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.
This picture was actually used in a buzzfeed article.
Sometimes, courage is just knowing what you’re more afraid of.
A taut thriller about murder, maths and the mind. Peter Blankman is afraid of everything but must confront truly unimaginable terror when his mother is attacked. Seventeen-year-old Peter Blankman is a maths prodigy. He also suffers from severe panic attacks. Afraid of everything, he finds solace in the orderly and logical world of mathematics and in the love of his family: his scientist mum and his tough twin sister Bel, as well as Ingrid, his only friend. However, when his mother is found stabbed before an award ceremony and his sister is nowhere to be found, Pete is dragged into a world of espionage and violence where state and family secrets intertwine. Armed only with his extraordinary analytical skills, Peter may just discover that his biggest weakness is his greatest strength.
Tom Pollock has been described as “a powerful imagination” by the Guardian. He is the author of four novels, and an ambassador for Talklife, the peer support network for youth mental health, for who he blogs about his experiences with depression, anxiety and bulimia at https://blog.talklife.co/. Inspired by those experiences, White Rabbit, Red Wolf is his first thriller for young adults. He lives and works in London and can be found on Twitter: @tomhpollock.
What I Thought
In the promo material for this book we received a letter from the author Tom speaking about his own mental health difficulties including binge eating/bulimia and initially I thought I was going into a contemporary story exploring that. There was no synopsis included just the front cover saying “This Story is a Lie”. Having had my own experiences of binge eating I was a little nervous going into the book and although some of the scenes are quite graphic and whilst mental health is explored, this book moved way beyond focusing on main character Pete’s mental health “issues”
In fact it came as a complete and pleasant surprise in the form of a thriller. Pete’s scientist mum is heading to an awards evening at the Natural History Museum and she is dragging along her children Pete and Bel. Not only is Pete a teen who would rather be at home but he is someone who has severe anxiety and the events of the evening are not about to help with that. His mum is stabbed, his sister goes missing and he’s bundled away by spies!!!
Told from Pete’s perspective in the present, and in the past (in chapters titled Recursion with the time reference indicated) this was such an engaging and dramatic read.
I loved how Pete’s focus on numbers and logic help him both manage his problems and gradually unpick the mystery. Although perhaps there are things uncovered that might have been better left hidden. Pete is definitely a character you root for and empathise with.
The relationship between him and his sister Bel, and Pete and his only friend Ingrid are highlights and boy does this story have you questioning everyone. Is anyone who he thought they were, is he?
Like a cross between A Beautiful Mind, We Were Liars and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime I would highly recommend this captivating story.
Huge thanks to Walker Books for the surprise proof copy of this. Opinions as ever are my own.