, peering into its shadows…

'It is the height of the Roaring Twenties. Flappers and young fellas dance the Charleston at raucous jazz clubs gleaming bright with electric lights. Beneath this gilded glamour, bloody turf wars rage, funded by gangsters and crooked cops who frequent rival speakeasies and gambling dens. Amid these changing times, old New England towns hold their secrets close. Off the Aylesbury pike, in reclusive Dunwich, rolling hills hide decrepit farms and witch-haunted hollows. Past Cape Ann, the remote fishing village of Innsmouth rots from within. At the mouth of the Miskatonic River, mist-shrouded Kingsport lies dreaming. All the while, historic Arkham broods on the upper banks of the Miskatonic, its famed university delving into the world’s darkest, most ancient mysteries.

'Welcome to Arkham invites you to venture deeper than ever before into this legend-haunted city, inspired by H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos and made famous by the Arkham Horror series of tabletop games. Welcome to Arkham is a complete guide to the city of Arkham and the neighboring towns of Dunwich, Innsmouth and Kingsport, detailing 115 fabled locations and featuring more than 500 illustrations. Walk the streets of Arkham, ride the Essex County Express, hitch a ride to Innsmouth (and pray you can find a way out), or take a ferry down the Miskatonic River, and read between the lines to discover what other mysteries lurk deeper still in the pages of this tattered old book…'

I've yet to actually play an Arkham Horror game, having not found anyone who knows the game or has interest in playing it. I have however, come to really enjoy the world of monsters, cults, and daring heroes that the game has created thanks completely to the work of Aconyte Books. Yes, I have experience with the works of Lovecraft, but the Arkham Horror novel series has been one of the best places to take the concepts that he created and expand upon them; and they've been some of my favourite Lovecraftian reads.

But, when you've got the foundation of Lovecraft himself, the creations from the game and it's various updates and expansions, and the books, it can be a lot to keep track of. It's not the biggest and more lore heavy tabletop game around, but it is a pretty expansive one in its own right. Rather than keeping copious notes and spreadsheets trying to keep track of everything, Aconyte offers fans a much better way with Welcome to Arkham: An Illustrated Guide for Visitors.

Written by the Arkham Historical Society, this travel guide for new visitors to the town is the perfect thing to pick up to help you learn more about the city, or to prepare yourself for a visit. The book is written within universe for the most part, acting like a regular travel guide to Arkham and some of the surrounding areas in the Miskatonic River Valley, including infamous locations such as Dunwich, and Innsmouth. Each location is given a write up, telling you about its history, and notable buildings and locations in each area, accompanied by beautiful full colour artwork that show of the beauty and horror of the place.

But the book doesn't just cover geographic locations, but includes a ton of easter eggs and nods to the wider world. This includes stuff like playbills, restaurant menus, newspaper and magazine articles, and other bits and pieces that have been collected together to give a wider view of the area. Care and attention is given to making the book feel as real as possible, and each of the pieces included in it is given a little bit of age, weathering, and general wear and tear in order to make it feel like something that someone could have put together themselves rather than the glossy new publication that it actually is. 

For those eagle-eyed readers, however, there's a little something extra hidden amongst the pages of this guide. We all know that Arkham isn't a normal place, that the world of the paranormal and extraordinary seeps through around the edges of your perception. And this book is no different. Early on there's a hint of a missing person case. Scattered throughout the book are bits and pieces that add to this mystery, hinting at answers waiting for an intrepid reader to discover.

Whether you're new to the world of Arkham Horror, or if you're an old hat at the game and know every piece of lore and detail there is, Welcome to Arkham: An Illustrated Guide for Visitors is sure to delight and enthral. Having only read the digital version I can only imagine how good the book looks in person. The digital version is fantastic to read through, or even just flicking through the pages to stare at the gorgeous art. But this is definitely a book that I'm going to want to see in person too. It has the feel of something a little bit special, something that elevates the world of Arkham Horror in new and creative ways. 

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