Hunter Shea “Forest of Shadows” Review

Posted: February 3, 2015 in Reviews, Uncategorized
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Length: 272 Pages

Publisher: Samhain Horror

Review copy provided in exchange for an honest review

I am a huge fan of Hunter Shea’s work and it always amazes me how he is able to tackle a variety of horror topics in an interesting, creative way. Shea has covered monster tales, hauntings and everything in between and all of his works have become favorites of mine. So when I was offered a chance to join the blog tour for his latest novel, Island of the Forbidden, I jumped at the chance. The novel is the third book in a series following the journey of paranormal investigator Jessica Backman and although each book can be read as a stand alone work, I felt I had to start at the beginning. I am one of those people who can’t just hop into the middle of the action of a book or TV series, I need to experience the entire thing from the beginning. It is a quirk of mine, but what can I say I am a sucker for back story and losing myself in the mythology of a series! So, leading up to my review of Island of the Forbidden, I will be reviewing the books in order. First up on the review docket is Forest of Shadows, the book that lays the foundation for the series.

Forest of Shadows starts off with a bang, focusing on the Bolster family as they are being attacked by an unearthly force in the middle of the night and seemingly swallowed up by the wilderness surrounding their cabin.

Then we are taken to suburban New York, where John Backman lives with his wife Anne and small daughter Jessica. John and Anne struggle to maintain their relationship with the demands of being new parents, but it is clear that they love each other. They have a huge argument one night when their night of passion is interrupted and John sleeps in the living room, realizing he messed up, but figuring he can make things right in the morning. However, when he wakes up the next morning, his life is altered forever by the tragedy of losing his wife and winning the lottery.

Shea skips five years into the future, which finds John in a rough state. He has developed a crippling anxiety that stems from his wife’s death and has thrown himself full-time into his website dedicated to the paranormal, He started off using the site to host videos, stories and pictures of the unexplained before moving into field investigations. Most of these investigations were into minor phenomena that he documented to help let those who suffered similar experiences know they were not alone. It isn’t until he gets an email from a man named Judas Graves that he feels he has stumbled across something huge. Judas was cleaning a mysterious yet beautiful cabin in a small Alaskan town called Shida when he encountered something ripped straight from his nightmares. John transports his daughter, sister-in-law Eve and her son Liam to Shida in order to get to the bottom of what sort of darkness has taken up residence in the cabin and finds something that even he is not prepared to face.

Shea does an excellent job of developing his characters in Forest of Shadows. From the loving family dynamic between John, Eve and their children to the debauchery displayed by Muraco Fenton and his gang, Shea breathes life into characters and their relationships.  Also, if I am being honest, part of what made me love this novel was I couldn’t help but feel a connection to John Backman. John is fascinated by the unexplained and devours books on everything from UFOs to the Loch Ness Monster and I can definitely identify with that. One of my favorite things to do when I have a bit of down time is to read up on unexplained phenomena and it isn’t out of the ordinary for me to spend hours scouring the internet reading everything I can find and quickly losing track of time. From what I have read on Hunter’s blog and through following his excellent Monster Men podcast with Jack Campisi, it is evident Shea is a huge fan of the paranormal as well. That love of all things unexplained and horror bleeds through on every page of Forest of Shadows and is part of what makes the novel such a great read.

Shea also does a fantastic job of transporting readers to the remote wilderness of Alaska and brings the town of Shida to life. You know those scenes in horror movies when the characters show up to a small town and you get that unshakable feeling something is somehow off? Residents staring silently while the characters enter a diner or store and then that one creepy resident that says something that immediately sends shivers down your spine? That is the very same sense of unease that Hunter develops here and it sets an eerie tone for the story.

Forest of Shadows starts off as a bit of a quiet horror story with Hunter giving quick glimpses of the entities haunting Shida starting with weird noises and glimpses of shadows that slowly builds an ominous presence throughout the novel. By the time we get to the novel’s conclusion, Hunter dials up the horror to terrifying heights for a thrilling horror read that I found myself reading late into the night. There are occasional lulls in the story, but Forest of Shadows is a must add to the library of anyone who loves a great ghost story.

Rating: 4.5/5


Hunter Shea’s Official Website

Samhain Horror’s Official Website

Purchase Forest of Shadows on Amazon


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