Publication Date: 05/07/2021
Length: 366 pages
Genre: Horror | Dark Fantasy
CW: suicide, child death, graphic depictions of violence
“If one suffers, I suffer. If one is chained, I am chained.”GoodReads
My faith called me to become a Lance. My compassion drew me into one of the fallen lands. Through my connection with the Chained God, I alone can find and destroy the Horror that stains the land.
Death can no longer chain me.
But I couldn’t have imagined the madness waiting for me in this village. I’m not sure my faith can withstand the secrets I’ll uncover. Or that my compassion can survive the violence to come. This Horror may swallow me whole.
Death can no longer free me.
A creature stalks in the dark. Buildings burn. People die. An altar has been built on the village green.
This spooky season I’ve been trying to read a variety of horror, I generally read more Gothic horror however when I heard about this novel I was drawn to the uniqueness of the story and within the first chapter I was fully invested.
This novel is told, mostly, in first person which I found incredibly engaging. By using first-person there was a strong focus on showing rather than telling the reader what is going on in the world. Whilst in the beginning this was a little confusing, especially after the sudden narrative shift every few chapters, after the first couple of times I was able to figure out what was going on and it felt very rewarding. Although the protagonist is fairly faceless in the fact that they don’t have a name or much physical description, Hall still manages to develop our narrator and give them their own personality which I really enjoyed.
In fact, character is something Hall does excellently throughout the novel. We have recurring characters who are complex, whose backstories are gradually revealed to keep you hooked. However, we also have characters that are only introduced for one chapter and, for me, this is where Hall truly shines. There were multiple of these ‘interlude’ chapters where, even though we are only just meeting the characters, I immediately felt an emotional connection to them and could have easily read an entire novel with them.
Despite the dark and horrific events of the novel, Hall’s writing felt quite lyrical which made certain passages even more haunting. Although we don’t see a lot of the world that our protagonist is trying to save from the Horrors, which I’m hoping will be expanded on in other installments in the series, what we do see creates a very striking and desolate image. Hall perfectly captures the bleak atmosphere and the feeling of helplessness and yet balances it with the resilience of humans and their desperation to survive.
As an avid gamer, I’m used to the idea of the constant death and respawning of a protagonist (I mean, I said ‘avid’ gamer, not ‘skilled’), however it wasn’t until this novel where I really thought about what that meant for the protagonist and the world around them. To see this idea explored in such a way was so refreshing and intriguing. Even though we were presented with the same scenario over and over, there was always something fresh to the scene that kept it interesting and stopped it from ever feeling repetitive in a bad way. Even if you’re not a gamer, or not familiar with the Dark Souls franchise, you will still be able to enjoy the narrative regardless especially as the narrative is so unique to the genre.
Overall, this is definitely a novel that you should experience for yourself and piece together the pieces of the puzzle as it is impossible to do the book justice without saying too much! This series has a lot of potential and after this first installment, I’m very excited to see where Hall takes us next!