Posts Tagged ‘witches’



Publisher: Hampton Creek Press

Length: 388 Pages

Release Date: November 14, 2014

Review copy provided by the author in exchange for an honest review

J.D. Barker’s Forsaken is the first book in a planned series centering around the town of Shadow Cove. This is Barker’s debut novel and I was unfamiliar with his work, so I didn’t know what to expect. After reading Forsaken, however, it is clear Barker is a name to watch in horror and it is easy to see why Forsaken was a finalist for a Stoker Award for “Superior Achievement in a First Novel” this year.

The novel focuses on horror writer Thad McAlister, a literary sensation who just completed what may be his most important work of his career, Rise of the Witch. The novel is told in the form of journal entries of a man named Clayton Stone, a scribe in the 17th century town of Shadow Cove. He is tasked by the court to detail the trial of a woman in town accused of conducting witchcraft and harming the residents of the town. The town is frightened of the woman despite being small and frail because of her alleged powers and the swirling rumors that her followers are still out there.

Thad has dreams of being thought of not only as a best-seller, but as one of the greats in the horror genre. While he views his latest book as his masterpiece, the contents and writing process have him on edge. He was often haunted by the lead character during the writing process, hearing her when he was alone and suffering fitful nights of sleeplessness all while being driven to finish the story. He thinks it will help put his fears behind him, but is there another reason compelling him to finish? The story behind Rise of the Witch came to him easier than his other novels, flowing from him with no edits or rewrites.

The source of Thad’s inspiration comes from an antique journal that is hundreds of years old. He is constantly spending hours writing his notes in it and is protective of it and rarely lets it out of his sight. It is in the entries of the former owner where Thad finally found the inspiration he needed to craft bestselling novels after years of struggling and middling sales. His wife, Rachael, suspects the truth of the journal, but keeps it from her husband because she unknowingly made a dangerous deal behind his back to get it.

While Thad is on a business trip to New York to wrap up things for his novel, he meets a mysterious young woman who makes a request that rattles Thad to his core as she asks for something that only exists within the fictional world Thad has created. Thad refuses to believe the truth and tells the woman he won’t help her, but she manages to persuade him when she threatens his family and hints that the journal may be more than he thinks. Thad quickly questions if he is losing his grip on reality or if there are there far more sinister forces at work.

Forsaken is one hell of a read that strikes the perfect balance between full-blown horror and a tense atmosphere that sucks the reader in. Structurally, I loved the inclusion of excerpts from Thad McAlister’s novel. Normally, too many divergences would bother me and hinder my reading of a story, but Barker manages to weave them in as an organic and integral part of the story. He manages to capture a creepy, gothic tone that is a bit separate from the book. While these two sections have their own distinct personalities, they work surprisingly well together. Baker adds a pretty cool homage to Stephen King that will delight fans of King’s work. It was incorporated in an organic way and serves a fairly important purpose in the back story that unfolds throughout the novel.

I loved that the novel not only plays up the supernatural elements (seriously, the “minions” described in this book sent chills down my spine!), but also focuses on the psychological impacts the events have on Thad and his family. The line is blurred between fact and fiction and creates a fast-paced narrative that was seriously a blast to read. I am eagerly awaiting the second installment in this series and I have no doubt that Barker is just getting started with the scares he has in store for those who choose to visit Shadow Cove.

Rating: 5/5


J.D. Barker’s Official Website

Purchase Forsaken: Book One of the Shadow Cove Saga on Amazon