Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Book Review: Forsaken by J.D. Barker


Overview from Goodreads book page:

New from Master of Suspense, J.D. BARKER

Bram Stoker Award Nominee - Superior Achievement in a First Novel 

Book One of the Shadow Cove Saga

From the witch trials of centuries past, an evil awakens.

Inspired by Actual Events
Excerpt from the Journal of Clayton Stone – 1692
She was examined today without torture at Shadow Cove township on the charge of witchcraft. She said she was wholly innocent of the crime and has never in life renounced God. I watched as they brought her out. A poor, sickly thing, worn by her time behind the walls of her prison. Her bared feet and hands bound in leather, her clothing tattered to that of ruin. Despite such condition, her head was held high, her eyes meeting those of her accusers. She still refuses to provide her name so we remain unable to search baptismal records, nor has her family stepped forward to claim her as their own. We have no reason to believe she is anything but an orphaned child. I find myself unable to look at her directly in the moments preceding her trial. She is watching me though; with eyes of the deepest blue, she is watching me.

Thad McAlister, Rise of the Witch

When horror author Thad McAlister began his latest novel, a tale rooted in the witch trials of centuries past, the words flowed effortlessly. The story poured forth, filling page after page with the most frightening character ever to crawl from his imagination. It was his greatest work, one that would guarantee him a position among the legends of the craft.

But was it really fiction?

He inadvertently opened a door, one that would soon jeopardize the lives of his family.

She wants to come back.

At home, his wife struggles to keep their family alive. Secretly wondering if she caused it all…a deal she made long ago. A deal with the Forsaken.

My review: Great horror storytelling doesn't just get under your skin, it stays there, merging with your flesh and bones like this was how it was always meant to be.

Forsaken, by author JD Barker, takes us into a world where the writer may have created something very nasty - very nasty indeed. Not only that - it threatens to harm our hero - Thad - and his family.

Things are not looking good for the McAlisters.

Thad is a writer, and as with most writers in the Stephen King universe, if you are a writer, you will suffer.

I could see the heavy King influence here, but to labour any more on that point would be to do the author a disservice. 

Forsaken is a very well crafted horror thriller. The modern day breakdown, to the very minute things are happening in the book isn't a new thing, but it date stamps things nicely whilst being interspersed with the writing from Thad's book - the book that almost writes itself.

The witch trial and the court events are brilliantly handled...dare I say I enjoyed these more than the present day events? I could be in the minority there.

Taking the book as a whole, whilst it certainly has its moments I wanted to be shook out of my skin - so I think I must be a bit desensitised to horror by now.

The story works because everything is logical, believable, plausible.

Whilst I couldn't root for Thad as much as his wife, Rachael, I found myself leaning towards her and her daughter Ashley's plight.

Told over three days, it's the sinister 'creep' of the book that is the star - you really feel like some impending doom is coming, and you as the reader will want to know what it is.

I loved - absolutely loved the ending. In fact, it could be said that JD Barker has 'out-Kinged' King - but how, you say?

Well, Stephen King often mentions his earlier works in his later books, but they are done more like pop culture references than anything else. 

In Forsaken, the author pays homage to King, but it is so well done, so clever, so 'ahhh...that's it!' that you just have to take your hat off to the author.

This is book one in the Shadow Cove saga, and it's a hell of a breathtaking start.

My thanks to Maxine for introducing this book to me.