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Written By:

Katie Robertson

Jen Williams has previously won the British fantasy award for her novels The Ninth Rain and Bitter Twins, both part of her Winnowing Flame series. Reading her thriller/horror novel The Hungry Dark, we couldn’t help feeling that she probably should have stuck with fantasy writing. While we have to admit that the preface is rather exciting and sets the scene well for a supernatural horror (by including a small reference to Greek mythology). During the eerie and suspenseful preface, this writer could not deny that I was rather optimistic about the rest of the book. However, when I turned the page onto chapter one that optimism was stolen from me.

The book’s narrative focuses on a psychic who has lived a terrifying past, filled with ghostly figures, and frightening events. For years, nothing of the kind occurs again until she finds the dead body of one of the many victims of a series of murders. From there, more and more sinister events start to happen.

If you are a fan of endless character development and a small amount of action, this is the book for you. However, If you are expecting an ominous horror novel with a few big scares, you probably want to look elsewhere.

The narrative was an endless cycle of character development, with the main character rambling on about something irrelevant to the progression of the plot. When something exciting did happen, like the discovery of a murder or a sighting of a ghost-like figure named ‘the headful ones’, the timeline would immediately switch from 2024 (when the book is set) to 2004.

Along with a long-winded way of writing the book, Williams also uses cliched writing techniques that any creative writing students will have been taught to avoid early on. During one of the few exciting moments in the novel, she uses the overdone ‘it was all a dream’ cliche, which any avid reader will be sick of reading by now.

While personally not liking the majority of the book, it did remind us slightly of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. In both of these novels, there are characters that you can’t help being suspicious of, and also, there is a formidable ambience.

Our final criticism of this book is the way Williams structures the suspense and excitement (important aspects of any horror), all of which are closer to the middle of the book rather than building to a climax.

On the positive side, Williams writes the action-packed parts of the book in a way that is likely going to be enjoyable for most readers. She combines the right amount of suspense, fear and jump scares. These parts gave us the motivation to continue reading the book, which we wouldn’t have otherwise had.


Katie Robertson

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