Welcome to my stop on The Watchers blog tour! Huge thanks to Head of Zeus and Aries for giving me the opportunity to take part in this! I was provided a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher: Aries, Head of Zeus
Publication Date: 14/10/2021
Length: 240 pages
Genre: Horror | Gothic
CW: mentions of past abuse
You can’t see them. But they can see you.GoodReads
This forest isn’t charted on any map. Every car breaks down at its treeline. Mina’s is no different. Left stranded, she is forced into the dark woodland only to find a woman shouting, urging Mina to run to a concrete bunker. As the door slams behind her, the building is besieged by screams.
Mina finds herself in a room with a wall of glass, and an electric light that activates at nightfall, when the Watchers come above ground. These creatures emerge to observe their captive humans and terrible things happen to anyone who doesn’t reach the bunker in time.
Afraid and trapped among strangers, Mina is desperate for answers. Who are the Watchers and why are these creatures keeping them imprisoned, keen to watch their every move?
When I first heard about this novel it sounded like the perfect, creepy read for the spooky season. I was especially drawn to the fact that it seemed to have roots in the more traditional, gothic, style of horror which is a particular favourite of mine and Shine certainly did not disappoint!
We are thrown straight into the strange, neverending forest, filled with darkness and eerie screams that don’t belong to a human. I loved that the novel opened this way from John’s perspective, not only did I find myself immediately drawn into the seriousness of the situation but through just one chapter Shine shows that he really knows how to make you care about characters and give them depth in a matter of a few pages. This is something that he continued to show throughout the novel with the four protagonists we are introduced to. All of which have complexities that you slowly begin to uncover as you spend more time with them. Whilst Mina is, arguably, the ‘main’ protagonist all of them have moments where they are the key focus.
Through their different layers I found my opinion of the characters constantly changing and because of this it was very easy to understand why each of them viewed the others the way they did. Whilst Madeline, the strict and fierce ‘leader’ of the group, views Ciara as a burden and as useless; young Daniel, on the other hand, views her as a big sister and who he is protective of and, as a reader, I could completely see where both characters were coming from. I loved how different they all were and how they were all thrown together. As soon as Mina meets them the tension between them bleeds through the page, it’s clear that these people are struggling to survive with each other in such close quarters, particularly Madeline.
I really liked the mystery surrounding the watchers and how they were written. They are the unknown and even as you think you’re piecing things together, you’re never quite sure if you’ve got the full picture. Shine’s writing keeps you on edge, you’re never quite comfortable or settled reading the novel which mirrors just a small aspect of what the characters must be feeling. Reading the more fast paced scenes, particularly of a night, gave me an odd sense of claustrophobia and felt very reminiscent of Edgar Allan Poe’s writing (especially with the addition of the parrot). The ending certainly packed a punch for me too.
Whilst there were aspects that I was able to work out before the ‘reveal’, this didn’t detract from certain moments in the novel and still, ultimately, felt satisfying. I really appreciated the fact the book is split into parts by month as it definitely helped keep track of how long they had been there, however, at times the pacing was still ever so slightly off but the story was still enjoyable regardless!
Overall, I really loved this novel – especially the characters. Shine has wonderfully captured the essence of a traditional gothic novel but still able to present it in a more contemporary way and I’m very excited to see what book he releases next. I highly recommend picking this up, particularly if you’re in the mood for some spooky storytelling! Just remember, when you enter the forest, stay in the light.
About the Author
A.M. Shine is a writer and advocate of the Gothic horror tradition. Born in Galway in the west of Ireland, there he received his Masters Degree in History before sharpening his quill and pursuing all things literary and macabre. His stories have won the Word Hut and Bookers Corner prize. He has published two collections, Coldwood: The Haunted Man and Other Tales and 13 and is a member of the Irish Writers Centre.
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