Hey everyone! This is a non-spoiler review.
Book TW: SA (rape) and suicide (both mentioned but neither are depicted).
“Tapping at his window, perching atop his daughter’s grave, why will the crow not let Patrick mourn in peace? According to superstition, a single crow is an omen of bad things to come, so why does Patrick feel compelled to leave his already broken life behind and follow his stubborn uninvited guest into the deep woods.
And what delights await?”
This novella begins with one of the most impactful opening paragraphs I’ve ever read – a comparison between how it feels to visit a cemetery for your parents, and visiting a cemetery for your child. Holy crap, that’s powerful. And I was all in.
This is the story of four people who are travelling to a mysterious Halloween party together, and structure-wise, it jumps from character to character – my very favourite story-telling method. I think this works particularly well in a novella, since (in this book at least) there aren’t chapters. Alternating perspectives add depth and tension to the story without having to fluff up the wordcount at all, and it keeps the momentum going as the story escalates.
This story gets…. weird. Not bad weird, more like “I dunno what’s happening, but I’m down” weird. It was that great weird where even if you work out an aspect of what’s going on (the “why”, for example), you’ll most likely be baffled enough by what’s going on to not put all the pieces together until it starts wrapping up. It was so much fun to read and to follow.
My favourite part of the whole story is when the four characters are in the car togther travelling to the party. The author just nailed these characters, and not just individually, but how they interacted with each other as a group. He gives very little backstory but you can tell so much about them and what they think of eachother and their relationships by how they behave in each other’s company. That car journey was so uncomfortable and tense, it was just delicious reading! I very much liked Rich and Sophie, and was also invested in Scott and Vanessa because I was so interested in them.
The way the story concludes, and the way things resolve for everyone in it, is wholly satisfying. Nothing groundbreaking, or super twisty, really, but a logical conclusion with logical decisions. I love it when the characters stay true to themselves until the very end, and they do here. I was surprised by the way it ended for one character in particular, and that surprise was welcome after the bow that sort of tied everything else up so neatly.
I think the thing I enjoyed the most was the writing itself. It’s skillful and beautiful. I have a real obsession for wanting to be shown things, rather than told, and I knew I was in good hands only a few pages in when I read, “Patrick mutters, having almost forgotten the sound of his voice.” This probably doesn’t sound like a big deal, but at least 7 or 8 out of 10 writers would have written something like, “he hadn’t spoken aloud in a while” instead. This seems like a small thing but it makes a big difference and exemplifies the kind of writing skill and thought that I really appreciate when I’m reading.
The crow people (I’m not sure what else to call them!), were the perfect kind of mystery for a story like this. You learn enough about them to know you’re getting a magical twist, but not enough to have them all figured out. The balance of what was explained and what was left mysterious was perfect. It made them threatening and yet somehow wholesome, and always unpredictable.
I thoroughly enjoyed this novella – in fact, I loved it! I’d recommend it to people who enjoy a supernatural twist with their horrifying mysteries.
If you’d like to get your own copy, you can find it here:
If you’d like to check out Mark Towse, the author, you can find him here:
THE GLORIOUS INTERNET HOME OF MARK TOWSE
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