Sunday, March 16, 2014

Book Review: "The Witching House" by Brian Moreland

My favorite types of books have always been the ones that make you not want to stop reading until the end. You're sitting there reading, you haven't moved in about four hours, and you probably really have to use the bathroom (even then, you just take the book with you, anyway) but you cannot bear to think of doing anything else until you've gotten to the final word on the final page. I've found an author that can deliver that kind of experience for me, because I've now read three books by him and all of them were read in no more than two sittings. This time author Brian Moreland has delivered the goods with a much shorter - but still highly enjoyable - piece called "The Witching House."

Forty years ago, the Blevins house was the scene of something most horrific - twenty-seven people, all members of a coven of witches, were brutally slaughtered inside the house. Now two young couples are doing a little "urban exploring" at the famous haunted house, not knowing that whoever - or whatever - committed those horrible acts decades ago is still there, and still hasn't lost its taste for human blood.

Sometimes it seems like creating a good horror story is getting harder and harder these days. The genre is perhaps more popular than it has ever been and everybody is getting in on it. Based on the two previous books of Moreland's that I'd read, "Dead of Winter" and "Shadows in the Mist," I knew I could expect something bloody and interesting with this book, but I wasn't expecting yet another new twist on familiar horror tropes done in wonderfully different ways. "The Witching House" leads you to believe at first that it will be your basic haunted house tale, then maybe it will throw in some extra freaky stuff when witches are mentioned. But the reveal of just what is going on inside the Old Blevins House is something so crazily brilliant that Moreland deserves more than just a pat on the back for what he's accomplished.

I mean, the first line of the book talks about "the house that ate people." That gets your interest, right? Especially for gorehounds like me, who loved reading in "The Witching House" about people getting torn apart, and walls and floors covered in a black ooze with a life of its own. Moreland's description of the setting and the action is detailed enough so that the images easily come to mind and I felt like I knew exactly what his monstrous cellar creature looked like in his mind, too. Again, he has written something that reads like a script to a great horror movie - and I hope that doesn't come off as offensive or anything. I just loved how vivid and quick-paced the whole story was, and I love the experience of being able to completely envision what I'm reading without any distractions.

The main character is Sarah Donovan, who is trying out the urban exploring thing with her new adventurous boyfriend Dean, and his friends Casey and Meg. The latter couple is not given enough time to really develop their characters but the reader is definitely given the sense that they are likable and fun. Sarah and Dean are given both wonderful personality traits and flaws which only make you like them all the more. I really have no complaints in this area - the characters are real and you believe them in this situation, and the dialogue is natural and real-sounding, as well.

The story works very well on its own as a novella, but I couldn't help but be immensely curious about some of the stories we weren't getting to the full extent in "The Witching House." I don't know if it would have even added anything to the story really but I think it would have been so interesting to get more backstory. I would have loved to read more about what it was like in the Blevins house while the coven was still living there and the kinds of things they did, and also what it was like for Sarah with her grandmother's experience with Wicca and just how that might have given her the strength to survive her current situation. Moreland sprinkles in little hints, though, that let you come up with your own backstories and explanations.

It's an honor to be able to support an author like Moreland. There are some truly great voices out there creating some of the best and most fun horror literature that I've ever read and he is definitely one of them. I've still got his most recent book to read - "The Devil's Woods" - and now it looks like he's got something new coming out in June called "The Vagrants." Until then, I suggest to everyone that you get caught up on what this great author has to offer. "The Witching House" is an amazing piece, and only shows a small portion of this author's great talent. Discover him today!


  1. Awesome! I'm going to have to check it out!

  2. Just got this one on my Kindle and looking forward to curling up and diving into it later on tonight. :)