Thursday, 29 September 2016

REVIEW: Kristal Stittle - Merciless

Genre: Horror
Publisher: Sinister Grin Press
Publication Date: 1st June 2016
Pages: 129


A copy of Merciless by Kristal Stittle was sent to Confessions of a Reviewer by the publisher, Sinister Grin Press, in exchange for an honest review. This is said review.

There is a common and, in my opinion, misguided idea when it comes to writing that there are certain plots that one should steer clear from, that ground which has been treaded on one too many times can never be fertile and should be left to go barren. The thing is, as much as we all likely fancy ourselves as shining lights of ingenuity and creativity, there really are only so many stories that can be told. Sure, we can put some individual touches and color tones to the picture but in the end, it isn’t often that I read something or watch something and get at least a little touch of déjà vu or a feeling of “haven’t we been here before”?

Case in point would be the book Merciless, by Kristal Stittle. I found the book to be highly entertaining and delivered in a way that felt fresh and seemed clear that the author was invested in it. The story itself is simple enough. The protagonist, Mercy, is home alone while her boyfriend is off having a weekend with his friends. Mercy begins to receive phone calls that start as merely curious and quickly progress to creepy and disturbing. When she decides to try and get out of the house and spend some time at her parent’s house, the calls mysteriously follow her and soon she finds herself in the middle of an all-out home invasion.

There are some who might read the description of that story and choose to give the story a pass on the basis of exactly what I am talking about. “I’ve seen that before,” or “Done too many times”. The reality is that this attitude can cut you off at the pass from enjoying some great books.

I found that Stittle took the concept and brought a lot of originality and freshness to the book as well. I really loved the mystery of the story from the start. Who was making the phone calls? Why are they going after Mercy? What is it they want? How do they know who she is? The horror elements of the story are handled very well but the addition of elements of the mystery genre really gave the book a feeling of being well rounded in its conception.

One aspect of the book which I really appreciated was in terms of the makeup of the villains themselves. While their efforts are clearly organized, they are also shown to be flawed and imperfect, as much so as a victim would be in any given situation. I think that it is a common mistake to make the villain or the monster of a story so powerful and perfect that there becomes no way for the hero to win out in the end in a way that seems credible or believable. This is one specific area that, while I don’t generally believe in going on about the “rules”, I think you have to adhere to in order for the story to work. It’s easy to construct a bad guy who is the evil genius. It takes more courage of pen to write one with weaknesses that can be exploited. After all, speaking for myself, the last thing I want is to see a protagonist win out at the end on the back of some fluke effort or random twist of luck.

Mercy herself also surprised me as a character in terms of her resourcefulness and her resolve. It is not something I would have expected to see from her as I read through the opening chapters so it was a pleasant surprise to see the amount of strength she displays throughout her ordeal.

The writing of the book for the most part is great and on point. The pacing of the story is also done extremely well and I thought things moved along nicely. I wasn’t able to read the book in its entirety in one sitting but I sure wanted to.

There were a few minor issues I had which did not interfere with my enjoyment of the book but which I felt should be mentioned as well. In the early chapters of the book, there is a tendency sometimes for the narrative to get side-tracked a little and go off into areas of exposition that I didn’t think were particularly important to the overall story. For example, pausing in the story to provide a bunch of details about her sister’s background that don’t really end up playing a part in the story or at a point where Mercy is being chased and she starts thinking about playing tag as a child. It was just small moments here and there that knocked me out of the flow of the story a little bit. I also thought that early on, there were a few moments where the narrative voice made a point of identifying things as disturbing or frightening and I thought Stittle did a good enough job making the events of the story scary without having to label it as such. And if the intention was simply to convey Mercy’s state of mind, I think it would have worked a little better to show her in the grips of her fear, rather than simply say that she felt scared.

My other issue was the point in the book where we find out who the person is behind this attack on Mercy and what motivated it. Ultimately, I wasn’t really convinced by the scenario as it unfolded and found it to be a bit too improbable.

Still, despite all of that, I was very happy with the book. Mercy as a character, goes through tremendous transformation and in a way that feels real and powerful. The book works efficiently towards a chilling conclusion that totally made the book for me. I was very happy to have read this and I would definitely encourage you to check it out as well.

General rating:


If you would like to help support Confessions of a Reviewer, then please consider using the links below to buy Merciless or any other books from Kristal. This not only supports me but also lets me know how many people actually like to buy books after reading my reviews.


Book Synopsis:

Mercy just wanted a quiet evening with her folks after a hard week at work, followed by a rather eerie phone call. Instead, she finds herself alone in the old family home as the dark descends. Unfortunately for Mercy, she’s not alone for long. For reasons she can’t understand, she finds herself surrounded by men in masks with an unclear but obviously sinister purpose. What Mercy does know, is that her situation is dire and that she can’t let them take her. No matter what.

Kristal Stittle was born and raised in Toronto, Canada, where she still lives with her cat. She’s always working on several writing projects at a time, from novels and short stories to scripts. Trained in 3D animation, she continues to paint and illustrate regularly while dabbling in photography.

And for more about Kristal, visit her site or find her on social media:

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