Home > Genre, thriller > Book Review: Horns by Joe Hill

Book Review: Horns by Joe Hill

Pitchfork against red background.Summary:
Ig Perrish and Merrin Williams were the perfect couple.  Their love was the love that everyone wants but very few people get.  But one horrible night Merrin is raped and murdered, and Ig is the prime suspect. They’d just had a lover’s quarrel.  Ig was never found guilty, but he was never cleared either.  Now a year later Ig wakes up to discover horns coming out of the top of his head.  Horns that make everyone who sees them tell him their deepest and darkest desires and secrets.

For those who don’t know, Joe Hill is Stephen King’s son (writing under a pen name, but everyone knows who he is at this point, so I’m not sure what’s up with the pen name still).  It is clear Hill wants his work to be considered on its own merit with no connections to his father, but as a King fan, I couldn’t help but compare a wee bit as I read.  I will say this, Hill’s writing is strong.  This is not the case of a celebrity’s kid with mediocre talent making it.  Hill is definitely talented, and I am interested to see how his writing continues to grow and change.  That said; this book didn’t quite work for me.

Hill’s writing on the sentence level is gorgeous.  He evokes true New Hampshire small town life in exquisite detail and sensuousness.  Every page was a pleasure to read.  The story overall, though, started out strong and ended weak.  It went from a suspense with delicious twists and turns and a supernatural element to a mushy love story and love lasting and staying together after death yadda yadda.  I can take mushiness periodically, but it felt jarring within the context of this book.  This was originally a book about revenge and righting a wrong.  Then the ending came along and felt like….well, like something Nicholas Sparks would write if he was high on crack.

The characterization of Ig, Terry (his brother), and Lee (his best friend) is strong.  These men are three-dimensional and flawed.  They are real.  Merrin is another story.  She seems like an enigma that is impossible to understand.  Is she sweet and innocent or a bit cruel?  It feels impossible to get a read on her.  I’m sure that was part of the point.  Every man in the story had their own vision of who Merrin is, but Merrin is never granted her own agency and personality by these same men.  Although it seems that this was the point, as a woman, I felt a bit let-down by the lack of insight into Merrin. I kept hoping for something, but nothing came along.  Interestingly, I found the minor female character of Glenna to be much more well-rounded and real than Merrin.  Again, maybe that was the point, but it didn’t really work for me.

It’s hard to categorize this book.  It’s definitely not the horror book I was imagining. I’d call it literary paranormal suspense.  It’s a classic tragedy wrapped in mystery and the paranormal.  It didn’t work for me, because, well, classic love tragedies tend not to.  However, I could see some people loving it.  Perhaps people who loved The Notebook and paranormal romance equally well.

3 out of 5 stars

Source: PaperBackSwap

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  1. October 17, 2011 at 10:31 am

    I loved the beginning and then half way got lost and thought the ending was ok. I came over from the RIP reviews.

    I just reviewed Heartshaped Box, not my cup of tea at all.


    • October 17, 2011 at 3:24 pm

      RIP is such a fun event! I was thinking of trying Heartshaped Box, but after seeing what it’s about, I’m feeling very meh about it.

  2. October 20, 2011 at 11:24 am

    I think everyone knew who he was the moment his first book was published. It is hard to keep secrets…

  3. October 24, 2011 at 2:28 am

    Shame this book didn’t live up to expectations for you. Both my dad and me have been looking forward to hearing about some King’s son Joe. This still sounds like something I would give a go though.

    • October 24, 2011 at 2:10 pm

      I think, perhaps, you might enjoy it more than I did? Since I tend to love the sad parts of King’s work and you’re a bit more of the romantic type. I think Hill might be even more suited to you than King.

      • October 25, 2011 at 2:25 am

        Jolly good I will definitely be popping him on to my tbr list then 🙂

  1. November 1, 2011 at 10:20 am

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