STARRED REVIEW
October 2014

The freaks are out tonight

The horror, the horror—oh, how we love the horror. Creepy children, bloodlust and white specters dominate the best novels for sending chills down your spine this Halloween.
STARRED REVIEW
October 2014

The freaks are out tonight

The horror, the horror—oh, how we love the horror. Creepy children, bloodlust and white specters dominate the best novels for sending chills down your spine this Halloween.
October 2014

The freaks are out tonight

The horror, the horror—oh, how we love the horror. Creepy children, bloodlust and white specters dominate the best novels for sending chills down your spine this Halloween.
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The horror, the horror—oh, how we love the horror. Creepy children, bloodlust and white specters dominate the best novels for sending chills down your spine this Halloween.


More than a decade ago, Anne Rice walked away from the vampire mythology that helped make her a best-selling icon, and though she’s written plenty of other novels since, many fans have longed for a return. Prince Lestat, the 11th novel in Rice’s Vampire Chronicles series, is that comeback, but because it’s been so long since Rice has walked in this realm, she has made this more than just another installment.

Prince Lestat is an ambitious new story, yes, but it’s also an attempt to reacquaint all of us with the characters we’ve loved for years. Rice knows it’s been a while, and she crafts a tone that feels simultaneously like greeting an old friend and meeting a new one.

From the very first page, it’s clear Rice never lost touch with the exuberant, often witty and always fearless voice of irrepressible vampire Lestat de Lioncourt. When we meet Lestat this time, both he and the world of the vampires are in shambles. Nothing has been quite the same since the original vampire Akasha was struck down at the end of The Queen of the Damned, and the immortals long for a new leader. Many think Lestat should be that leader, but Lestat himself isn’t so sure.

The story jumps through time and around the globe as Lestat searches for redemption and tries to find his place in this chaotic world of blood drinkers. We meet new characters and revisit old favorites. We see exotic locales and contemplate the darkest part of Rice’s vampire lore. In the end, though the familiar parts of this saga are here, it’s clear that Rice isn’t content to rest on past bestsellers. This is, at its heart, a book about the new vampire order, about a new status quo. Rice has offered us a tale of tremendous ambition, and she’s absolutely delivered.

—Matthew Jackson


THE SPECTER OF DOUBT
Siobhan Adcock’s creepy debut, The Barter, is a good, old-fashioned ghost story that will make you jump when your walls creak. But it’s really about motherhood—the fierce love and the plaguing ambivalence. Looking closely at the uncertainties women wade through when their roles change, Adcock plumbs marital discord and the ways fear and self-doubt manifest in families.

Bridget, a successful Texas attorney, didn’t go back to work after maternity leave. Now, as she cares for her 10-month-old daughter, she still wonders if she made the right choice. Missing her workaholic husband, Bridget is also troubled by thoughts of her loved ones’ inevitable deaths. One night, Bridget sees a strange white form enter the nursery, lurching toward her and the baby. Now Bridget’s days and nights are filled with dread and the smell of dank earth as she tries to stay a step ahead of the ghost, alone.

Alternating chapters with Bridget’s story is that of Rebecca Mueller, a German Texan who in 1902 prepares to marry a man she’s not sure she loves. A wedding night filled with hostility and dashed hopes sets the tone for their marriage. Her one bright spot is her baby boy, but shadows threaten even this. Legend has it Rebecca’s mother bartered an hour of her life to save baby Rebecca’s. Could Rebecca do the same for her son if he were in danger?

Adcock’s insights into marital guilt and anger are precise, and her descriptions of parents’ love for their children—and vice versa—are spot-on. German folklore lends a touch of magical realism, weaving in dark fairy-tale themes of children in peril, bargaining and exchange. New moms should connect with Bridget’s and Rebecca’s doubts: Have they given too much of themselves to work, their husbands, their kids? Or not enough? Some of Adcock’s plot strands come a bit loose by the end, but her thoughtful story will keep readers reflecting on its themes once the shivers have passed.

—Sheri Bodoh


WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE
Keith Donohue’s The Boy Who Drew Monsters has all the ingredients of a classic horror novel: an isolated town, a young boy paralyzed by agoraphobia and a home that transforms itself from a dream into a nightmare.

Donohue transports readers to a Maine seaside town, home to the Keenan family. Tim Keenan is the primary caretaker of his emotionally fragile 10-year-old son, Jip. Tim’s wife, Holly, is convinced that her out-of-control son needs to be committed. Since a near-fatal accident three years prior, Jip has never been the same and now refuses to leave the house. Recently, Jip’s behavior has turned violent, and his latest obsession is drawing monsters. One evening, as Tim drives home Jip’s only friend, Nick, Tim nearly runs over a white figure that looks to be half man and half beast. Nick denies having seen anything, but only because he is too petrified: The monstrous figure is identical to one of Jip’s drawings. Soon, Holly begins to hear noises around the house and Tim finds icy wet footprints left in their hallway. But at the end of the day, only Jip knows the true explanation behind his parents’ hauntings, and only he can save or destroy his family.

With a mind-bending final twist, The Boy Who Drew Monsters—much in the tradition of the classic The Turn of the Screw—will leave readers shaking in their boots.

—Megan Fishmann


HIGH ON LIFE

In traditional vampire tales, superhuman creatures lust for the blood of ordinary mortals. Chase Novak’s Brood reverses this formula: In 21st-century New York, affluent thrill-seekers pay big bucks to drink the blood of teenage mutants. The kids providing this elixir are the product of an experimental fertility treatment that turned their parents into monstrous beings with an unspeakable hunger for raw flesh. As the offspring reach adolescence, they too start to change: They’re abnormally fast and strong, but also prone to murderous rages.

Brood (the sequel to 2012’s Breed) takes up the story of 12-year-old Adam and Alice. Two years after their parents’ violent deaths, the twins have been adopted by their aunt Cynthia. She hopes her love can help them forget the horrors of their past, but nothing is that simple. Terrified by the changes taking place within their bodies, the pair are starving themselves to stave off puberty. Meanwhile, a ragtag collective of feral teens is making a living selling blood, and they want the twins to join the pack.

As Adam and Alice fight for their lives, age-old terrors of adolescence merge with uniquely 21st-century fears in this gruesome and grimly funny tale.

—Emily Bartlett Hines

 

This article was originally published in the October 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

Prince Lestat
By Anne Rice
Knopf

ISBN 9780307962522

The Barter
By Siobhan Adcock
Dutton

ISBN 9780525954224

The Boy Who Drew Monsters
By Keith Donohue
Picador

ISBN 9781250057150

Brood
By Chase Novak
Mulholland

ISBN 9780316228008

Get the Books

Prince Lestat

Prince Lestat

By Anne Rice
Knopf
ISBN 9780307962522
The Barter

The Barter

By Siobhan Adcock
Dutton
ISBN 9780525954224
The Boy Who Drew Monsters

The Boy Who Drew Monsters

By Keith Donohue
Picador
ISBN 9781250057150
Brood

Brood

By Chase Novak
Mulholland
ISBN 9780316228008

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