The Morning After

The sound of his heaving envelops you; your heart rate syncs itself to the chase. At some point you start to pant and realize your sweating – slippery, sticky, terrified. Your legs go numb. Your thoughts start to jumble. You try to plan your next move and the one after that. The only signal your brain seems to compute anymore is GO.

So you go. It’s all instinct, now. You go, go, go. You know you can’t keep going, and yet – you do. There’s a desire you never knew you had; a desire so strong it fuels you when you have nothing left to give. It’s the desire to live.

He catches your arm and in an instant it might be all over. Might be – but it’s not. Because you drive the knife right through him. And the skin is tougher than you imagined; everything under it, softer. Physically, it’s a difficult thing to do, but you do it. He drops. The blood seeps out of him and crawls towards you; disappears under your feet and surrounds you.

You did it. You survived. Now what?

A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Walter practiced smiling sheepishly in the mirror, but it was useless. When he bared those sharp, inhuman, canines, his smile became a snarl; he became a threat. Everything about him from his piercing yellow eyes to his thick, tool-like, toenails screamed villain. There was no house of straw, or stick, or even brick that he couldn’t be accused of blowing down. No three innocents they wouldn’t have him hanged for killing. No creature in all the lands that wouldn’t hear his tale and cringe. Except, of course, Gale. He had to get to Gale. A man of his size, temper, and smarts would not turn Walter away – he hoped.

In Gale’s dimly lit office, crowded with antiques from far and wide, Walter sat as still as any of the statues that lined the walls. He could feel his chest anxiously heaving. Gale stood against his own desk, looking down on Walter – analyzing every last bit of him. His eyes narrowed, head slightly tilted; the intensity thickened the air.

“You’re a monster, Walter. Why should I take your case?”

Walter felt his left eye twitch at the insult.

“They made me a monster, sir.”

“And the three dead cops? Who do you suppose took them out, if not you?” Gale was lighting a cigarette now, the glowing ember directed right at Walter – a target.

Feeling a rage building in his tightening chest, Walter’s low voice slowly turned to a growl. “They came at me. I – Self-defence. We still allow that in this tyranny. Don’t we?”

Gale and Walter’s eyes met and locked into a hardened standoff.

“And the girl? Val,” Gale finally asked, not breaking his stare – not even for a blink.

Walter leapt to his feet and in one quick stride was overtop of Gale, breathing so wildly the ember began to flicker. The edge of the desk was digging into the small of Gale’s back now, but still, he didn’t blink. Slowly, he brought the cigarette back to his lips and sucked hard, reigniting its power.

Walter shook his head violently, as if to release his anger. He moved an inch or two back, and huffed.

“I loved her,” he finally said. “And she me.”

With the silence hanging heavy over them, Walter collapsed back into his chair, eyes torn away from Gale’s. He finished, “But – yes. I killed her.”

Tears pushed forcefully out of his eyelids, but he made no sound other than the heaving huffs of a madman. Gale watched patiently.

“She – She said she’d defend me. She said – she said she’d make them see what she saw.” After a long pause, Walter grunted. “I suppose that’s exactly what she did; let them see me as she saw me. Wild, dangerous, exotic. A monster. A monster she could call her own.”

Walter looked up after what seemed an eternity. The ember had gone out, and on the edge of the desk Gale now sat behind was a contract. Stunned, Walter looked up at Gale.

“I ask nothing of my clients but the truth. The truth can always be defended.”

© Shyla Fairfax-Owen

 

 

 

 

Unbelonging

“You could be an Alpha, you know. It seems like a waste to walk away like this.”

Aileas smirked and rolled her eyes. A female as the primary Alpha was a rarity, but not impossible. The issue at hand then was not whether she could be one, but whether she wanted to. She was smart enough, strong enough, and even vicious enough. But her heart would never be in it. Aileas would never be an Omega, but something inside of her indisputably made her an outcast. The pack needed surer leadership than she could offer; but Keir refused to see it that way.

Aileas’ decision to leave the pack came in the aftermath of a treacherous time for them. The winter had been a harsh one and the battles for territory had been in abundance. A neighbouring pack had waged war on them and it made for countless bloody battles. Their opponents were hardly a pack anymore. Aileas herself had proudly torn the throats out of four; three times in human form. The thrill of that winter was great, but the loss was greater. By the spring, her pack had dwindled from eleven, to five. Among the fallen had been their sibling Mysie, to whom Aileas and Keir had been like second parents.

“It’s about Mysie, isn’t it?” Keir asked for what seemed like the thousandth time this week.

“It’s not about Mysie, it’s about me. Once a lone wolf, always a lone wolf, right?”

“Not right. You were separated from your pack as a baby, Ail. You can’t keep pretending that defines you. This is your family, always has been.”

Aileas sighed. He was right. This wasn’t about her lone nature. It was about her curious nature. Humans were an all consuming question to her. It was a bit romantic, she supposed, but living among them seemed like a better thrill than anything she could get in the wild.

Sure, they interacted with humans on a pretty regular basis, but it wasn’t the same. Historically, humans had been the wolf’s greatest enemy – a predator that simply can’t be defeated. In fact, Lauchlan’s own line had been chased out of Scotland by humans in the 16th century. Most wolves just steered clear of people at all costs, but avoidance wasn’t appealing to Aileas. Instead, there was a magnetic draw she could not ignore. Inside, she knew what it meant. She hadn’t been born to wolves, but to humans. Someone had turned her; ripped her away from her cozy human life. She wasn’t angry though, or even looking for answers. She just wanted to know what it would have been like; what she was really meant to be.

“I shouldn’t have told you I’m going,” she whispered.

It was true. Unofficially, the correct way to leave a pack was to wander off unnoticed. But the idea of hearing the melancholy search howls in the distance, night after night, just stung too much. She loved her pack, and she wanted them to know she was going to be okay.

“Did you tell Lauchlan, yet?” Aileas asked, afraid of the answer. She hadn’t specifically asked Keir to keep it a secret, but she had hoped that he would, even if it was wrong to conceal information from the Alpha.

“No. Not until you’re gone.”

Aileas turned to Keir, less surprised than she should have been. He was facing forward, lying on the hill with his right elbow propping him up. His thick dark curls bobbed in his eyes, their emerald tint peeking through. His jaw was clenched, tense with several emotions. Since losing Mysie, there had been an unspoken anger floating between the two of them. It was obvious to Aileas that they were trying not to blame each other, and failing.

The next morning, Aileas roused when all was still. Without the darkness to blanket her indiscretion, Aileas couldn’t help but feel exposed and dirty. Having always felt abandoned by her blood pack, abandoning her adoptive family had an eerily cyclical quality that didn’t settle quite right. Her heart pounded against her chest, sweat spewed from her glands, and a burning fever rose in her. The unexpected guilt was throwing her body into chaos and the lack of control was bringing on a change.

After the night’s hunt, Aileas had gorged herself on fifteen pounds of moose, and it was all coming back on her now. Changing was always laborious and required an amazing level of self-control. Without that, the pain was excruciating, twisting her gut until it emptied itself onto the melting snow. Heaving, wrenching, writhing; Aileas had no choice but to stop fighting and let the change take her over. When it was over, her fur was matted with blood where her skin had been torn open recklessly.

Ashamed at both her ability to leave, and her inability to do it with grace, Aileas took off into the woods. No melancholy howls followed, and she couldn’t help but wonder if she’d ever know what it was to have a family again.

Too human for wolves, too wolf for humans. Aileas knew she’d simply never belong.

© Shyla Fairfax-Owen

 

Song and Salacity

It had begun as a typical night.  There was a light howl in the wind, whispering desires through the air; a flutter to the crisp leaves that hung from the branches above, plotting their descent; a flap of wings, eager to dance to the sirens’ song.

Percie had just completed a tiresome novel by the fire.  The sun had just begun to set and she decided to ease her eyes by letting the night pour in.  She smothered the fire and breathed deeply, allowing the scent of char to wash through her.  In the kitchen, Percie prepared herself a cup of warm milk on the gas stove.  The crickets had begun their annoying symphony, but she knew her songstress’ would put an end to it soon.  Anything that bothered Percie was considered a threat in the eyes of her winged protectors.

As she sipped her milk, Percie gazed at the blackness outside of her back window.  It was not unusual for her to do this; it calmed her to affix her sights on something non-specific.  Otherwise, they grew weary, and she became utterly aware of her aching body.  But tonight, something felt different.  There was an eeriness about the night that seemed to be staring right back at her.  Believing it to mean her subconscious was warning her that she had forgotten to tend to her garden, Percie placed her cup down and reluctantly walked over to the sink.  The crickets had hushed and a low rhythmic humming was in the air now.  Her songstress’ had fed, but only a little.

Outside, she flitted about the garden, swiping her dainty fingertips against petals to check for dampness.  It did seem as though all of her plants had been watered, which all the more confused her.  Something was making her uneasy.  As her heart rate sped up, the humming grew louder.  Her songstress’ could sense her distress and were growing anxious by it.  She was happy to have their protection, but also needed to assure them that, for the moment, everything seemed alright.  If she did not, they may become undisciplined.  Temperamental as they were, she loved them.  She offered a reassuring whistle, lacing it with a familiar cadence that they returned before falling back to their quiet, watchful, humming.

Back inside, Percie let the rest of her milk flow down the drain.  She watched it spiral away, tickled by the image of disappearance, until she was jarred back to reality by a squawk so violently intrusive that she had to bring both hands to her ears.  Losing her balance, she fell over and cried out gently.

It was her songstress’; their worry and tension had suddenly turned to erratic vexation.

Percie scrabbled about until she was on all fours, simultaneously basking in the pain and trying to detach herself from it.  That was the thing about sirens, their pain was inviting. Even Percie, a keeper and beloved friend, was not immune.

The squawking continued to rise.  The pitch seemed impossible, and yet, there it was forcing its way into her.  The songstress’ had found a real threat.  Something terrible was out there.  Against her better instincts, Percie began the tedious task of crawling out to the garden.  For this, she had to rely upon her forearms and fingertips, for, her legs were incapacitated by the invasive song.  Her hair was in her eyes now, and she grunted in a high pitch, almost matching her songstress’ emphatic levels.

When she finally made it to the back door the squawking had begun to lull. Sensation tingled a return up Percie’s legs, making their throb more apparent.  Every muscle in her body screamed.  It was always like this when they fed – always.  Percie staggered through the gardens and around to the back of their tree.  She knew she would find them there, and she did.

As she came upon her protectors she squinted impotently through the dark, but their shadows were immediately apparent.  Three heads bobbed up and down excitedly.  Their song was now reduced to a croon, backed by a ruffle as their wings flapped with appeasement.

Although he made no sound, Percie could see their slender arms pulling and tugging at their victim.  A man who thought he could creep about, unnoticed – watching, lurking.  A man who thought he was a predator when in fact he was merely prey.

One feeder sensed Percie’s presence and rose from the earth, elongating her crouched legs.  Percie caught a glimpse of her bouncing breasts in the moonlight as she turned to face her.  She smiled graciously, knowing the songstress could see her well.  The other two continued to feast, though there could not have been much of the man left. The thrilling obscenity of the picture caused Percie’s heart to pound against her chest.

The standing songstress soon curled herself back to a perched position, guarding the others.  She let her wide bronze wings fold over one another so that only one eye would remain exposed.  Percie could not see this exactly, but knew the posture well enough to imagine it distinctly.  Drained from the ordeal, she let herself drop to the cold ground, and then lied flat against it.  All she felt now was an exhaustive satisfaction.

When the songstress’ had had their fill, they took flight over Percie’s amative body, offering a resuscitating breeze.  It was as welcomed as the bright moon.  Their eyes twinkled until they disappeared again into the treetops, while Percie slept deeply, and fully.

© Shyla Fairfax-Owen

Welcome to HellHaven

“Welcome to HellHaven. Where innocence comes to die, and gratuitous desire comes to thrive.”

Catchy, Gina thought to herself as she watched the hostess give her rehearsed speech about the unique sexiness of an R-rated New Gothic Horror Theme Park. She still couldn’t believe she had signed up for this  gig – but she was about two steps away from desperation, and two steps past virtue. Sure, she hadn’t shelled out $20,000 dollars of art school tuition to take photos of tattooed thrill-seekers and Goth Lolitas – but maybe it would grow on her, with the right attitude. Gina sighed at the thought, and tried to tune back in to the hostess’ closing arguments. Although, it was difficult to concentrate on anything other than the getup she donned. Red fishnets, pink leather mini, breasts popping out like they were planning an escape. A little farther north her purple do sat atop her head like a beehive, and the black eye shadow and fake lashes pulled it all together. Gina wondered what she’d have to sink into to fit in.

“Ahem”

Shit. Gina had tuned out again, and it hadn’t gone unnoticed. While the other new hires had scampered off she had lingered, staring at the hostess who was now staring back.

“Gina, is it?”

“Yes, ma’am.” The “ma’am” was unintentionally tacked on to the end of her sentence like an afterthought which drained it of its respectful nature.

“Well, Gina. I see your hesitance. Resistance even. Now, if I cared I might ask you what’s on your mind and help you pro and con the scenario. But I don’t. Get to wardrobe.”

She pointed down the hall in the direction the others had left in. Ashamed, Gina nodded and launched forward, but a firm yet feminine hand on her shoulder stopped her. “And Gina?”

“Yes?”

“Smile, or growl. But don’t look indifferent. It’ll get you canned.”

By Gina’s fourth day, she had gotten just comfortable enough to not see it coming. She had succumbed to a pink pig-tailed wig and purple eye-shadow. She’d even tied up her blouse and undid the top button. But she had kept her jeans and runners – that somehow made her feel better. A quiet revolt.

It happened in the Tunnel of Horrors. She was perched between a few fake rocks that lined the blood river that “lovers” would row through in their canoes, passing bobbing heads and other appendages likely manufactured in China. Gina had propped one leg up which looked silly but gave her one hell of a shot. The objective was to get the screams of delight when the wrapped up plastic body (with a brick chained to it) unexpectedly fell into the water. The last three couples had cheered, but Gina was aching for a scream to capture. She would have stayed there all night if she had to. But, of course, she didn’t. The scream came – just not from any of the patrons.

Where the hell are they? Gina wondered impatiently as she checked her watch. The ride wasn’t on a schedule, but as one of the most popular, it usually ran twice an hour. Her body was beginning to cramp and she knew it was time to radio in a ride out, but she didn’t. That was her second mistake, the first being accepting the job at HellHaven.

When the boat finally came, Gina was so eager that she poked her head out farther than usual to catch a glimpse of who she’d be snapping. The person was alone in the boat, which was against policy. Immediately Gina grew alert. At that point, the figure was still only a shadow, but she was quite certain it was hooded. She thought to radio in for an explanation but knew it was too late. Her voice would echo and ruin the magic for this patron if it was indeed nothing to worry about.

But it was something to worry about. As his boat approached, Gina sunk back, gripping her camera, finger on the trigger. But when the body splashed down at them, the figure launched at her. He (as it turned out to be), knew exactly where she was, and had timed his own attack.

In an instance he was on top of her. Her camera dropped, crushed against the fake rocks, and finally lodged between two. Red dyed water lapped over its cracked lens as Gina fought for her life – grunting, growling, biting. The tunnel captured the sounds of her struggle, of the attacker’s laughter, and of his eerily shallow whispers: “Lets make this a real blood river, shall we?”

“Welcome to HellHaven. Where innocence comes to die, and gratuitous desire comes to thrive. Thrill seekers from far and wide travel here to lose themselves in just a few hours of monstrous glory, and it’s up to every single one of you to ensure they get every mile and penny’s worth of it. Why? You might ask. Why would people pay to experience a horror? The thing about horror is that it asks us to confront social boundaries, and to push them. Some people like to be pushed, so they come here. Others, struggle with their desire to be pushed, so they work here.”

The hostess smiled, and waited for her final statement to settle upon the crowd of new hires. A hand rose.

“Didn’t some photographer chick die working here last summer? That’s why I’m here.”

The hostess slumped, annoyance flashing behind cold eyes. “Are you a journalist? An investigator of some sort?”

The girl smirked. “No. Just a freak.”

© Shyla Fairfax-Owen

 

 

 

Cry Wolf (Patricia Briggs): Book Review

Supernatural; Romance ♠

Author: Patricia Briggs

This book was published in July 2008, the first of the Alpha & Omega series. It holds a 4.11 rating on Goodreads. The series is now a graphic novel series, as well.

Anna never knew werewolves existed, until the night she survived a violent attack… and became one herself. After three years at the bottom of the pack, she’d learned to keep her head down and never, ever trust dominant males. Then Charles Cornick, the enforcer—and son—of the leader of the North American werewolves, came into her life.

A werewolf tale with very little bite, and a pathetic protagonist for whom you may root out of pity, or grow terribly bored with. The latter was my experience.

To preface, I am very fascinated with wolves and pack structure, and my favourite werewolf narrative to date has been the film Ginger Snaps. I also enjoy the Bitten TV series, although I had never read any werewolf fiction before Cry Wolf (unless you count the shorts in Angel Carter’s The Bloody Chamber and Stephanie Meyers’ depiction of the werewolves in Scarlet). I chose Briggs because I had read that she was known for her action-packed stories and strong female lead, Mercy Thompson. Cry Wolf takes place in that same universe but is, as far as I can tell, altogether different. It has an original (if sometimes laughable) take on pack structure, and a sterile take on romance within it.

Anna, the Victim-Hero

The heroine of this book, if you can call her that, is Anna. As the protagonist, the reader should be able to rightfully predict a certain level of character growth and heroism, but I got none of that out of this book. It’s important to note that Anna is a victim, and has been for years. Treated as a submissive wolf within her former pack, one can only imagine the tortures she would have endured. That she survived should be telling of her strength, but the trauma overpowers her.

I appreciate that Briggs took the realistic route here and let Anna be a wreck, but it was very difficult for me to spend 300 pages in the headspace of a victim. Specifically, a victim of male dominance. Surprisingly, the difficulty did not spring from any sort of too real depictions of the abuse, and maybe that was the problem. The details of Anna’s story are grazed over so it’s difficult to really feel them with her. Instead, I just found myself rolling my eyes every time she’d cower or crumble because I wanted her to stop being so pathetic. I couldn’t sympathize because, it seems, the author didn’t really want me to.

She has been saved from her pack by Charles, a werewolf enforcer whose standing basically makes him a prince. A real fairytale, right down to the lack of true connection. In fairytales, the prince sweeps the princess off her feet, away from the evil stepmother, the end. In the same way, Anna and Charles’ connection seems as though it was instant, based on nothing, and surviving on nothing. No spark; just a desire to be mated. And yes, the word “mate” is on every other page along with some form of “you’re mine.” Turns out, Charles chooses Anna as a mate because she is an Omega. In wolf packs, the omegas are the bottom of the food chain acting mainly as servants to the others, bullied to no end. Sometimes, they tire of the abuse and wander off to find new packs where they might challenge an alpha and gain better standing. Not in Briggs’ world. Omegas have special powers to soothe and comfort, are less violent, and more valuable. So Charles didn’t really fall in love with Anna, just her omega scent? Beautiful.

By the end, she finds her true strength. It’s not violence or kicking ass. She’s a soother. And when it comes down to it, and witches need to be fought, she might step up. I wasn’t very impressed with whatever (I won’t say what) is supposed to pass for her growth from victim to hero.

Narrative and Plot Development

I also wasn’t impressed with the story or plot development which is slow in most places and convoluted in others. Briggs’ writing is always grammatically correct, but this can sometimes lead to a boring read. There aren’t any prose that scream creativity or passion or even atmosphere and tone. They’re just words, followed by more words – usually “mate”, “mating”, or “mine”.

The story grabbed me in the first few pages which are told from the perspective of a mysterious man in the cold Montana wilderness, who risks his life to save a young man from being attacked by a beast, becoming one himself. Personally, I liked this idea and wanted to know a lot more about the rogue. A true horror narrative was somewhere in there but it didn’t develop. Instead, most of the pages are dedicated to Charles and Anna’s relationship and how she is trying to overcome her fears. I expected more action than I got – and why were there witches? I’m still not sure if it worked for me.

However, I did like how Briggs swapped character point-of-views often enough that the reader can learn about others. It was done well enough.

Final Thoughts

With a 4.11 rating, I know a lot of people loved this book and will disagree with my criticisms. That’s fine. To each their own. Paranormal romance has never been my thing, and Cry Wolf was simply not the type of werewolf story I was looking for when I picked it up.

I give it 1 spade: ♠* for creativity.

*My rating is based on a five-spade system. The rating is decided based upon how well/uniquely the book: 1) develops story and plot; 2) develops characters; 3) accomplishes or deconstructs the conceits of its genre; 4) raises thought-provoking issues; 5) discusses important issues. This system has been developed according to my own understanding of what makes a book "good." It is therefore subjective.

 

Count to Ten

One day I’ll leave this cage, and leave nothing but

Two eyes lurking in the shadows, waiting for the clock to strike

Three, so that I might reenact this struggle of

Four lonely years locked in only my fear that

Five me’s would not be enough for you.

 

Six moons come and go before you commit sin

Seven, with little regard for the

Eight cries I’m holding in as I count crows of

Nine, that gather as the clock strikes

Ten.

 

Hush, hush, quickly, before it begins again.

 

One more hallucination that the world is made up of just us

Two; you shove it down my throat with

Three wicked fingers that make me wince

Four times before I draw the line at Five.

 

Six senses take me over, if only in my imagination that houses

Seven realities in which you take

Eight wounds delivered with

Nine easy strikes that come from my very own

Ten fingers.

 

Hush, hush, quickly, it’s time to breathe again.

 

One happy ending I’m determined to find for the

Two of me’s that you’ve created in the hell of just us

Three, where Four thousand screams have never been heard and

Five thousand tears have never dropped.

 

Six emotions; constantly churning what feels as though must be

Seven stomachs, all in disgust that I’ve let the clock strike

Eight again, while plotting

Nine ways to never see your

Ten temperaments again.

 

Hush, hush, quickly, the moon is sneaking up again.

 

But they say all I have to do is count to Ten.

Shyla Fairfax-Owen ©

Misery (Stephen King): Book Review

Horror ♠♠♠♠

Author: Stephen King

This book was published in 1988. It holds a rating of 4.06 on Goodreads.

Paul Sheldon. He’s a bestselling novelist who has finally met his biggest fan. Her name is Annie Wilkes and she is more than a rabid reader – she is Paul’s nurse, tending his shattered body after an automobile accident. But she is also his captor, keeping him prisoner in her isolated house.

This is a straight-forward horror piece that sets out to do one thing: thrill. In that, it’s very successful. This was the first King book I read cover to cover, and on that note I should probably preface this by pointing out that while I admit King is an amazing storyteller, I’m of the seemingly popular opinion that his actual writing is not very impressive in terms of style. Actually, I tend to find it a bit bland, and I normally give up on his books quite quickly.  I know that’s a contradiction and that it’s not entirely fair.

King is meant to be read for thrills, not for prose. He writes in a very clear and concise manner – and as a tech writer, I appreciate that to some extent; but, what can I say, I’m a sucker for prose. And yet, Misery sucked me in, and left me satisfied.

A genre piece through and through, the story at once seemed unrealistic and entirely realistic. Hmm… I guess I’m full of contradictions when it comes to King.

While the story did not outwardly discuss any social issues, I still think it raised a few things worth discussing.

The Creative Industry

Paul Sheldon has made a name for himself as the bestselling author of the Misery book series. The books are period pieces that follow the romances and dramas of the (presumably) young and beautiful, Misery. The character has had many adventures but Paul has decided to call it quit on the series. He’s tired of panning to the masses and their love of Misery, and wants to try something a little more creatively ambitious. He wants to write something serious and meaningful.

This aspect of the book is very interesting because even as a successful well-known author, he doesn’t feel like a real artist. It begs the question of how we as a society define art, and has us question whether art and pop culture can co-exist, and what makes them different. It also makes us think about the pop culture machine – note that Sheldon’s agent is not impressed with his new career path. What if his new approach simply doesn’t sell? It’s all about the masses.

Gender Role Reversal

It seems worth noting that when Paul falls victim to Annie Wilkes (an obsessed fan who holds Paul hostage until he “brings Misery back to life”), there is an inherent gender role reversal taking place. Historically, females have been thought of as the more vulnerable sex, making them easy targets for men, who have been thought of as the more violent and dangerous sex. Historically, this scenario has also played out in reality many times, and continues to, across all societies. Subsequently, archetypes like the damsel in distress or the attacked woman have populated our books and screens. But not this time.

Annie is large, strong, and independent. She has the ability to physically overpower Paul, even if he wasn’t recovering from a terrible car accident. When men are victimized to the extreme level Paul is in this book, it adds a level of discomfort. The role reversal is itself scary because it says no one is safe, not even a big, tough, man. At the same time, the idea of a woman being so powerful is also jarring. Even if only subconsciously, this type of reversal is its own brand of horror. That this book is so obviously playing with that is really entertaining.

But for all its clever reversal, there is one generic element that remains intact: like in all good horror narratives, the (male) authority figures turn out to be utterly useless. These are the moments the readers/horror fans gets to roll their eyes and smirk.

Violence

The violence in this book is a slow build; and it works. Annie is clearly a little strange when she is first introduced, and slowly but surely her craziness begins to seep through. She’s unstable. She’s unpredictable. And then, after a long while of seeing it coming, she’s violent.

That first act of violence against Paul is intense. The reader has by this point suspected for some time that Annie is not to be trusted, and it seems that she is capable of doing him harm. But when she finally does, all of the anticipation is satisfied, explosively. The story’s pace increases from that point on, and the reader remains just as on edge as poor, helpless, Paul.

Final Thoughts

It’s fair to say that the suspense and thrill was delivered very effectively in this novel. It was a lot of fun to read, and it leaves a chill not to be soon forgotten.

As for the characters, it was exciting to watch Annie’s ups and downs and Paul’s plight was captivating. The book offered lots of suspense and thrills, and I loved that it mixed up the typical gender roles. Lastly, there were some noteworthy points raised about the creative industry, even if they weren’t explored in-depth.

I give this book a solid 4 spades* ♠♠♠♠

*My rating is based on a five-spade system. The rating is decided based upon how well/uniquely the book: 1) develops story and plot; 2) develops characters; 3) accomplishes or deconstructs the conceits of its genre; 4) raises thought-provoking issues; 5) discusses important issues. This system has been developed according to my own definition of what makes a book "good." It is therefore subjective.