Sometimes Heaven Can Be Hell
Halcyon is the answer for anyone who wants to escape, but paradise isn’t what it seems.
A self-sustaining community on a breathtakingly beautiful island, Halcyon is run for people who want to live without fear, crime or greed. Its leader has dedicated her life to the pursuit of Glam Moon, a place of eternal beauty and healing, and believes the pathway there can only be found at the end of pleasure.
On the heels of tragedy, Martin Lovegrove moves his family to Halcyon. A couple of months, he tells himself, to retreat from the chaos and grind. Yet he soon begins to suspect there is something beneath Halcyon’s perfect veneer. As the founder captivates his young family, Martin sets out to discover the truth of the island, however terrible it might be, where something so perfect hides unimaginable darkness beneath…
Rio Youers is a British Fantasy Award-nominated author whose short fiction has been published in many notable anthologies, and his novel, Westlake Soul, was nominated for Canada’s prestigious Sunburst Award. Rio lives in southwestern Ontario with his wife Emily, and their children.
What I Thought
If you still have the Halloween spirit after last night’s festivities this is a perfect scary book to pick up.
The ‘Utopian’ Halcyon island of the title is only glimpsed in the first part of the book and instead we focus mainly on Martin and his family and the tragedy that leads them to Halcyon. Investigating his youngest daughter Edith’s night terrors leads to the realisation that they are not the benign nightmares that children simply ‘grow out of’.
I whipped through the first 100 pages and again at various points during the story. When the thrill kicks in it grabs you. The pacing was a strong point and for me Halcyon lives up to the page-turning moniker.
This is a modern horror thriller that uses the fears of the modern day to create a chilling exploration of terrorism, radicalisation and cults and also what happens when you become disillusioned with your country and fellow man. There’s a line in the book that says “Vulnerability in the wrong hands is a dangerous weapon.”
There is a supernatural element in the book but the real monsters are all human – or at least pretending to be. As with the best villains they too have their own demons to contend with but their exploitation of the vulnerable is the real evil in this book.
There is definitely content in the book that won’t be to everyone’s taste -trigger warning for torture and sexual abuse. However for me the characters were engaging enough to be invested beyond this.
The blurb on the back compares Youers to Koontz or King and this definitely has a feeling reminiscent of The Shining/The Stand era. I would definitely pick up another of his books to read when I feel like being scared.
Do check out the rest of the stops on the tour to see what everyone else thought.
Thank you to Titan books for the free copy I received for the purposes of an honest review.
All Nor Blackburn wants is to live an unremarkable teenage life. But as a descendant of the Witch Rona Blackburn, who famously cursed her family over a century ago, Nor is no stranger to suffering. She has a reason to hope, however, that she may have escaped the thornier side effects of Rona’s curse.
Then a mysterious book come out, promising to cast any spell for the right price. The author – Nor’s own mother- is performing magic that should be far beyond her capabilities. And such magic always requires a sacrifice.
A storm is coming. It’s coming for Nor.
Leslye Walton was born in the Pacific Northwest, a setting that figures predominantly in both her novels for young adults. Her debut, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, was published in 2014.
What I Thought
Like a cross between Practical Magic, Charmed and The Craft with Dark Willow thrown in for good measure. This book seems to have garnered mixed reviews but I really enjoyed it. I have not read the author’s previous novel which I believe is in the genre of magical realism. This is a very different book to that. More an urban fantasy horror.
The story takes place on Anathema Island and the environment and nature plays a huge part. Our protagonist can hear plants and animals so they become characters in the story and shift and change based on the mood. Personally I’d have liked to hear from some the animals a little more. Some of their conversations provided little spots of humour in an otherwise dark novel.
Nor was a conflicted heroine with the dual burdens of being a witch and having an awful mother taking a heavy toll. Luckily her grandmother Judd and her partner Apothia fulfil the loving family element although they take more of a back seat later in the story, with the next generation leading the charge.
There is some romance and friendship and small town shenanigans but this is at its core a horror and therefore a perfect read with Halloween on the way. The Prologue was all about the matriarch of the Blackburn Witches, Rona. I’d have loved to have had her story in even more detail too.
We start with a girl who isn’t comfortable in her own skin and end with an epic showdown. Nor’s mother Fern the author of The Price Guide to the Occult is most definitely bad to the bone and she has no redeeming features. Nor’s father felt very inconsequential – and this fact is played out. Fern has everyone – even the President of the USA under her spell and and the comedown from the magic high is briefly explored at the end of the book. Nor’s comfort may be fleeting, and it made me wonder if we will be hearing more from Nor (sorry couldn’t resist).
Trigger Warnings for Self Harm, Suicide and Parental Violence.
Thanks to Walker for the copy for the purposes of this honest review.