With Black Oak, award-winning author Charles Grant is clearly creating something that works better as a series than a bunch of individual novels. While not a serialized novel like King's Green Mile, readers will get more out of The Hush of Dark Wings if they've read the previous volume (and presumably still more when the next installment comes out). It should come as no surprise that the reader is coming in on an ongoing story; the book is clearly labeled #2 on the cover and spine, and "Episode Two" inside. Having said that, while The Hush of Dark Wings does pick up on elements from Genesis, and parts of this book appear to carry over into the next installment, the main story does begin and end in this volume. Additionally, the story opens with a "Previously in Black Oak" recap of the important events from Genesis (a lesson more series should learn), and ends with a "Next, in Black Oak" teaser, letting us know that the author knows he didn't explain everything, and that's by choice, not sloppiness.
While The Hush of Dark Wings has the same overall tone as the first book, the plot is considerably less complex. At one point, the characters even realize how little time has passed over the course of the story. The book serves primarily as an introduction for (presumably) new regular Vivian Chambers. We also learn more about how the mysterious Ethan Proctor works and how he thinks, if not much more about his background. The paranormal mystery is weird and creepy, with some particularly vivid and graphic scenes. Graphic, that is, in the Charles Grant sense, where he gives the reader just enough information that you imagine something truly gruesome, without being spoon-fed all the gory details.
It's easy to make comparisons to X-Files, and I'm sure this series, like Chet Williamson's Searchers trilogy, owes its existence to that TV series' popularity. What makes Black Oak distinct is its varied cast of characters. Grant manages to create vivid personalities who come to life in front of the reader. I find myself looking forward to the next installment, not only to find out what happens next, but also to spend more time with these people and learn more about them. The Black Oak books may be quick reads, but they're a lot of fun, and may be one of the best TV series in print.