Jake could now see the demon fully. Its body was a mass of steely sinew, its arms roped with muscle. Six fingers sprouted from its hands, each ending in lethal talons. The thing did not possess a nose; instead a large hole, bubbling with green mucus, occupied the middle of its face. Mr Pinch's tongue flickered between his teeth and slurped across his fat lips. He was hungry.
When a violent storm rages around the little village of Hobarron's Hollow, a young boy is sacrificed 'for the greater good'. His blood is used to seal a mystical doorway and prevent an apocalyptic disaster known only as the Demontide.
Twenty-five years later, another boy, Jake Harker, is about to be drawn into the nightmare of the Demontide. Witches and their demon familiars stalk his every move, and his dreams are plagued by visions of a 17th Century figure known only as the Witchfinder. When his father is abducted, Jake must face the terrible secrets kept by those closest to him and a shocking truth that will change his life forever ...
Jake Harker is a comic book and horror fan whose parents work for the mysterious Hobarron Institute. His life changes forever with the death of his mother – a death that he witnessed but which he has strange memories of. Questioning what he thinks he knows about his mother’s death, he discovers more about the Institute and the Demontide – an event that, if allowed to happen, will lead to demons taking over the world.
The Hobarron Institute works to stop this from happening, battling a group of witches and warlocks (humans with magical powers and demon familiars) to ensure that the world is protected. The Institute has been developing a weapon that will end the Demontide once and for all – a weapon that the Coven Master of the witches will do anything to possess and which Jake’s mother was responsible for producing. What Jake doesn’t know though, is that the Institute have a back up plan in case the weapon doesn’t work – a back up plan that will threaten Jake’s life.
The first in a trilogy, William Hussey weaves a decent horror story that ties back to England’s witch-finding history. There’s plenty of blood and gore, with the novel opening with a scene of a teenage boy having his throat slit, which may be too much for younger readers. The stars of the show (for me) are the witches’ familiars – strange and evil creatures that centre their power – the descriptions emphasise their horrible nature and the scenes where they are used really make the skin crawl.
Jake himself is a likeable hero with an interest in horror and comic books that stems from his being a reluctant reader. His crush on Rachel, the daughter of another scientist at the Institute, feels a bit by-the-numbers, although his friendship with Eddie (another boy whose mother works for the Institute) is more believable.
There are times when the story drags and some characters – notably Simon Lydgate (another friend of Jake’s) don’t get enough page-time despite their importance to events. There are also points when the dialogue doesn’t quite ring true for teenagers.
For all that though, it’s a well thought-through story that sets up the next instalment well. Worth checking out if you’re into YA horror.
It’s a well-thought through story that ties back in to England’s witch-finding heritage. The plot does drag at times, but there’s enough to hold the interest and YA horror fans should enjoy it.
Thanks to Oxford University Press for the ARC.
Cross-posted to cool_teen_reads and yalitlovers.