Hains reveals Cole’s journey by pivoting between the present and 1962, the year Cole entered Saint Edward’s. The present-day sections allow readers moments of reflection and a chance to catch their breath, but the heart of the story is in the flashbacks, when Cole must navigate the supernatural as well as the real horrors of asylum life. Hains doesn’t hold back as he depicts the horrendous abuses the children endure at the hands of the staff members nominally employed to keep them safe, and mature themes such as sexual assault and suicide are woven into the characters’ stories, making this an intense reading experience. The villain is particularly gnarly, and readers with sensitive stomachs should steel themselves.
Those wrenching components aside, Cole’s engaging inner journey has the effect of softening the gruesome elements, making him a character readers will champion. The tension is potent from the dynamic opening sentence—“The blood seeping down the back of his throat had slowed considerably, so that crappy taste in his mouth wasn’t as bad anymore”—to a thrilling conclusion that will engross horror readers. Those looking for a chilling tale with a ghastly villain will find themselves locked into this gripping terror.
Takeaway: Horror enthusiasts with no aversion to gore will find themselves riveted by the high drama and dynamic characters in this decades-crossing nail-biter.
Great for fans of: Madeleine Roux, Amy Lukavics’s Nightingale.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A