By Daniel Church
Publisher: Angry Robot Books
Release: November 8, 2022
Categories: Small Town, Long Night, Monsters, Gods, Rituals, Strange Symbols, Large Casualties, Chaos, Disappearances, Snowstorm, Isolation
** This review contains minor spoilers. It seemed unavoidable to talk about the good and bad without certain things being said. **
The Premise: A large snowstorm is approaching a remote village where a vile family holds a secret knowledge. A body is found. By all appearances, the man died scared and watched. Constable Ellie Cheetham launches an investigation into the family that gets hot real fast. Just in time for the storm. That night, people go missing. It’s the beginning of something vastly destructive for all.
The Review: This is a difficult review to write. I hate giving any book a score below 3 out of 5, but I really did not enjoy this book at all. My verdict below reflects my experience coupled with the potential this novel has for others to enjoy it. I think there’s definitely a market for readers that will devour this story and enjoy every last drop. I just wasn’t part of that market (though I should have been, seeing as I usually like small town horrors). There were just too many choices made by the author I did not like. The language was very distracting. The characters all blended together, except for those at Wakeman Farm—I couldn’t stand them, but at least several of those names stood out on their own, like Liz and Jess. I also found the action sequences severely lacking in the monstrous violence that should have come from them. Had this book been cut down from 450 pages to 200, I think I could have enjoyed it a lot more. But everything is drawn out and takes too long.
Drawbacks: None of the characters made an impression. Ellie is the one with the most depth, but she still seemed like a one-dimensional heroine (despite her lightly touched upon backstory). // The family of Wakeman Farm are atrocious. I know that’s the point, but scenes focused on them made me cringe so much that I didn’t want to read them. I’ve known families like this and cannot stand them. And their foul language was too much. That’s saying something because I curse a lot. // The scenes in which the monsters are attacking people around the village and killing/taking them were surprisingly very, very weak. There was practically no violence “on screen” during these sequences. The author missed big opportunities by writing those attacks the way he did. // The book is too long, in general. The finale is far too drawn out, specifically. It felt like a hundred pages, and I was constantly distracted by other things that held my attention far better. Even with its action, I was relatively bored.
Highlights: The premise is not original, but it is a fun one. I really like small town horror stories. I like tales of isolation and terror coming together. // The monsters were cool, even though I thought their yellow rat teeth detracted from the visual I had in my mind when reading. The idea of large spider-like creatures is always frightening. // The big gods underground brought to mind Cabin in the Woods, which is a fantastic movie. I like the idea of having monstrous gods beneath our feet just waiting to wake and destroy us all. // Some of the visuals underground were haunting, especially the salt mines with human remains.
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