*I received a free ARC of this book. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Something strange is happening in the city of Everett, Washington and Father Niccolo Paladina is tasked with investigating possible demonic activity. Nothing is as it seems, however, and things quickly begin spiraling out of his control.
When his path crosses with that of an old rival, they discover that things are worse in Everett than either of them could ever have imagined. As his world collapses around him, Niccolo will be left with one terrible question: what is my faith worth?
I’ll start with what I really enjoyed about this book. The plot, both the self-contained and the wider story arc, is interesting and tense, with high stakes and no neat resolutions in sight. The reader is left wanting to know how the main protagonists (there are two, Father Paladina and Arthur the Hunter) can possibly resolve matters.
The two ‘heroes’ make a fantastic evil fighting team with their unique mixture of skills and abilities. There were some obvious comparisons to The Exorcist, especially during the exorcism itself, with the younger and older priest facing down an evil that they are not necessarily equipped to handle.
There is inevitably a strong religious element balanced against the horror here, as the antagonists are old-fashioned demons, so the logical counterbalance is that in the universe of the novel, the Catholic God is actually the primary protagonist and working through his priests to defeat the threat. This does not mean however that the ending is clearly prescribed, as the ‘tools’ are human and therefore fallible and open to error or temptation.
In terms of the horror elements, there are some traditional scares and/or gross-out moments using darkness, claustrophobia, rotting corpses, bugs etc. These work really well, but didn’t scare me as much as the more unexpected and cerebral horrors, such as a friendly waitress suddenly knowing things she shouldn’t. I did have to keep a light on for this read!
My only criticism of this book is that I felt the tone and pacing were slightly off-balance. The prose felt stilted and jerky in places, which prevented me from reaching full immersion in the story and therefore truly ‘experiencing’ the horror for myself.
Likewise, starting the story from a crisis point then flashing back to the build-up was a great hook, as was giving us the story from the point of view of both protagonists. Unfortunately the actual presentation of this effect involved a lot of repetition as we saw the same crisis point reached and played out from the different angles but without anything really new or different being added to make it necessary. I think the pace of the book would have flowed more smoothly if we had seen the backstories we needed for character development, but cut out the details of the critical scene on the second two passes, as we already had everything we needed from it from the beginning.
Other than that, this was a fun horror read and I can see a lot of potential for both plot and character development in the pending sequels.
Niccolo watched in horror when Tim stepped closer to him, pressing the cross against his forehead. The metal burned Tim’s skin where it touched, and he burst into a wild and maniacal laugh.
Father Paladina released his grip on the rosary and jerked back in disgust. The man let it fall to the floor, a sizzling chunk of metal, and there it lay.
“How does it feel?” The man took another step closer to Father Paladina. Still grinning that sick and toothy grin. “How does it feel to know that you are truly alone?”
– Lincoln Cole, The Everett Exorcism
The Everett Exorcism will be released on 24th October 2017.