The Hunt by T.J. Lebbon (Tim Lebbon)
Avon Books, 2015
Available: New and used paperback, Kindle edition
The transition from writing horror to thrillers sounds like it should be an easy move, yet very few authors have mastered the art of actually “thrilling” the reader from the first to the last without letting up. Tim Lebbon has pretty much pulled it off in his first attempt. The Hunt is a definite departure form horror and fantasy. This is a different animal than the creature horror of last year’s The Silence, but in any genre, Lebbon proves he knows how to sustain pace and suspense.
The Hunt is run by the shadow group “Trail”. The members have many names, live invisibly from society, and are free from persecution as they provide the ultimate game for the super-rich, famous, and thrill-seeking.
The story begins when Chris Sheen returns home from a great run, breaking his own record, to find his wife and two daughters missing. A man warns him not to call the police; if he does, they’ll be butchered.
Meanwhile, Rose has been training to avenge the murders of her husband and children, as she is the lone survivor of the hunt. Her mission options: escape the hunters and live while her family dies, or sacrifice herself to keep them alive.
Rose attempts to track down and eliminate the group, while Chris fights to avoid the hunters and stay alive long enough to save his family. Both work with separate motivations as they run, hike, and climb through Snowdonia.
To say The Hunt is fast-paced is like saying a Ferrari can break the speed limit. Lebbon’s writing has always been lean and tight; here, it moves and twists through a violent, exciting story with rarely a wasted word.
Avon has already signed him for a second thriller. Here’s to hoping there’s many more. Highly recommended.
Reviewed by David Simms
The Thickety: The Whispering Trees by J.A. White, illustrated by Andrea Offermann
Katherine Tegen Books, 2015
Available: Hardcover, Kindle edition
After the shocking conclusion of A Path Begins, the first book in The Thickety series, Kara Westfall has been forced to leave her village of De’Noran behind and flee with her brother into the darkness of the Thickety,
Although still full of dark events and violent situations, The Whispering Trees contains each of these elements on a lighter scale than the first book in the series. Readers are introduced to a world full of magical, fairytale-like creatures living in the Thickety, and Kara’s ability to connect with animals gives us a glimpse into the minds of the Thickety’s inhabitants, blighted by the dark magic of the Forest Demon Sordyr.
The encompassing theme of good vs. evil, and strength of character development, is still strong in The Whispering Trees. Kara and her brother Taff form an unlikely alliance with the witch Mary Kettle, introduced in A Path Begins as a murderer of children. The Whispering Trees is full of suspenseful situations and unpredictable turns of events as Kara learns that goodness and hope can prevail.
The Whispering Trees shows readers a growth in Kara’s understanding of her powers, and her discovery of the responsibility that comes with such power, She is forced to make difficult decisions that weigh her deep desire to protect and free the creatures of the Thickety against her need to occasionally put them in harm’s way, for the greater good of defeating Sordyr. Readers will also see growth in young Taff as he develops wisdom, and a keen ability to become a strong force in the challenges he and Kara face in the Thickety.
The illustrations of Andrea Offermann are again a perfect complement to the tone of the story. The cover pulls readers into the dark, ensnaring branches of the Thickety and the chapter illustrations provide a perfect visual introduction to the tone of each chapter.
While The Whispering Trees contains less human violence than the first book in the series, it still contains enough frightening imagery and violent events that younger readers should be cautioned. However, those who are looking for a YA series that doesn’t sugarcoat the darker side of a fantastic and wonderfully-told scary story won’t be disappointed. Recommended for ages 10 and older.
Contains: Violence, witchcraft
Reviewed by Heather Hurley
Gideon by Alex Gordon
Harper Voyager, 2015
Available: Trade paperback, Kindle edition
Gideon is a supernatural thriller that roots itself in the Midwest. When Lauren Reardon’s father dies, she discovers that something dark is hidden in his past: and his past connects her to the small town of Gideon, Illinois. Gideon is a secretive, isolated town, with a history that involves terrible secrets, witchcraft, and murder.
Gordon is a talented writer and did a nice job of creating a creepy atmosphere. The problem with the novel is its structure. The book gets off to a slow start, with the first seven chapters devoted to creating a historical backdrop (part one is set in 1836, and part two is set in 1841) for the events of the novel. That is a lot of story before we even meet Lauren. Gordon clearly did a lot of research in the process of writing the book, as the period feels accurate in its details, but I felt that connecting to Lauren as a character was more difficult, since she wasn’t introduced earlier in the text.
Once Lauren’s part of the story gets moving, the novel gets more interesting, but due to the slow pacing, her best writing happened too far into the text to really hook me. Gordon shows obvious passion on each page of her book, though, and the concept she uses is original enough that I think this book will hook other readers, and should get a chance in libraries.
Reviewed by David Agranoff