House of Dead Trees
Accessed as an ebook
4.99 on Amazon at the time of review
Fair warning, I may get a little bit rambly with this review.
There are a fair number of tropes that I normally can’t stand in a horror novel, mainly because I feel like they’re shortcuts to creating tension. You want to make a person feel bad for a character/emphasize how evil/deplorable/nasty a character/situation/setting is? Play the assault card! I mean, you’re totally not going to use something that -actually ruins people’s lives- so that you don’t have to worry about advancing plot or characterization via other methods or anything!
This book has assault in spades.
And yet…I still found myself being pulled further and further into the plot. I actually found myself enjoying this book-and I think that a lot of it is that Duncan actually manages to fall on the right side of a very, very thin line: while the sexual violence in this book feels like throw-away, tropish action it actually does work to drive home just why we should -not- empathize with certain characters. It’s a very, very feather light balancing act that normally doesn’t work for most books, and somehow manages to work here.
The other area that was impressive the Dead Trees is that it reads like a poor man’s The Shining. That’s a compliment, by the way. Duncan manages to develop similar imagery and tone with the haunting that runs through this book, without the heavy psychological horror that runs through King’s work. That’s fine, sometimes you want to wade around in a person’s brain and sometimes you just want to run through the halls screaming. Much of the paranormal action throughout the novel feels like the overtly paranormal sections of The Shining, if the Overlook was set in the woods along the yellow brick road. This is not a slow burn novel, with action hitting fairly early in the plot-complete with what may be one of the more inventive usages of a not terribly overused image in modern horror where everything wants to be a Walking Dead rip off.
So yes, in the end I really, really wanted to hate this one and ended up making friends with it and actually thinking that if there were to be any major weaknesses with the book, I’d like it to be slightly more fleshed out and longer [Billy. Billy, I know why your character arc went the way it did…but it sort of just…stopped].
Major Content Warning
Language, violence, sexual content, assault references, the whole R rated tool box. Definitely an ‘adult only’ novel.
[About the elves and faeries tag for this post: without going too far into the plot for risk of spoilers…kobalds. Can we get more authors to work with European folklore? Even if it is a mutation/derivative of the legend?]