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April 10, 2017

The Horror Genre and 3 Horror Novels Reviewed

by MK French

According to Wikipedia, "Horror is a genre of fiction which is intended to, or has the capacity to frighten, scare, disgust, or startle their readers or viewers by inducing feelings of horror and terror. Literary historian J. A. Cuddon has defined the horror story as "a piece of fiction in prose of variable length... which shocks or even frightens the reader, or perhaps induces a feeling of repulsion or loathing".[1] It creates an eerie and frightening atmosphere. Horror is frequently supernatural, though it can be non-supernatural."

For many people, there is a fine line between horror and thriller. David Hohl, on his website, discusses the differences. He asserts that Horror is a subgenre of Fantasy.  The Horror Writers Association has a nice piece on What Horror Is that you might want to check out if you are interested in how the horror genre went from an esteemed literary genre, i.e. gothic horror, to more of a pop culture genre.

The three horror novels I recently read have supernatural elements and could also be considered dark fantasy. What do you like about the horror genre? What are some of your favorite horror novels or films?

Amazon Affiliate links are used in this post and a free book was provided for these reviews. The opinions are my own.

October 2016; 978-1535515283
ebook & print (244 pages)
a free book was provided for this review
Chaste: A Tale of Perilisc by Jesse Teller

Chaste is a small town known for its ties to the god Cor-lyn-ber, but gradually its peaceful nature had been corrupted. Children go missing and are found dead, and a sinister presence seems to have infected the town. Cheryl's parents had once been its defenders, but after their deaths, she turned her back on her god and submitted to the abuses heaped upon her. The priest and all those in power in the town are corrupted, and her efforts to keep its corruption from spoiling the innocent are feeble at best. Five strangers enter the town, intending to keep going but are soon drawn into the corruption and evil.

Those who play Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, or similar games set in high fantasy sword-and-sorcery settings will instantly feel at home with this book, as long as they are comfortable with the darker potential of it. There are graphic descriptions of violence, torture, and fights, as well as rape, murder, and psychological tortures. While Cor-lyn-ber might be the god of hope and light in this series of novels (this particular book is the third in the Perilisc series), the priest is actually a corrupted minion of Hac-Jahoo. He plans to bring demons into the world using the bodies of the children, which are defiled in ways not actually described but disgust the characters comfortable with rape, murder, and torture. The stories of all the characters are eventually revealed, and all of them are tortured in some way.

This is not a book of happiness or light, and the darkness can be very disconcerting at times. Characters are changed by the end of it, not always for the better, but in ways that make sense for this world. For those who enjoy dark fantasy tropes, this book will definitely meet expectations.

Buy Chaste at Amazon

The Devil's Prayer
February 2016; Australian eBook Publisher
ebook (294 pages)
a free ebook was provided for this review
The Devil's Prayer by Luke Gracias

The suicide of Sister Benedictine in Spain reveals that she was Denise Russo, the mother of Australian Siobhan Russo. She had apparently abandoned her family six years before, and Siobhan travels to Spain to pay her respects and find out what happened to give her family closure. A strange group of monks follows her, and she steals her mother's confession that had been locked away in the convent vault. Siobhan reads the journal as she tries to escape the monks and understand why her mother took a vow of silence after leaving Australia. It turned out that her mother had made a deal with the devil to get revenge on the people that had tortured her when Siobhan was a girl, with Siobhan's soul hanging in the balance.

The entire book was an engaging read, full of details that really give the characters life and full atmosphere to the locations. There are two distinct stories within this book. One is Siobhan's home life in Australia and journey to Spain, then being on the run from the monks before returning to Australia. The other is Denise's journal, which outlines the rape and torture she endured from friends after winning a lottery ticket. It's horrific to experience with her, even in the relatively spare description given, as well as the intense revenge she takes after making the deal with the devil. A larger conspiracy is at work, so Denise had also been tasked with finding the Devil's Prayer, which was left to Siobhan in the back of the journal.

It feels very similar to the Da Vinci Code, as it involves history blending together with religion; Luke Gracias had actually taken the Devil's Prayer from a piece of folklore regarding a bet a monk had made to complete a handwritten Bible overnight. That gives the conspiracy behind the drama a little more authenticity, which is always good in a novel like this. The ending feels almost abrupt and open-ended, though the story is complete. It could very easily be the first of a series of novels, exploring the ramifications of the Devil's Prayer and the fallout from Denise's deal.

Buy The Devil's Prayer at Amazon

Evening's Land
February 2017; 978-1542463461
ebook & print (376 pages)
a free book was provided for this review
Evening's Land by Pauline West

After her best friend's suicide, Ada Walker moves with her parents to Charleston, South Carolina. They have their own issues and don't always see what's happening to Ada. There is a ghost in the house that appears to her, and she has some kind of psychic gift that allows her to access the collective unconscious of the world, known as Evening's Land. She isn't the only one able to do so, and the others that are aware of her plan to use her ability for their own purposes.

The tagline says that this book has the "dark elegance of Anne Rice" and "lush parallel worlds of Neil Gaiman." Being a fan of both authors, of course, I would try to read this book.

While the characters all have their own motivations, the way the story is told makes the beginning rather confusing. There is the current plot alternating with chapters outlining the past with Faye before her suicide, which would be fine if it wasn't told from varying points of view. I had no idea there was going to be graphic depictions of violence, drug use, rape, self-harm, suicide, and human sacrifice, and it felt like all of these elements were thrown together because it had to be "dark" and "edgy." The ghost didn't seem to be "rakishly handsome," but manipulative, selfish, and just as awful as everyone else in the book.

This was a quick but not very pleasant read, and by the end, I really wasn't interested in what else might happen to the characters.

Buy Evening's Land at Amazon

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  1. Definitely an interesting post. I'm all for more horror readers! Keep up the good work. --- Paul @

  2. Good horror really shakes you up for days afterward, or keeps you up at night with nightmares. In that respect all of these did do the job, but Evening's Land didn't really sit well with me as much as I was hoping it would.