Hey Kids! I hope you’ve all been having a great month. November is drawing to a close, and we’ve been frantically trying to finish reading the (quite large) pile of novellas submitted to us. During the frenzy, I managed to get to this one before the other goats got their grubby hooves on it, and I’m delighted to share my thoughts on it! As always, no spoilers.
At somewhere around 240 pages, this is a bit on the long side for me for a novella. However, I didn’t even notice the page count as I was reading, on account of being immersed in the story and enjoying it so much.
Hearthstone Cottage is about four friends (two couples) that go to stay in a remote cabin for a little post-graduation getaway, only for things to go a bit… awry. Especially for Mike, who starts dreaming and seeing all sorts of weird stuff that apparently isn’t there. Now, usually, I absolutely hate this. If there are two things that really bug me in stories, it’s dreams/hallucinations, and in-novel novels (you know, like the “Misery” chapters in Misery). One or two short passages like this are fine, but after that my eyes tend to glaze over and sometimes I skip over these sections entirely. I’ve been known to just DNF a book if dreams are a recurring thing, but not Hearthstone Cottage. Firstly, because I was just enjoying it too much, and secondly, because this is a rare instance in which I was engaged in these sections, because they felt relevant, or like they might not actually be Mike’s imagination at all. I really couldn’t tell, and was much more intrigued than bored.
The atmosphere the author created here is eerie and cold, and folky and… ritual-y. I’m currently obsessed with folk horror so I adored this. The setting was remote and interesting and beautifully described, and I was having full-on hallucinations myself whilst reading. I was inside that cottage with those characters, or outside with them in the fog.
I also give the characters a huge thumbs (hooves) up. There’s nothing I love more than characters who are completely engaging and interesting to read, despite kind of being dickheads. I don’t know if they’re meant to be kind of dickheaded, or if that’s just my personality clashing with theirs, but I loved following them – either hoping for the best, or in a mean-spirited ‘I hope you’re going to get hit with some consequences’ sort of way.
The tension amps up and up and near the end, reminded me of the absolute madness that is the last act of 1408. I thought I knew where the ending was going and I was wrong, so very very wrong.
I’d recommend this to fans of atmospheric but also ballsy horror – it’s both creepy and full of scenes of outright horror.
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