Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Night Chill by Jeff Gunhus (Book Review)

Several months ago I was asked if I would be interested in reading the first of the Night Chill series by Jeff Gunhus: Night Chill.

Absolutely! Particularly since my book reading theme this year is horror (I've spent the last several years reading  mostly 18th and 19th century classics, it was time for a change). 

From the very beginning I was delightfully amazed at the pace. Sharp, vigorous, and deliberate: first thoughts that came to mind. My delight turned to horror-stricken awe as the story blossomed into a bloody mess of shocking brutality and gore, and that's not even a quarter of the way in! It's safe to say this story had me at the detailed death by lightning scene.

You may be asking yourself then: "Why did it take a book worm several months to read such a fun and intense book?" Well, roughly halfway through I experienced a heartbreaking death in the family and then was diagnosed with a rare cancer. Ironically this book revolves around these very matters (death, disease). 

Good news though, worst Summer of my life is nearly over and the cancer is now gone. Bonus, I have new ironies to laugh about now. 

Night Chill follows the Tremont family (husband, wife, two little girls) who move back East to start a new life only to have it disrupted by an ancient evil lurking there that has decided to target them. Needless to say they are having a pretty bad season as well. Overall I enjoyed these characters. Relateable, kind, honest, and willing to do anything for their family. A reader is ready and willing to cheer this family on without a nagging feeling of cheesiness or unoriginality. 

Then there's the evil. The evil in this story is pretty evil, to say the least. Violent, unforgiving, supernatural, and intensely mentally and physically damaging. Much like cancer, frankly. The evil, and the evil characters who play a role here are surprisingly sadistic and wholeheartedly aggressive in their means to an end. Don't be surprised at being surprised...

The story then weaves through the trials the Tremont family experience trying to stay safe and together as they battle unseen forces and a world that doesn't believe them. The pace slows down just a hair here, particularly as it introduces a few new characters and divulges on the secrets behind the ancient evil.

It's also at this point that I have my only criticisms. Although detailed and what seems to me surprisingly researched (in land descriptions, family dynamics, etc.) I had to re-read the sections that referenced a photograph from the 1820s several times. Did they mean the 1920s? No, it appeared as if 1820s was intended. A time when a photograph such as the one described would not have existed. Here is when I had to just sit back and laugh at myself. It's a novel. A fun novel. An outrageously intense horror novel. If a horror story is not providing at least some suspension of disbelief then the story is lacking and I'm taking it unnecessarily too seriously. 

I moved on and ran into a couple descriptions that gave me pause (e.g., "Indian magic"). Not something I've quiet heard before and I grew up in-between two of the nation's largest reservations. Also, the mind of a teenage girl was revealed rather clumsily. That said, speaking from experience, it's a clumsy time...  

Again: novel - suspension of disbelief - fun - why so serious.

The novel cascaded into one of the most intense endings I've ever read. I was quite literally on the edge of my seat. I have fellow morning commute bus passengers to attest to this. Loud, dynamic, intense, and breathtaking. Just as the story began with such force, so it ended and then some. 

Jeff Gunhus certainly has his own horror voice and I think it's rare to find such a mentally/visually interactive one that also has the dynamics of a firecracker. I enjoyed this novel, and the fact that I read it during one of the most turbulent periods of my life and was able to connect with it says a lot about the book itself. 

You can find this book on Amazon, and if you're a Goodreads junkie such as myself then you can learn more about the book, read more reviews, and learn about the author there. 

This is Horror Habit's first book review, and I hope you enjoyed it. Again if I hadn't made it clear earlier I was asked to review this book in my own time and if I wanted to. I was not paid to endorse or promote. I happen to be a published author as well (non fiction). I understand the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into publishing but I also respect honest responses and reviews.

Thank you and good luck Jeff Gunhus, you provided my horror fan heart with a genuine escape. Readers, if horror novels are your thing then I highly recommend checking this one out.

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