Monday, 18 May 2015

REVIEW: J.D. Barker - Forsaken

Genre: Horror / Witchcraft
Publisher: Hampton Creek Press
Publication Date: 14th Nov 2014    
Pages: 388


Forsaken by J.D. Barker has been on my Goodreads “wish list” for a long long time. Other things just kept getting in the way of me acquiring it and reading it. When a friend of mine and fellow blogger/reviewer, Maxine Groves, messaged me to let me know she was helping with the promo for the book and would I be interested in a review copy, I decided enough with the waiting and let’s get it in the “near future” to be read pile. Why the hell did I wait so long! Thanks Maxine (she knows her books people) you have just reminded me why I need to follow my gut when it comes to a book.

Thad McAlister is an author. He struggled to begin with but now he is at the top of the New York Times bestsellers list. He has just finished his latest book. It wasn’t very hard to write. In fact it sometimes felt as though he didn’t write it at all. It is based around the witch trials in Salem in 1692. Is it fiction? Is it fact? Is it something completely different?

As he leaves for New York to meet his agent to pass over the manuscript, His wife Rachael and daughter Ashley stay at home waiting on the birth of their second child. Unbeknown to Rachael, her husband is in grave danger when he arrives in New York, being hunted by an ancient evil. Unbeknown to Thad, his wife and daughter are in grave danger in their own home, threatened by the same ancient evil.

She has been banished since 1692. She wants to come back. She intends to use Thad and his family for just that purpose. Suddenly Thad’s work of fiction becomes reality.

Even though my reviewing juices are flowing for this one and I want to gush and gush about it, I’m also tempted just to say – buy it! The end.

This is what horror stories are all about. A good old fashioned story about witches and evil and monsters and death and creepiness and good versus evil.

This book has it all in abundance.

The story begins with Rachael having very real nightmares and being visited by “Her” demanding her unborn child. It sounds like dreams but it’s too “real” to be in her head. Thad is ignorant to all of this. All he can think about is his book and its potential and the upcoming discussions with Hollywood producers about film rights. You know something is up when a stranger pays a visit to their house in the middle of the night burying something in their garden. From this point on the story takes off. It is non-stop to the very last page filling you full of dread as the story progresses.

I’m not going to tell you anything more of the plot. It weaves a wonderful story switching between the modern day story of Thad and his book and excerpts from the journal of Clayton Stone in 1692. Clayton was the scribe at the witch trials in Salem in that year and his part of the story describes all that went on in the courtroom and the evil battles surrounding the accused and her victims. The 17th century scenes are printed as if they are taken from Thad’s book but they also seem very genuine. The switching back and forward is very effective in building the tension. One thing I absolutely love about a good book is being able to imagine the sights and smells when you are transported back in time. J.D. Barker does this perfectly giving you a genuine feeling of what the atmosphere would have been like at the trials. You can feel and smell the fear as the people of the time tried to understand what they were dealing with in their midst. You can really understand why they felt absolute terror.

Characters wise, there isn’t a bad one in this book. Thad, Rachael and Ashley are a loving family. They have had tough lives but they get on with things. They are looking forward to the new baby and a new life once the book is published. They fit well together. Clayton Stone is the perfect narrator for the scenes during the trials. The other characters in the trials quite honestly couldn’t be better for the time period. The evil characters in the book are just that. Evil. It oozes out of every pore in their bodies, both the characters in the olden times and the modern times. It’s like a family that has been operating for centuries, keeping their own special brand of evil a secret waiting for their special day.
Without giving away anything of the story, there are monsters. Little gremlin type monsters. Initially I thought they were going to turn out quite cute. Was I ever wrong on that one? Whenever they appear it brings sheer terror to the story. The suspense is amazing and you will have to remind yourself to breathe when they appear.

I want to type and type and type about this one. I want to tell you all about the story but can’t without giving it all away. That’s the last thing I want to do though. You need to read this yourself and enjoy all the twists and turns it produces.

To summarise: old school horror. Good versus evil. Witches and spells. Little gremlins with a huge bite. Plenty of hold your breath moments. Plenty of you shouting things and gasping (I did). Fantastic writing that just flows across the page and will keep you routed to the spot until you get to the last page. The first book of a “saga”. I cannot wait for the rest of them. Absolutely superb.

General rating:

★★★★★ Perfect

Horror rating:

★★★★★ Creepy as hell with jump out your skin moments in abundance.

You can buy Forsaken here:

Book Synopsis:

Book One of the Shadow Cove Saga

Inspired by Actual Events

Excerpt from the Journal of Clayton Stone - 1692

She was examined today without torture at Shadow Cove township on the charge of witchcraft. She said she was wholly innocent of the crime and has never in life renounced God. I watched as they brought her out. A poor, sickly thing, worn by her time behind the walls of her prison. Her bared feet and hands bound in leather, her clothing tattered to that of ruin. Despite such condition, her head was held high, her eyes meeting those of her accusers. Upon being stripped and examined, on her right side is found a bluish mark, much like a clover leaf; it was thrice pricked therein but she felt no pain and no blood flowed from the wound. She still refuses to provide her name so we remain unable to search baptismal records, nor has her family stepped forward to claim her as their own. We have no reason to believe she is anything but an orphaned child. I find myself unable to look at her directly in the moments preceding her trial. She is watching me though; with eyes of the deepest blue, she is watching me.

Thad McAlister, Rise of the Witch

When horror author Thad McAlister began his latest novel, a tale rooted in the witch trials of centuries past, the words flowed effortlessly. The story poured forth, filling page after page with the most frightening character ever to crawl from his imagination. It was his greatest work, one that would guarantee him a position among the legends of the craft.

But was it really fiction?

He inadvertently opened a door, one that would soon jeopardize the lives of his family.

She wants to come back.

At home, his wife struggles to keep their family alive. Secretly wondering if she caused it all...a deal she made long ago. A deal with the Forsaken.

J.D. Barker holds a B.A. in English from Beaumont University and currently lives in Shadow Cove, Massachusetts where he is hard at work on his latest novel.

You can see more of J.D. at his website.

J.D.’s author page can be found here.

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