Goodreads blurb:From the bestselling author of The Silence comes a brand-new supernatural eco thriller. In large areas of the planet, nature is no longer humanity’s friend…
In a time of global warming and spiralling damage to the environment, the Virgin Zones were established to help combat the change. Abandoned by humanity and given back to nature, these vast areas in a dozen remote locations across the planet were intended to become the lungs of the world.
But there are always those drawn to such places. Extreme sports enthusiasts and adventure racing teams target the dangerous, sometimes deadly zones for illicit races. Only the hardiest and most experienced dare undertake these expeditions. When one such team enters the oldest Zone, Eden, they aren’t prepared for what confronts them. Nature has returned to Eden in an elemental, primeval way. And here, nature is no longer humanity’s friend.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
Another very enjoyable horror, this time ticking off my first eco-horror! Eden combines the dark ecological future of humanity with the beauty and life of nature.
In Eden, a group of adventure racers are sneaking into a heavily guarded nature zone, an area of Earth where all human presence has been removed and the area ‘given back’ to nature, in an attempt to halt or fix the ecological destruction caused by humans. They plan to be the first to race across Eden. But Eden has different plans. Wildlife and nature is different in Eden compared to the other zones they’ve crossed, and something seems to be hunting them. Only wild animals? Or is it something worse….. (Of course it’s something worse).
I absolutely loved the premise and history of Eden. Each chapter opens with short anecdotes and quotes about the creation and maintenance of these nature zones and the violent mercenaries hired to guard them (Zeds). I thought these added such a sense of history and intrigue to the book. I would love to read a book set several years before Eden, that looks at how humanity went about removing themselves from these areas, and about the formation of the Zeds, the mercenary group, because it sounds like it was a very interesting time.
My biggest problem with this book however is the very detached writing style. Because of this very detached way of saying what’s happening, I didn’t really feel close to any of the characters. So, similarly to the last horror book I read, Devolution, I really didn’t care when the team started dying. And in horror, you really need to give a shit about the characters to be fully sucked into the book and emotionally invested in the deaths. Everything felt like it was happening somewhere else. Plus, none of the characters seem like very nice people which probably didn’t help with my attachment to them.
The descriptions of Eden and the world around them were really lovely though. The style of writing worked much better towards descriptive world building that it did to charachter building. The landscape was huge and expansive and full of wonder untouched by humanity. I particularly enjoyed the descriptions of these ghost orchids, new, almost magical plants giving life to the horrors of Eden.
All in all, I liked this book and enjoyed another stop on my road of horror exploration. I just wish it was written with a bit more emotion as I found the detached tone worked brilliantly for worldbuilding but not so great for character building.
Goodreads blurb: The #1 bestselling author of World War Z takes on the Bigfoot legend with a tale that blurs the lines between human and beast–and asks what we are capable of in the face of the unimaginable.
As the ash and chaos from Mount Rainier’s eruption swirled and finally settled, the story of the Greenloop massacre has passed unnoticed, unexamined . . . until now.
But the journals of resident Kate Holland, recovered from the town’s bloody wreckage, capture a tale too harrowing–and too earth-shattering in its implications–to be forgotten.
In these pages, Max Brooks brings Kate’s extraordinary account to light for the first time, faithfully reproducing her words alongside his own extensive investigations into the massacre and the legendary beasts behind it.
Kate’s is a tale of unexpected strength and resilience, of humanity’s defiance in the face of a terrible predator’s gaze, and inevitably, of savagery and death.
Yet it is also far more than that.
Because if what Kate Holland saw in those days is real, then we must accept the impossible. We must accept that the creature known as Bigfoot walks among us–and that it is a beast of terrible strength and ferocity.
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
I came to Devolution entirely new to both the author and the Bigfoot legend, but with the knowledge that the World War Z film terrified me and that’s what made me want to read Devolution. It’s my first ‘monster horror’ (most I’ve read so far have been more paranormal or psychologically based). And I really enjoyed it! I absolutely flew through Devolution, it’s the kind of book where you start reading and then suddenly notice it’s four hours later and you’re clenched with fear on the sofa.
Devolution is all about the Bigfoot legend. Mount Rainier has just erupted, devasting the North West US. The resulting impact causes a group of animals (Bigfoots) to make their way south, where they encounter a small group of humans living in a new ‘green eco village’ in the middle of nature. What follows is a vicious contest of human vs animal.
Brooks acts as a journalist of sorts, similar to the style (I believe) that he used in his previous novel World War Z. The book is composed of an introduction from Brooks the journalist, and then extracts from a journal from one of the villagers, Kate, an interview with a ranger who discovered the village massacre after the eruption of Rainier, and an interview with Frank, Kate’s brother who is still searching for her. I really love books which have a more unconventional format like this, there’s something really special about horror novels which give you little glimpses into the terrible future through different extracts and interviews. I just get great amounts of pleasure in knowing things are about to get real fucked up, does that make me a bad person? It’s a similar format to one of my favourite books of all time, Into the Drowning Deep, which this reminded me of given the writing style and ‘monster of legend’ feature (though ITDD is much more sciencey).
I thought the first half of the novel in particular was really excellent. As I said above, I started it not knowing what to expect as this was a new type of horror writing, and then I found myself entranced several hours later almost half way through the book and riveted with fear. The initial build up, the unknowing, the noises in the trees, the feeling of someone watching them, it was all done so well. I did find the fear dropped quite a bit once the monsters are revealed and it becomes more gorey fighting horror, and becomes a bit predictable (Sasquatch kills human, humans retaliate, and repeat). I think that’s probably more related to what scares me than anything else, I’m sure other readers will find the opposite.
I enjoyed Kate as our lead character too. She goes through a huge progression across the novel, from anxious wife, to gardener, to weaponsmith. I really liked the idea that catastrophe reveals who you truly are, and watching the characters undergo this transformation was really interesting, with those you disliked at the start becoming your favourites when they transform in the face of danger (hello Carmen). The characters are all quite surface level deep, but I think that was likely intentional. It’s very satirical the way Brooks handles this group of vapid idiots going into nature, assuming nature won’t ever hurt them and thus bringing zero useful supplies, but if she does hurt them then they’ll be saved by “someone” anyway so what does it matter. However unfortunately it does result in you not really being hugely emotionally invested in any of the characters, which obviously makes their deaths a lot less affecting. And I feel like that’s the most important part of horror writing: I need to care about the characters or else the entire lead up to the scary deaths is completely pointless because the resulting ‘end’ just has me going ‘meh’. 🤷
All in all, I think this was a great intro to a new genre of horror for me. I loved the writing style, and found the first half particularly scary and I definitely now want to work up the courage to read World War Z (though after how scared I was of the film, I don’t know if that’ll ever happen – I find zombie movies particularly frightening!!) It was a quick and enjoyable read, but did lack a bit of character development to get me more invested in any of the characters staying alive.
Goodreads blurb:A lethal virus is awoken on an abandoned spaceship in this incredibly fast-paced, claustrophobic thriller.
They thought the ship would be their salvation.
Zahra knew every detail of the plan. House of Wisdom, a massive exploration vessel, had been abandoned by the government of Earth a decade earlier, when a deadly virus broke out and killed everyone on board in a matter of hours. But now it could belong to her people if they were bold enough to take it. All they needed to do was kidnap Jaswinder Bhattacharya—the sole survivor of the tragedy, and the last person whose genetic signature would allow entry to the spaceship.
But what Zahra and her crew could not know was what waited for them on the ship—a terrifying secret buried by the government. A threat to all of humanity that lay sleeping alongside the orbiting dead.
And then they woke it up.
Salvation Day is a science fiction thriller with an edge of horror, and perhaps shouldn’t be read whilst there’s a deadly virus outbreak happening around the world….
Set in a world hundreds of years after the first Collapse of Earth, a new society has been born. Councils rose to fix the wrongs of the past. But outside of the Council’s protected cities lie groups of people either escaping the Councils and their control, or refugees desperately trying to enter the cities. One such group, a cult from the North American desert, have found their chance to escape to freedom in the skies. Years ago, House of Wisdom, one of the biggest ships ever built, was destroyed in a virus outbreak. But now, the cult members have a plan to reach the ship and rebuild it to support their colony. Except then they wake up what was waiting on the ship….
Going into Salvation Day, I think I expected more horror elements than we got. It’s definitely a science fiction novel first and foremost, with a focus on space travel and somtimes intricate details of the House of Wisdom ship and it’s workings. Whilst there is a focus on the virus and the outbreak that killed everyone, particularly in the first section of the novel I didn’t find myself as scared or unsettled as I would usually feel with such a concept. And I think it’s because the heavy sci-fi focus probably muted the horrory virus aspect. BUT! There are definitely moments where it began to get to more horror and I was racing through the book to see WTF was going on! Some of my favourites (as spoiler free as possible…): – The bathroom door – ‘What are you doing with the knife’ – The realisation on the Bridge
I really enjoyed the breaks between the POVs of extracts from the House of Mourning Star, one of the old Earth ships from when humans tried to escape the Collapse hundreds of years ago. This way of structuring a book is something I’ve been really enjoying lately, I just love how it gives the reader that sense of all knowing because it really makes everything so much scarier.
Something I wasn’t so sure of was the cult aspect. It kind of felt like it was out of a totally different novel – it just didn’t gel together with the really sci-fi element to me. The motivations didn’t seem to line up with the stakes they were involved with, and I’m not sure I was ever satisfied with why Adam (the cult leader) was doing any of what he was. Of the characters, Jas was my favourite. He was written well, his anxiety attacks around the ship felt genuine given his past. I also really loved the Jas/Zahra ending – it was probably one of my favourite moments of the book.
The political aspects I also think needed a bit more backstory. The SPEC and their desires felt randomly added to the end of the story, and I think that plotline would’ve worked better with a few more hints earlier in the story.
All in all, I enjoyed Salvation Day. Whilst it wasn’t as horrory as I expected from a virus story, it was still a tense and fast paced thriller and I really liked the ending!
Genre: Horror | Young Adult | Romance | Historical
Page extent: 320 pages
Goodreads blurb:A historical YA horror novel based on the infamous real-life inspiration for Countess Dracula,
In 17th century Hungary, Anna Darvulia has just begun working as a scullery maid for the young and glamorous Countess Elizabeth Báthory. When Elizabeth takes a liking to Anna, she’s vaulted to the dream role of chambermaid, a far cry from the filthy servants’ quarters below. She receives wages generous enough to provide for her family, and the Countess begins to groom Anna as her friend and confidante. It’s not long before Anna falls completely under the Countess’s spell—and the Countess takes full advantage. Isolated from her former friends, family, and fiancé, Anna realizes she’s not a friend but a prisoner of the increasingly cruel Elizabeth. Then come the murders, and Anna knows it’s only a matter of time before the Blood Countess turns on her, too.
This book had one of the most intriguing premises of 2020 – sapphic romance with one of the most prolific female serial killers of all time?! Hell yes! I enjoyed this book, particularly the first half, but I do think it lacked a little horror. Don’t get me wrong, there is brutal torture and gorey murder in this book, but I felt like it needed more fear and tension. I wanted it to feel more terrifying and horrory.
The book is told from the POV of Anna, an impoverished healer who, when rescuing a kitten, runs into the new Lady of her land, Elizabeth Báthory. Elizabeth takes a shine to her, and employs her in her castle. What follows is a mix of witchcraft and lust and horror as Anna becomes bewitched by Elizabeth, and the slow realisation of all that Elizabeth is.
The first half of this book is excellent. The initial relationship between Anna and Elizabeth is incredible. The few hints of darkness behind Elizabeth’s facade, the way they stare at each other, how utterly bewitched it seems they are of each other, it is so beautifully done. The way Anna reacts to Fenrec, Elizabeth’s husband, and her fears he is causing the darkness in Elizabeth is both understandable and thrilling in how it causes her to react. I adored the start of their relationship and I really thought we might get an incredible villain romance.
But then the second half hit and it became a little predictable as Elizabeth begins her pursuit for youth and beauty. The ending felt very rushed compared to the first half, which languished unhurridely in the beauty of their developing relationship. I wanted more fear and terror and horror as Elizabeth deteriorated. I wanted to feel some of the passion from the first half of the book. Instead it just felt a little lucklustre in execution, just a little too descriptive to be impactful. All of the torture and murder scenes in particular lacked for me. It felt rather stilted. I understand this might be because this is a YA novel, and the need to keep it less gruesome and terrifying because of that. So perhaps this would have worked better as an adult when the true horror of Elizabeth could really be explored with more emotional impact.
Blood Countess was one I wanted to adore. And I think I would have if the passion and fire from the first half of the novel continued to the second half. But sadly, it didn’t and it got a little too rushed to be a satisfying ending. This is still definitely worth a read through, for the beautiful and incredible development of the sapphic romance.
Goodreads blurb:A thrilling, atmospheric debut with the intensive drive of The Martian and Gravity and the creeping dread of Annihilation, in which a caver on a foreign planet finds herself on a terrifying psychological and emotional journey for survival.
When Gyre Price lied her way into this expedition, she thought she’d be mapping mineral deposits, and that her biggest problems would be cave collapses and gear malfunctions. She also thought that the fat paycheck—enough to get her off-planet and on the trail of her mother—meant she’d get a skilled surface team, monitoring her suit and environment, keeping her safe. Keeping her sane.
Instead, she got Em.
Em sees nothing wrong with controlling Gyre’s body with drugs or withholding critical information to “ensure the smooth operation” of her expedition. Em knows all about Gyre’s falsified credentials, and has no qualms using them as a leash—and a lash. And Em has secrets, too . . .
As Gyre descends, little inconsistencies—missing supplies, unexpected changes in the route, and, worst of all, shifts in Em’s motivations—drive her out of her depths. Lost and disoriented, Gyre finds her sense of control giving way to paranoia and anger. On her own in this mysterious, deadly place, surrounded by darkness and the unknown, Gyre must overcome more than just the dangerous terrain and the Tunneler which calls underground its home if she wants to make it out alive—she must confront the ghosts in her own head.
But how come she can’t shake the feeling she’s being followed?
I let this book languish on my Kindle for months WHY RACHEL WHY?!? What idiocy was I thinking?!? This book, in all its terrifying, claustrophobic madness, was incredible.
Gyre is a caver. Taking a high paying job so she can escape the planet to find her mother, Gyre sets out to explore an uncharted cave system. But her handler, Em, is enigmatic and keeping secrets. Like why does she not have a team of handlers keeping her alive in these dangerous caves? Why is she really down here? And why are there bodies down in the caves….?
This is a tense and atmospheric delight of a book. Well delight makes it seem happy and joyful. It isn’t. It’s terrifying and dark and so fucking scary, but brilliant in every word. The fact that such a marvellous book could be written, when really there’s just one setting and two characters is incredible. I expected it to be very repetitive – I mean how many ways can you describe a cave tunnel? But it really wasn’t! The book manages to exceptionally stay tense and exciting throughout the story. As Gyre spends more time underground, and more time discovering the secrets Em is hiding, the more unhinged and unreliant she becomes. As we travel further into the book, and into the cave system, both the reader and Gyre begin to have no idea what’s real and what’s not. There are so many twists and turns, I would finally be convinced ‘yes this is real this is definitely the way the story is going’ only to have it veer off into more unexpected twists.
Both Gyre and Em are flawed and exceptional characters. Em, the monster, controlling Gyre from afar, drugging her and controlling her limbs if she desires. When beneath her facade is a tired woman, someone searching for something she’s never going to find. And then there’s Gyre, headstrong, stubborn Gyre, who refuses help even when she could use it, unwilling to admit defeat in her body. These two are both so strong to fight to the end. Until the very last pages, I honestly had no idea how the book would end. Would Gyre get out? Would she die? Would Em come for her? Was Em even real? My mind was as uncertain in reality as Gyre’s and I loved it.
This book is a horror masterpiece! A queer horror masterpiece to be even more precise, which makes this book even better for me. For such a simple narrative (explore the cave) there is such a depth to the writing and the emotions of the characters, the fear and horror at what lies in the system, and ultimately at what is happening to Gyre as she journeys further. Cannot recommend this one enough.
Goodreads blurb: In the faux-documentary style of The Blair Witch Project comes the campfire story of a missing girl, a vengeful ghost, and the girl who is determined to find her sister–at all costs.
Once a year, the path appears in the forest and Lucy Gallows beckons. Who is brave enough to find her–and who won’t make it out of the woods?
It’s been exactly one year since Sara’s sister, Becca, disappeared, and high school life has far from settled back to normal. With her sister gone, Sara doesn’t know whether her former friends no longer like her…or are scared of her, and the days of eating alone at lunch have started to blend together. When a mysterious text message invites Sara and her estranged friends to “play the game” and find local ghost legend Lucy Gallows, Sara is sure this is the only way to find Becca–before she’s lost forever. And even though she’s hardly spoken with them for a year, Sara finds herself deep in the darkness of the forest, her friends–and their cameras–following her down the path. Together, they will have to draw on all of their strengths to survive. The road is rarely forgiving, and no one will be the same on the other side.
Continuing my exploration into horror, Dahlia at LGBTQReads recommended Rules for Vanishing for my November subscription. It’s probably the first novel I’ve read that really goes into traditional horrory things – terrifying paranormal ghosts and spirits and the like. And I loved it!! It was scary, the format was spectacular, the only thing that let it down was a less than clear ending.
One year ago, Sara’s sister Becca went missing. Everyone thinks she ran off with her boyfriend, but Sara disagrees. She thinks she went to find Lucy Gallows, a girl who vanished 50 years ago. It’s said that in the woods, there is a road, and if you follow the road, you will find Lucy. When a text message floods the town, urging everyone to play ‘the game’ to find Lucy Gallows, Sara knows it’s the only chance she has to find her sister. So she, and a group of friends, go into the woods to find the road and hunt down Lucy and Becca….
My absolute favourite part of Rules for Vanishing was the structure and format. Very similar to another of my recent favourite reads, Into the Drowning Deep, Rules for Vanishing is told through first person POV, alongside interview transcripts, video exercepts, text messages and emails. There’s something about the reader feeling more knowing than the characters that just makes a story infinitely more terrifying to me. The format of Rules for Vanishing really makes this happen. By interspersing the story of the journey with emails, texts and interviews from the future, we learn and see more about the current situation. We’re given the info in these short extracts to make the first person POV more terrifying and it works so well!! There were so many moments I was terrified, particularly in the first half of the novel. The set up of the initial Lucy Gallows myth is really well done, and it really does sound like a traditional small-town legend. I grew up in a small town, and we had a poet who wandered on our local moor and walked through a gateway to the fae.
I enjoyed the death and gore of the first part of the journey as well. To get to Lucy, the group has to travel through seven ‘gates’ on the road to reach her. There are rules to follow, and challenges to pass, and if you don’t….well bad stuff happens. Up until about gate 4, I was loving it. It was very much the Blair Witch, paranormally vibe. After gate 4, it begins to get a bit more fantastical and I found I didn’t quite enjoy that as much. Previously, it had felt very real and I almost thought this could genuinely happen. But, after it left to more fantasy monsters, it lost a bit of the terror.
In addition, I was a bit disappointed in the ending. Not only did it go full fantasy with the Dahut storyline, but the ending is very open and I’m still not sure what actually happened?! If anyone has read this book, and has any insights or thoughts, I would love to hear them!
All in all, I really enjoyed Rules for Vanishing. The first half of the book is a terrifyingly creepy paranormal story, with whispers and voices and spirits trying to kill you. The structure and format of the book is so awesome and really helps add to the tension and fear. Whilst I wasn’t happy with the ending, this is still definitely worth a read!
Goodreads blurb: Seven years ago, the Atargatis set off on a voyage to the Mariana Trench to film a “mockumentary” bringing to life ancient sea creatures of legend. It was lost at sea with all hands. Some have called it a hoax; others have called it a maritime tragedy.
Now, a new crew has been assembled. But this time they’re not out to entertain. Some seek to validate their life’s work. Some seek the greatest hunt of all. Some seek the truth. But for the ambitious young scientist Victoria Stewart this is a voyage to uncover the fate of the sister she lost.
Whatever the truth may be, it will only be found below the waves. But the secrets of the deep come with a price.
Well I’m never getting on a boat again. Continuing my dive (hahaha) into horror, which started with Wilder Girls, I picked up Into the Drowning Deep after seeing it recommended on Twitter. And holy smokes, this book is goddamn incredible and I am now officially a fan of horror. Cue immediate reserving of several titles at the library. Into the Drowning Deep is a psychological horror set in a world where mermaids exist. Except, instead of the ‘lovely ladies of the sea’ we expect to find based on all our myths, we find creatures who want to eat our faces.
7 years before the start of the novel, the Atargatis set off to film a mockumentary about the existence of mermaids. Instead, they were devoured alive. Now, Imagine, the entertainment company who had arranged the mockumentary 7 years ago, are launching a new mission to fix their reputation. They will prove that the mermaids are not a hoax, by capturing one and bringing it back to land. Accompanied by an army of scientists driven to either find the mermaids and make the discovery of a lifetime, or just to study parts of the uncharted ocean, the Melusine sets off on its mission.
From the very first page of the novel, there is SO MUCH tension. I was immediately enthralled from the very first page. Short extracts of interviews, talks, videos appear at the start of each ‘section’, and these really add to the sense of tension and fear. They add brilliant insights into the mermaids, as well as hint at some of the terrible things about to happen. Another tension enducing technique I adored was the way Grant would compare the mermaids to very specific animals, the second before something awful happens. There is a split second of realisation for both the characters, and the reader, as you realise oh shit yes that’s what the mermaids are doing, and then immediately the shit happens. It was so terrifying and so amazing, my stomach was like a rollercoaster. It was just SO INTENSE. I cannot express how incredible it was to be swept on this ride.
I loved the hugely scientific focus of the book. It was so detailed and made everything so much more ‘real’ by adding the science element – and by real I mean, I could imagine this all happening in real life. One of the things I love most about scarier stories is making it as realistic and believable as possible. It’s why I really love stories about viruses/pandemics, because they are so believable. And that believability really does add to the sense of fear! I feel like Into the Drowning Deep really had that believability, in part because there was such a scientific focus. I loved all the descriptions of the different scientists and their work, and loved that many of these different characters got focus. There are lots of POVs, but it works! There is such a diverse range of characters and I love that they all got to feature so heavily. Whilst there are main characters, the side characters POV still add a unique and interesting take to the story, sometimes having some of the scariest POVs in the book.
Our ‘main’ crew can be narrowed down to:
Victoria (Tory) Stewart: bisexual icon, sister of Anne, one of the people who died on the previous mission, and who has got NO TIME for her foolish asshole scientist ex who also happens to be on the boat (Jason, he’s a total ass, I shall mention him no further).
Dr Jillian Toth, half-Hawaiian world-leading expert on mermaids, who has dedicated her entire life to studying mermaids and who feels deeply guilty that her research led to the massacre on the previous Atargatis expedition (Jillian is probably my favourite character because she just has her shit together so much, and I just absolutely hung off every word she uttered).
Olivia: autistic, lesbian TV personality from Imagine who is documenting the events on board the ship.
Theo Blackwell: physically disabled, representing the Imagine management on board, and Jillain’s ex-husband – and probably the one character I’ll say I wish we’d had more character development from. He’s definitely not a good character (as in “morally good”), and I wanted to find out more about his motives.
These four are joined by a host of others, including three sisters, Holly (chemical data analysist, deaf twin) and Heather (also deaf, twin to Holly, and underwater explorer, HOW COOL IS THAT?!), and Hallie (sign langauge extraordinaire); Luis, crytozoologist and Victoria’s lab partner and funder; Michi and Jacques, gun loving monster hunters. Honestly, this cast list is just amazing. Every single one is so damn unique and different, and every POV felt really different. Whilst the four main characters get more page time, I loved that we still got to read from the smaller characters POV. Their short POV sections were excellent and added so much to the book and the tension.
On top of all this awesomeness, it all features a f/f relationship (though this is definitely not the focus of the book). We get to watch the romance bloom – and there was a part of the book, right near the end, where something happens, and I’m just like NO NO NO this can’t happen, because SHE will be causing it AND JUST I need someone to talk to about this book.
Finally, Into the Drowning Deep goes into some really deep discussions on the commercialisation of science, our treatment of species we consider “other”, and the impact humanity has on the world around us, which I thought were all handed brilliantly and really shows how terrible the human race can be.
All in all, I loved this book! My first adult horror, I really wasn’t sure what to expect and I certainly didn’t expect to love it as much as I did (because I’m a visual media horror wimp). But everything about this book was fantastic, the plot, the science, the characters, the prose. It all added up to a superbly terrifying and intense novel, and I can’t recommend it enough!
After this book, I am now so exicted to expand my reading into the horror genre! So, since I’m such a newby, do you have any horror recs? Let me know!
Goodreads blurb:It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.
It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.
But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.
Well that was as creepy and haunting as every single book review told me it would be! I’m not usually one for horror, but I really liked this – it was a very beautiful, picturesque horror…if that makes any sense at all?! And I can absolutely never resist media about viruses.
Wilder Girls is set at an all girl’s school on Raxter Island, where everyone has been quarantined after becoming sick with a virus they call the Tox. 18 months after the first infection, Byatt, Hetty’s best friend, has gone missing so Hetty vows to break the quarantine to find her, in the end discovering so much more about the virus and what’s happening on the outside than she imagined possible.
First off: what a setting! The mysterious Raxter and the enchanting yet deadly forest surrounding it is just stunning and sets such a creepy tone for the whole novel. There was such a sense of fear every moment we spent in the forest, and in the unknown of what now lived there.
The premise of Wilder Girls is so immediately interesting: at 18 months into the virus outbreak, we don’t know what the girls have lived through, and we find out in glimpses – an eye fused shut, scales on a hand, a second spine. The progression of our insight into how this virus has affected the girls and teachers through this chilling body horror is just phenomenal. There are so many brutally horrific descriptions – which I really think enhances the realness of it all, as it feels as deadly as if it’s happening in real life. And I think that’s why I particularly love torturing myself with virus-style forms of media, because there is such a constant fear of ‘this could actually happen right now’ that just terrifies me. And I think Wilder Girls really nails this fear!!
I thought all three of our MCs were brilliant in their depictions – all fully flawed and so powerfully human in their portrayal. Hetty, the POV we read from for the majority of the book, fiercely loyal and loving and unwilling to back down to save those she loves – even if it comes at the cost of everyone else. Byatt, who’s POV intersperses Hetty’s in a dream-like haze, who loves testing people and pushing the boundaries of what she can do, with horrific consequences. And finally Reese, who keeps her emotions bound up so tightly to keep from falling apart. These three are fighters and fight to be together till the end.
Which brings me to the ending. I did feel like I’m missing something. I wanted another 30 pages to finish everything off, it was all extremely sudden and hugely open and I really wish we’d had even a tiny bit more.
But all in all, minus the ending, Wilder Girls is a great horror novel – it’s a psychologically horrific take on three young girls and their fight to stay alive.