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Nature knows evil; she has known it longer than man’s short memory

The cover of Harrow by Lucas Lex Dejong depicting a horned skull with a ritualistic pattern on the front. For the book review by The Fictional Escapist. Stokeshaw Harrow holds a secret, one held close to the hearts of the seven matriarchs and their troubling connection to Greylock Forest.

It all starts when two of the towns’ children go missing, later found maimed in the heart of the forest. Theories surrounding the bodies pile up, but none quite as convenient as the wolves that inhabit the area. Chief Officer Duncan can’t help but think something more is taking place. This wasn’t an animal killing, it was too neat, too planned, but nobody wants a bar of his theories.

Sean and Bobby’s memories live on as their families grieve and Duncan refuses to let it go. He begs forestry authorities to close the towns main source of income until they can find what’s causing the trouble. Doors shut in his face at every turn, but the signs of something sinister stirring are getting harder and harder to ignore. Something isn’t right, with the deaths, with the town and certainly not with the new matriarch.

Friends of the deceased boys take matters into their own hands, and the chief continues to battle the authorities. But their determination could get them all killed. Could sacrifice mean survival?

It has been a long time since an 800-page horror sucked me in, and boy oh boy did Harrow have me on the edge of my seat. One of my favourite things that the author has done, is incorporate several small-town folk horror tropes then coupled that with a slow burn slice of life that got me into the heads of each and every character.

A well-versed folk horror reader is going to enjoy the creepy forest and the hermit that resides there, seemingly controlling the wildlife. The powerful leaders of the small town watching over every decision that is made within its confines and the use of rituals as a catalyst for major events. It feels somewhat comforting and familiar (odd thing to say about a book with so much blood) while at the same time offering a very real look into the lives of the towns inhabitants.

The way in which Dejong unfolds the characters, allowing them to have their separate lives (loosely connected by a couple of key players), made me so invested in what was happening throughout the story. For example, very early on Chief Duncan gently approaches the eleven-year-old sister of one of the deceased boys. He is so pained by what he sees in this little girl who is trying desperately to make sense of what has happened but also needs to make sure he isn’t leading her into false hope. We then get to experience this chief interact with other towns folk who don’t want anything more to do with the deaths once a convenient explanation has been provided. Through his sheer determination we also see his uncomfortable interactions with older members of the town who view anyone not born in the Harrow as an outsider and being more than happy to shift the blame their way. Throughout these separate interactions the reader gets to experience what everyday life is like for this character while still pushing the story forward.

Take that concept and apply it to every character we come across. This had me so emotionally invested in the people of this town, that I could feel someone’s disintegration into madness, or someone’s childlike panic and even the sheer determination of the matriarchs to see their sordid plans through.

I thought this book was fantastic, but not for the faint of heart. The last 15% of this will keep you up at night, for more than one reason!

Dejong had me falling in love with chunky slice of life horror all over again, and I can’t wait to read more of his work. For fans of Stephen King’s IT. I urge you to give this one a go!

The Fictional Escapist

Kris has been an avid reader for most of his life, forever escaping into various worlds, far beyond his imagination. Now at the ripe old age of 32, he spends his days in a sea of authors, review copies and unedited manuscripts; and he is having a blast!

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