by Jonathan Maberry
It’s tough to review this book as a standalone novel, since, as numerous reviewers have pointed out, this is the first book in a trilogy. As such, there really isn’t anything close to a satisfying “ending”, where plot lines are wrapped up in any way. In fact, the book kind of just “stops” without any resolution of the building conflict between good and evil, and throws in a very predictable cliffhanger ending to hook you for the next book. There really isn’t any reason to read this book by itself without following it up with the next two books (which I haven’t read yet), since that would be akin to stopping a novel halfway (or in this case, a third of the way) through without finishing.
But what you WILL find in this book is both good and bad. I’ll list my opinion of the pros and cons here, since the large amount of 5-star reviews for this book were, in my opinion, a little misleading and don’t tell the whole story.
1) The author certainly has a large vocabulary and knows how to paint a scenic picture. His prose is very descriptive and even though it can get overly-weighty at times (see the first “bad” point below), there’s no denying he can write.
2) The setting, if you’re looking for a good horror book to read around Halloween, couldn’t be much more perfect.
3) Action scenes, when you finally get to them, are tense, well-written, and keep you turning the pages quickly.
1) The book is too long by probably about 100 – 150 pages. Other reviewers have pointed this out as well – there are pages and pages devoted to describing the geography of the town, including which roads lead where, the shape of fields and forests, property line descriptions, etc. And then they are repeated chapters later. Descriptive is good, but this goes way beyond that. Another example is the early chapter(s) about a teenage boy on his paper route, who fantasizes about being a super hero riding his “war machine”, rather than a kid on a bike, and the author writes pages and pages about this fantasy, way past the point of it being humorous or cute. We get it. As stated above, the action sequences are good, and the book starts out strong, but from page 100 to about 250, I was really struggling to get through it, and in a 475-page book, that’s not a good sign. It does start to get going a bit more around page 300 through to the end, but if the other two books in the trilogy are like this one, it easily could have been edited down to one much more consistently-enjoyable book.
2) Characters are a bit one-dimensional, especially the “bad guys” (more on them later). The main lead, Crow, is the most fleshed-out character, followed by the mayor (who you still don’t really get a full picture of), but beyond those two, you’ve got the standard dim-witted small-town sheriff, tough and by-the-books city cops from Philly, the beautiful, smart, tough-as-nails country farm girl, and then the usual cast of corrupt small-town cops, cartoonishly-evil criminals, and then the supporting cast of nobodies.
3) Now, about those “bad guys”. There are a lot of them in this book. And by “a lot”, I mean almost too many to count. Between the main evil character in this book, who you don’t even really get to know yet, or have any history of yet, to the three criminals running from the law, to the handful of corrupt to downright evil citizens you meet in the book, you wonder how there can be anyone left standing in the end. Perhaps there won’t be. I also find it hard to believe that a character as evil as Ruger could have made it this long in life without running afoul of the law. MINOR SPOILER ALERT: And since no-one seems to actually “die” in this book, save one “bad” character who was ripped to shreds by another “bad” character, you don’t even get the enjoyment of seeing these evil monsters get what they had coming to them. I guess that’s what the other two books are for…
4) It’s not too big of an issue, but there are a surprising amount of typos and grammatical errors in this book. Could have used with some better editing.
All in all, this isn’t a bad book, just overly long, with either cookie-cutter characters or bad guys which are evil beyond belief. It’s not hard to believe that people like that exist in the world, but 5 or 6 in the same small town? And I get that there is this idea that they have been “summoned” there by the evil presence, but still… seems like 3 or 4 antagonists too many. Factor in the long gaps between action, and the fact that there is no resolution at the end of this book, and my advice is that unless you are planning on reading the entire trilogy, you should definitely skip this one.
If not, order a copy here.