Cover Image: A Cosmology of Monsters

A Cosmology of Monsters

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

What a brilliant book.

Anyone who loves Stephen King or HP Lovecraft will adore this book.

I found it terrifying and touching in equal measure.  Every single page is filled with imagery that you can see and feels so real, and fantastical at the same time.

This is such a vivid and well written book...the last quarter of the book made me thrilled and anxious and actually was heart pounding.

There isn't much I can say as its definitely a reading experience and explanation will only spoil have to experience it yourself.

I literally couldn't put it down and now its the early hours of the morning and it's scared me silly...I definitely feel like I've been on an adventure and cannot get over how talented Shaun Hamill is... 

I've read Stephen King (who hasn't!) And can honestly say this is up there with the best of them.  

Its a very clever weaving of Lovecraft and lore and horror  ...whilst at the same time being emotional and real.   I loved it

Thanks to the author, publisher and Netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
In A Cosmology of Monsters Hamill has created a creepy blend of horror mashup and family drama, leaving the reader to ultimately decide whether the story is one of paranormal horror, or the everyday, real horror that is often more chilling.

The Turner family have some serious problems from the outset. Noah takes us all the way through his parent’s first meeting and subsequent relationship, then the history of his dad’s obsession with building the ultimate haunted house experience and his slow descent into madness that follows. We find out about Noah’s sister’s troubles – suicide notes, a disappearance – as well as the family’s struggles with long-term illness, bereavement and poverty. Through it all, Noah is our narrator as he lurks on the outskirts at school, at home and in the family haunted house. Until he meets a fellow outsider and makes a FRIEND.

This is one of the areas of the book that I found a little problematic. There is more than one exploitative, or downright abusive, relationship in this story and the way they are portrayed made me feel pretty uncomfortable. I find it hard to believe in ‘love’ or ‘soul mates’ when a relationship is based on a dramatic imbalance of power. Still, I’m not sure that feeling uncomfortable isn’t exactly what the author was aiming for throughout as there are many, many other dark, triggery subjects explored and/or skimmed over, including but not limited to: suicide, rape, child abuse, death, bigotry, violence and murder. The book title refers to a universe of monsters, and that is definitely no exaggeration – whether it refers to the monsters out there, in here, under our beds, or inside our heads.

For, of course, there is also the issue of the reliability of the narrator. Noah has been subjected to incredible stresses, almost since birth, and it is clear that mental health issues run in his family, so there is the possibility that the ‘monsters’ he describes are actually symbolic of the madness inherent in dark human emotions (lust, jealousy, anger, depression, loneliness) or products of his own tortured mind: nightmares and hallucinations, inhabiting the gaps between perception, reality and imagination.

The horror elements are a love song to many, many horror-classics: Ira Levin; Dracula; Frankenstein; haunted houses; the Addams Family; bodysnatchers; Lovecraft; the Matrix; Monsters Inc; B movies… there’s a bit of something for most tastes, all lovingly represented in a fresh and interesting story about the symbiotic relationship between humanity and our darknesses.

And, like I said, the reader can decide whether the City and the events there are real, or whether this is really a story of mental illness colliding with very human vice. Like many people, I prefer to place the blame on the monsters. It’s working out who the monsters are that’s the tricky part!

'I started collecting my older sister Eunice’s suicide notes when I was seven years old. I still keep them all in my bottom desk drawer, held together with a black binder clip. They were among the only things I was allowed to bring with me, and I’ve read through them often the last few months, searching for comfort, wisdom, or even just a hint that I’ve made the right choices for all of us.
Eunice eventually discovered that I was saving her missives and began addressing them to me. In one of my favourites, she writes, “Noah, there is no such thing as a happy ending. There are only good stopping places.”'

– Shaun Hamill, A Cosmology of Monsters

Review by Steph Warren of Bookshine and Readbows blog
Was this review helpful?
Why do we love horror? The adrenaline rush of fear, the idea of staring back at the dark and possibly that the fantastical takes you away from the horrors of everyday life to better understand it. My uncle got me into the idea of enjoying being scared with Hammer. Universal and at a young age weirdly Dawn of the Dead which made an impression and then I discovered reading! Horror changes while growing up what scares me now is very different to what got me as a kid…ok giant spiders always will… but fear is malleable and changing. In Shaun Hamill’s bittersweet novel A Cosmology of Monsters we wander through a family’s creation and eventual break-up over forty years where something has got their scent. An intriguing novel but one that I think repeats some of classic horror’s mistakes.

In the late sixties struggling impoverished middle-class student Margaret works in a bookstore and meets Harry Turner a poor guy working through a burger bar and obsessed with horror. The two click and after a memorable date in a less than scary haunted house attraction that suddenly got unusually scary the two fall in love. The newly married couple had two twins Sydney and Eunice and then before tragedy strikes for the first-time young Noah is born. Noah then relates to us the history of the family as its remaining members are compelled to build their own haunted house ride known the Wandering Dark but there are other things in the world that feels this family needs close attention. Noah starts to piece together a mystery that has been going on for decades and finds a decision with a high cost may be required if he wants to save the ones he loves.

I really loved the first half of this novel. The narration of how Noah’s parents met is a wonderful piece of character work focused on Margaret finding herself attracted to this kid who she knows she shouldn’t date is just a lovely heartfelt bit of writing and despite that tenderness Hamill throws in a darkening shade as we find out the family is about to be reduced unexpectedly. We see circa ten-year jumps and watch the family’s fortunes wax and wane. Hamill creates in Sydney and Eunice two fascinating characters. Sydney rebelling about her mother’s authority figure feels a character who is about to explode while the bookish and quiet Eunice is working out her sexuality that Hamill reminds us in 90’s Texas could lead to a very dangerous situation if it became well known. Eunice is a complex character with mental health issues and yet a very kind focus on her younger brother was an emotional draw to the story.

This pays dividends when we see the forces that are surrounding the family. There is an air of something forever watching and playing with the Turners for unexpected reasons. Hamill throws Noah into this strange situation when he meets something monstrous yet compelling and that relationship then drives the final stages of the book. This is less horror in terms of blood and gore but psychological – watching characters under pressure, a sense of no escape and eerie scenes in a different place that seems to know too much. Hamill has a great ear for atmosphere and building tension. I also liked that horror here is not supernatural and in one memorable scene we see a disturbing religious group use their own horror rooms to scare teens into the ways of the Lord reminding us that some horrors are very down to earth.

But I do have a major issue with the novel and that is because with Margaret, Sydney and in particular Eunice we get three great very different female characters that the novel I felt abandoned in favour of Noah’s own arc and I didn’t feel that situation was earned. These women all have their own struggles to face and in particular Eunice’s battles I would have loved to see the women given more agency but despite Hamill’s very respectful and loving description of the characters he leaves it to Noah to get involved in the resolution. While in horror I appreciate there is not always going to be a happy ending but I was less than pleased with a attempted suicide scene for Eunice which I unfortunately felt was falling dangerously into a bury your gays scenario. My frustration is that Hamill in this book shows they are an accomplished author who clearly can write believable and varied female characters but ended up pulling the focus onto the young hormonal teen Noah who I found the least interesting of the family. To explore how Margaret saw her family or perhaps events from Eunice’s perspective I feel would have been a much better choice.

Overall, this is a fine novel but falls into the trap that much older horror novels have of women being used to serve a man’s arc. Once that point is reached, I found the nostalgia fell away into a very predictable finale (but with one memorable reveal). The story makes great reference to Lovecraft and I wish Hamill had challenged older horror for its myopic approach to women a little more than done here and made them more active in the story. I will be intrigued with what Hamill delivers in the future but this I felt became more a re-tread of an already well-trodden path in the end.
Was this review helpful?
My final book in this year’s Halloween Reading Roundup was by far the most difficult to read, and also to summarize here, but I’ll give it a try.

A Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill follows one family over the course of many decades, beginning in the late 1960s and concluding in 2013. Broken up into seven parts, each part is set in a different year with some parts following just a few years after its predecessor and others leaping a decade or more ahead. Each one is narrated by Noah, the youngest child of the family. In the early parts that focus on his parents and older sisters, he tells their story to the best of his knowledge, and the story moves to his first-hand point of view around a third of the way in.

All through his life, Noah has seen monsters. All his family sees them, catching glimpses in the corners of their eyes, but Noah really sees them. As his family suffers tragedy after tragedy, his monster friend is a constant in his life, a playmate, confidant, and even – later on – a lover. Their relationship continues until Noah begins to suspect that the darkness he knows has been encroaching upon him all his life might be too powerful and he begins to distrust his friend and the otherworldly Lovecraftian city she inhabits.

As he grows older and tries to live something approaching a normal life, Noah can’t help but feel that something is missing from his life. Turning a corner no longer leads him to places it shouldn’t, but when a final tragedy strikes at home, Noah realizes what he must do to set things right.

Any book that opens with the line, “I started collecting my older sister Eunice’s suicide notes when I was seven-years-old,” is immediately signposting that it will not be an easy read, and A Cosmology of Monsters is challenging in the extreme. It would be easier to list the trigger warnings that don’t apply to this book but key ones that readers should be aware of include suicide, depression, statutory rape, the murder of young children, child abuse, and religious homophobia. A number of sexually explicit scenes are also scattered throughout, some with dubious consent issues. The real horrors in this book are therefore often horrifyingly mundane but tinged with an element of the supernatural. Is it worse to imagine that a human is capable of murder without supernatural intervention, or to imagine our actions are being manipulated by monsters that we are powerless to resist?

A Cosmology of Monsters uses the universe created by H.P. Lovecraft as an initial structure, imagining how that shadow world might press in on our own and cause the slow but inevitable destruction of a family able to see through the veil into it and witness things no human should. The entire thing could be seen as an extended metaphor for the fear caused by hereditary mental health conditions, or it could be taken literally. Honestly, I’m not sure which is more terrifying.

This is a slow burn of a story that traces less a descent into madness and more the destruction and eventual restoration of one family, and the price paid by that family and those around them for that restoration. I found the ending difficult to parse: was it happy, or was it the most unimaginably awful thing I had ever read? – however strange this may sound, I can’t actually tell.

A Cosmology of Monsters is powerful, provocative, and one of the best books I have read this year. Despite the visceral feelings of disgust it frequently stirred up, I know I will be reading it again in the future in order to better understand many of the earlier scenes. I cannot recommend it broadly; it will be far too much for many readers, yet for those able and willing to read through, it is a true gem.

GeekMom received copies of these books for review purposes.
Was this review helpful?
I loved this book! A brilliant tender, heartbreaking, perfectly weird hybrid. Hamill's love of the horror genre shines through in this original take on the haunted house and family-in-peril themes. I cared for his cast of characters and enjoyed his exploration of family, love, what makes a monster, sacrifice, and the opportunity for second chances. Great stuff!
Was this review helpful?
I really enjoyed A Cosmology of Monsters, I read it as part of my spooky season reading in October and it was the perfect fit. It's not really full on horror or fantasy but a mixture of both. Dealing with mental health, child abductions, teenage and family dramas this book takes you on a journey from beginning to End.

Noah's relationship with the monster they got older; I certainly wasn't expecting that but it added another layer to the story and an explanation of events.
Was this review helpful?
Beautifully written and steeped in Lovecraftian horror, this was a great Halloween read. It dipped slightly in the second half, but was still an enjoyably creepy family saga with memorable characters and great writing.
Was this review helpful?
Unfortunately for personal reasons, circumstances I was unable to read this book that was granted for me. I was really looking forward to read this and experience the magic of it.
Was this review helpful?
Wow,  it was a  great travel: disturbing, creepy, exciting and gripping.
I can go on with a long list of adjectives but  it was a hell of a great horror story that kept me hooked and involved in the nightmare and turns of the plot.
The author is a talented storyteller and he's able to bring to life a world that reminded of Lovecraft and Gaiman.
The characters are well thought and interesting, the world building is amazing and the plot flows with a growing tensiong.
A great story and an excellent read that I strongly recommend.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
Was this review helpful?
Wow! Now that's how you deliver a knockout debut.
Shaun Hamill delivers an emotional powerhouse with A Cosmology of Monsters - a dark coming of age fantasy/horror that follows the lives of a Texan family who run a haunted house attraction and their connection with a mysterious wolf-like creature.
Much more than just a monster story, Hamill fills the pages with the heartfelt and, at times, harrowing account of the Turner family - told through the eyes of Noah Turner - as he deals with love, loss and mental illness while under the shadow of an unnamed beast.
Hamill has a clear love of horror and he injects it onto every page as he slowly pulls back the curtain in a series of surprising turns.
But the reveals aren't done for scares, instead constructing a rich and bittersweet story of family and sacrifice.
Highly recommended.
Was this review helpful?
This book has everything I love – a haunted house attraction, intricate family saga, fully dimensional characters, realistic siblings’ relationship, and a secret monster. I loved the way the book traced the beginning of the Turner family and how Harry Turner later where Harry comes up with a haunted house attraction that becomes a family business. The darkness that descends upon the family is reflected in how the house is built, plank by plank.

Then the second half of the book arrives and suffice to say I was not a fan. The story takes a turn that feels unnecessary. In essence, the book portrays the grooming of two children, a boy and a girl. But it only condemns the grooming of the girl. whereas the grooming of the boy is treated like a love story. In terms of the plot itself, I wish the haunted house aspect actually connects to the main story. There is so much potential in that storyline thread that is not picked up. I found the monster mythology simultaneously vague yet overbearing.

However, I truly enjoyed the writing and I thought the book handled the themes of family, grief, and memories really well. Sections that are written as scripts in the book are dreamy and haunting. The ending is perfect, with a bleak, aching note to the resolution. The scariest monster in the book is the threat of loss and a life unlived, and in that sense, the book successfully leaves a mark.
Was this review helpful?
“A Cosmology of Monsters” is in my opinion one of the best cosmic horror novels that have been released in the last few years! Shaun Hamill has written an engaging story, filled with heartbreak, dysfunctional family dynamic and monsters with more depth than your average book character. Written in a prose that eggs you on to unravel its secrets. Simply an impressive and stunning first novel from a writer that I think we will all be seeing a lot more of in the future.
Was this review helpful?
This is a strange horror novel with interesting elements of family and mental health issues. I love the story and following the family throughout the years. I did have some issues with formatting during the flashback scenes so I was a little confused in places. I will definitely purchase this book and reread in the future.

4.5 Stars.
Was this review helpful?
Hamill explores the “escape” of the haunted house – and the comfort of monsters. 

A Cosmology of Monsters takes pains to warn its readers up-front that “happy endings” and other narrative conventions don’t apply to real life. The novel swerves and ducks reader expectations throughout – sometimes in ways that dazzle, sometimes in ways that are profoundly frustrating. While the book’s headers are taken from Lovecraft, and his influence hovers over the work (including a beautifully-realised eldritch location, the City), Hamill wants to explore the way horror fiction, haunted houses and monsters intersect with family life. It’s a bold mission, and creates a book which I suspect readers will either love or hate.

The book begins with an interesting and only partly successful framing choice: Noah, a seven-year old boy, collects his sister Eunice’s suicide notes. It’s a striking opening image, which is quickly brushed aside as Hamill takes us on a “deep dive” for the next third of the book into his mother Margaret’s 1960s upbringing; college life; meeting his father (Harry); and their early married life in which Harry becomes troubled, obsessively building a haunted house in his backyard. Noah narrates all this; the effect is jarring, particularly as Margaret’s portion of the text is a beautifully pitched narrative about the claustrophobia of her dwindling life options. This is then snatched away as we turn back to six-year-old Noah and the scratching sounds being heard outside his sisters’ windows at night. For the rest of the novel the focus is on Noah, and – Margaret’s story being presented with such aching empathy – it’s hard not to see him as a comparatively uninteresting subject. 

Haunted houses are a recurring theme: offering both the illusion of choice and, as characters are herded through them, the horrors of inevitability. This is true of the haunted house which Harry builds (later expanded into a truly magical attraction, the Wandering Dark) and the otherworldly City (seen in vignettes throughout, and later visited by Noah); inevitability also stalks the characters in the real world. Margaret’s narrative is nail-bitingly oppressive, showing her increasingly trapped by the expectations of heteronormativity. The men presented as her “future” are both terrible – Pierce the processed-chicken heir, who her mother tells her to “try” to be in love with – and fast-food worker Harry, who in a less interesting work might be the lovable underdog. But Harry laughs at her first attempt to pronounce Cthulhu; grabs her and kisses her uninvited; and feels so entitled to the fantasy of her that after one date he tells Margaret he’s “not ready to give [her] up yet”. In a dream sequence (surrounded by pulp magazines, typewriters, thousands of books, embodying the stereotype of the nerd misogynist) Harry tells her that “it doesn’t matter what you want”: this sense of Margaret’s powerlessness is absolutely tangible. For me, Margaret’s story was the high point of the novel, offering a very real cosmology of (real-life) monsters – poverty, reluctant motherhood and the subsuming of female dreams.  

When the book moves on to Noah, the narrative switches to the nocturnal scratching sounds, the abduction of his sister Sydney (Hamill’s portrayal of this character, her teenage rage and abandonment issues, is absolutely spot-on), and his sister Eunice – the writer in the family – who feels trapped by her body and its own burgeoning same-sex desires. These women get such beautifully drawn portraits (Eunice in particular was absolutely heartbreaking, her depression “tak[ing] up physical space, swell[ing] and seep[ing]under closed doors… like poison gas, settling over the house in a fog”), that I found Noah’s coming-of-age story less interesting and often tonally jarring. The monster is slowly revealed as a large wolf-like and goofy “FRIEND” who takes him on night-time trips around the neighbourhood, but it’s oddly lacking in menace – until its attentions become evidently sinister, including a sexual encounter with a sixteen-year old Noah which was truly horror-inducing. The narrative’s constant shifts in focus made it hard to engage with Noah himself; positioned as an outsider, more comfortable haunting the Wandering Dark in a monster suit than dealing with his family’s issues, that disconnect carried over into scenes which contained real drama and significance. 

Noah’s wife eventually tells him he’s “safely trapped in the tower of our marriage”; wanting to convince himself, he says that “love and a simple life… this is the real magic”. But for the majority of A Cosmology of Monsters, it seems everyone marries someone unappealing: Margaret with Harry, Eunice with the disappointing man she picks once she stops writing, and Noah with Megan, whose main appeal is her connection to the world of monsters. The primary moments of joy we see are wholly outside heteronormative family life: Eunice with her first girlfriend, a grown-up Noah with Leannon, the female form of the monster who’s been stalking him since childhood (although this is profoundly tinged with horror for the reader, as Leannon’s interactions with Noah and his family have been largely predatory in nature). I was left with the impression that Hamill has an uncomfortable and uncompromising story to tell about how women and queer-coded characters are railroaded into conformity, but not sure that Noah was the best person to tell it, or that it was combined successfully with the titular monsters. Leannon in particular remained a particularly disturbing enigma, both monster and victim, agent and object, largely overlooked by Noah’s self-absorption: she’s an eldritch creature with immense powers who tortures and abducts humans at the behest of the City, and a beautiful perpetually-naked woman, once human, who lives in an otherworldly house that Noah visits to have sex – as he observes, he has “a monster on booty call”. 

Towards the end of the book, Noah regains his “haunted house” with a visit to his old monster scare attraction, telling his companion: “I needed that”. The Wandering Dark – offering some beautiful set pieces, including a memorable The Shining-inspired ballroom that left me just itching to visit – echoes the City’s Lovecraftian otherland, “the world behind the world” and it’s their familiarity with eldritch and fantastical locations which offers the Turner family a chance to break free. In the end, we see the redemptive force offered by the deep dark creative well, and Noah makes some incredibly ugly choices in order to make good on his family’s hereditary familiarity with monsters. The last portion of the book, despite the up-front disclaimer of “no happy endings”, delivers a satisfying one, with a return to the City and the flawed character of Harry, now more sympathetic – or at least more human. 

A Cosmology of Monsters is a beautifully-written examination of the darkness of family life: as one character remarks, “adulthood gets us all in the end”. Hamill’s portraits of women struggling with their circumstances are achingly empathetic, and I bled a little for every one of them. However, the passivity of the characters is often incredibly frustrating, as are the tonal shifts between out-and-out supernatural or cosmic “horror”, flights of fairytale-like imagination, and Noah’s disconnected perspective. It’s a compelling debut, and an overwhelmingly promising one, but ultimately I felt it lacked cohesion.
Was this review helpful?
H P Lovecraft’s shadow casts a long one over the horror genre. He developed new types of horrors that reverberate today; psychological and body horror are just two. What has changed is the way that people perceive horror. Whilst once upon a time witnessing the horrors from a different dimension would send you insane, we now question what comes first. Are we in fact already insane and creating these images within our mind? Are the only modern horrors results of mental health? Schizophrenia is a condition that follows the Turner family through generations but are the monsters that they see real?

Noah Turner is the third child of a troubled family. His father died when he was a babe in arms and his two sisters are at war with his mother. Bubbling under the surface is the fact they all have problems fitting into society, probably not the best idea to have a family business of running a Halloween Horror House. Noah’s life is difficult, but it takes on an even stranger bent when he hears something that scratches at the window. Most six years olds would scream but Noah befriends this creature and thus starts an existence like no other.

A Cosmology of Monsters by Shaun Hamill is a modern feeling horror novel that also pays homage to some of the best works of the 1980s. There is no doubt that mental health issues run through the Turner family and how they interact with the world is affected by this. Initially, Hamill treads a line between psychological and physical horror, the reader is unsure of what they are reading as the protagonists are not the most reliable. There is a recap of Noah’s parents' past that creates a base to build the rest of the story upon but not a huge amount happens yet. As soon as Noah takes the main stage, the book takes off.

With such a dysfunctional family, Noah was never going to have it easy. He finds it hard to make friends, so it makes sense that when a creature scratches at the window he decides to build a friendship, rather than recoil. Initially, the book hints at the possibility that Noah has inherited the schizophrenia that has affected others in this family. As a fan of more practical horror I was delighted to see that some things are what they seem. Suddenly the book’s various call-backs to Cthulhu begin to make sense as the book plays with alternative dimensions and things that go bump in the night.

The entire book has a dream like quality to it as it is told to us by Noah. Hamill is not afraid to question what makes a monster; Noah could be as bad as any creature; you must read the book to find out. There are several very satisfying twists in the book and Hamill has created a universe that makes a dark kind of sense. We go from a feeling of unsettling horror to more visceral as the book concludes. Events never become too extreme, but the book is certainly horrific in nature.

I do not want to give too much away with the direction that Cosmology takes but it is safe to say that the nature of the book is different from the start than at the end. For those that may find the family drama a little on the slow and non-horrific side, continue and the book opens and evolves. The middle section is packed with ideas that will resonant with any horror fans, especially of the classic 80s and 90s variety. By blending the concepts of internalised horror with a physical threat, Hamill has created an entertaining and disturbing book that will entertain any fan of the eerie.
Was this review helpful?
My thanks to Titan Books for a digital edition via NetGalley of ‘A Cosmology of Monsters’ by Shaun Hamill in exchange for an honest review. It was published last year in the USA with its U.K. edition published in June, 2020. 

“I started collecting my older sister Eunice’s suicide notes when I was seven years old. I still keep them ... They were among the only things I was allowed to bring with me, and I’ve read through them often the last few months, searching for comfort, wisdom, or even just a hint that I’ve made the right choices for all of us.” Noah Turner 

So opens this stunning debut novel that combines a multi-generational family drama/coming-of-age story with a Lovecraft-themed literary horror. 

Harry Turner has been obsessed with the writings of H.P.  Lovecraft for many years. When he is diagnosed with terminal cancer he becomes obsessed with building a complex haunted house - the Wandering Dark. With his bookish wife, Margaret, and daughters, Sydney and Eunice they create a legacy that becomes their family business.

Just before Harry’s death Margaret gives birth to their son, Noah. In the years that follow the family fights their own demons including their grief and poverty. Yet in the shadows the real monsters lurk. 

The family doesn’t know that Noah is being visited by a wolfish beast with glowing orange eyes. Yet he considers it his friend.

The publicity describes this novel as “Stephen King’s It meets Stranger Things”, which is a fair comparison though ‘Cosmology’ focuses mainly on Noah’s experiences rather than a group of plucky kids. I don’t want to drift into spoiler territory though there are mysterious disappearances and the like along the way. 

Its theme of a young boy befriending something uncanny did also bring to mind Stephen Chbosky’s 2019 horror novel, ‘Imaginary Friend’, that was also also a 5-star read for me.

I found ‘A Cosmology of Monsters’ a very compelling novel. As with the stories of Lovecraft, its horror is subtle, more a sense of creeping dread over shocks. I felt that this restraint was very effective, highlighting its scenes of horror when they occurred. I will note that some of them were quite visceral. 

On a side note, I want to acknowledge the excellent cover artwork on the Titan Books U.K. edition.
Was this review helpful?
Monsters are real. They lurk in shadowed corners and are glimpsed outside bedroom windows. For Noah Turner monsters become a fear confronted and a friend found. But this is not the beginning of his tale. His tale begins long before his birth and long before his conception. His tale begins when his parents were as young and as lost and as afraid as he is now...

The story was told in such a unique format. I was momentarily befuddled, upon starting the book, but Hamill quickly alleviated any confusion without ever fully explaining just how the chilling sequence of events would unfold. It was intriguing, complex, and kept me ever unsure what would next occur, and ever willing to progress forward and find out.

The structure of the book was commendable and I did initially enjoy the contents, but found them lacking in the truly horrifying elements I had come looking for. This is definitely a book residing inside the horror genre, but was just not of the type to personally terrify me. However, I respected just how this brand of Lovecraftian horror was repackaged in a modern setting for a modern audience and just how it concluded in a truly chilling and unforeseen fashion.
Was this review helpful?
This book was everything I wanted it to be!

It was dark, twisted, disturbing and so weird!

There is so much content in this book that may put you off (sexual abuse, death, rape, assault, death…the list goes on) but it all contributes in a way that brings the story along well.

It is very well written and I found that I couldn’t put it down.

You’ll have to keep the lights on for this one!!
Was this review helpful?

This book is a difficult one for me to review. It’s been on my radar for nearly a year and I loved the writing style and how well I felt I knew many of the characters, but it also had some problematic moments for me.

I loved hearing all about the history of this family, tragedy and all. I liked getting a feel for the dynamics between its members and the ways they individually coped with the pain that they’d experienced. The more I learned about their complexities as individuals and as a whole, the more I wanted to delve deeper. The unlikeable parts of certain characters made them even more real to me. 

“How often do I get a chance to live out a true-life nightmare?”

I couldn’t get enough information about the Tomb and The Wandering Dark. I could easily visualise each room and I was eager to experience them for myself. I was even plotting new rooms that I could add to those the family had created and wondered how I could get involved behind the scenes to bring the scares to life.

I even loved it when the monster was introduced. I love monster stories so I was looking forward to getting to know this one but certain aspects of the monster’s behaviour didn’t work for me at all. Now, this is where my review becomes a spoilery rant, so you may want to skip the four paragraphs hidden in the spoiler section. Sorry, my rants get kinda wordy.

Okay, if you’re still with me, I’ll assume you have either read the book already or spoilers don’t bother you. So, the monster. As Noah started spending more time with the monster I wondered about its why, how and what. When some vital information about the monster was revealed my curiosity quickly turned to ‘I no longer want to read this book’ and I would have DNF’ed at this point if I hadn’t committed to reviewing it.

The monster had been grooming Noah since he was six years old. This meant that when they eventually began having sex (apparently fairly regularly), my brain immediately went to ‘ewww!’ and I felt decidedly icky reading about it. If these scenes had involved a female child and male monster/adult, there would likely be an uproar and I don’t see why it should be any less abhorrent because the genders have been switched here. Thankfully, this is eventually called out for what it was by a minor character. Briefly.

Then there was Sydney, who thought she was having a relationship with a man, but there was a huge power imbalance as he was her teacher. Depending on where you live, legally this may or may not be called statutory rape, but even if it isn’t the power balance alone is enough to make alarm bells echo in my head. This whole thing is effectively silenced. Noah keeps the secret. Sydney gets put out that her ‘relationship’ is over. It’s never called out for what is really is. Even near the end of the book it’s described as a man who fell in love with a teenager.

I acknowledge that my experience of sexual assault could be colouring my perceptions of both Noah and Sydney’s experiences to a certain degree, but I still can’t imagine ever being okay with either situation. I do need to say that the minor character naming Noah’s experience redeemed that part of the narrative for me to an extent, although it will never be anything but icky to me. Sydney didn’t have anyone dismantling the truth she’d lived with and that wound up tainting some of my enjoyment of the book as a whole.

“It’s seen us. It has our scent.”

While I don’t generally have a problem with endings where the bows aren’t all tied, I did want to know more about the City and the history of the monsters. I was fine with not knowing exactly what was next for some of the human characters, although I could see the way the story resolved for Noah a mile off. 

Loss, grief and the experiences that haunt us are central to this book. In exploring those through Noah’s story, the horror in part becomes about the parts of yourself that you hide and those that feed on your pain. I didn’t have to work at all to get into this book and the characters became real almost immediately. It wasn’t the horror I was expecting but I was sucked in and am interested in reading more books by this author. 

“Noah, there is no such thing as a happy ending. There are only good stopping places.”

Content warnings include mention of abortion, cancer, death of loved ones, grooming and sexual assault, homophobia, mental health, suicidal ideation, attempted suicide and death by suicide.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Titan Books for the opportunity to read this book.
Was this review helpful?
John Irving meets Stephen King in a tale that weaves complex family dynamics betwixt monsters and gothic fairytale. 

Noah Turner narrates this strange story. His family have been haunted by a strange being with orange eyes. It's there but never acknowledged. But when this being visits Noah, he welcomes it into his life and they firstly become friends and then as he gets older, lovers. His friendship allows the monster to resume her human shape and name, Leannon. 

But Noah has too many unanswered questions. His sister Sydney disappeared when he was a child. And he starts to suspect that Leannon knows where she is. As he moves away and tries to live a different life, he is pulled back to Leannon when his mother and other sister also go missing. 

What price will he pay to know the whole truth, and to save his family? 

This book is hard to define. It is long, complex and requires the reader to embark on a flight of fancy. Themes such as depression, suicide and cancer are interwoven with a wolf that flies with Noah at night, a strange city that feeds on pain, and a haunted house that was Noah's father's legacy. This may divide readers into love or loathe camps but it will certainly get people talking.
Was this review helpful?