Source: NetGalley – many many many thanks to the publisher!
Tl;DR: A shocking and twisted horror novel with fascinating themes – especially for the Art Nerds out there!
Plot: This is straight down the barrel of the plot – the characters are just driving to the ultimate conclusion the whole time
Characters: An initial onslaught of characters is quickly (killed) narrowed down to a few. A few do make interesting developments over the course of the story however.
Setting: Somewhat standard but felt very well realized
Horror: Definitely more shock the scare here, but it was deeply uncomfortable and unsettling at parts.
It Rides A Pale Horse might have been one of the most shocking horror book I’ve read in a long time. It had it’s moment of spooky but on the whole this book packed for more of a shocking punch than scary. It follows Lark as he attempts to save his sister from a mysterious group. To do this he must build a sculpture based on the writings of a madman, but that sculpture seems to be calling things and changing the way the world works around him.
My biggest compliment and biggest warning on this book is that it’s very heavy on the art jargon. The whole book hinges on the idea of magic in art, obsession, and creative drive. Lark is a sculptor and his sister Betsy is a painter (which mysterious, supernatural, and dangerous talents). I come from a background in art, it’s what I went to school for, so I naturally jived with this. But a lot of readers may not. If you can enjoy that or even just read past it for about a quarter of the book though this becomes a much more accessible read.
The only two real complaints I have about this book were one more personal trigger and the writing. The writing was perfectly serviceable on the whole till about half way through, and began to have moments of strangeness. I see how the author was attempting to convey a change in the physics of the world (down to how the characters minds were working) but it didn’t quite click or work for me, instead throwing me out to stare at the page in confusion. Those moments were rare though.
As for the personal trigger was one particular ‘event’ with a woman and her daughters and a cow – I nearly stopped the book there. The outcome and how the event happened were fine. However, the author went out of his way to enforce the ‘tragedy’ of it. Lark dwelled on his memories of this woman’s history and leading up to her children. To the point at which I began to feel like he was manipulating us into having an emotional reaction. We were told these things but ultimately it mattered absolutely not at all to the arc of the story. Lark and team got what they needed, but we were told over and over why we should be sad about it – as if it wasn’t already sad enough. That genuinely bothered me.
Overall I did actually enjoy this a lot though. It was shocking, intricate, and unsettling. Go into this looking for some wildly shocking moments, some absolutely amazing ideas of art and the supernatural and you will probably have a blast.
4 out of 5 creepy jars.
(it did need more of the horse though, I’m always down for more horses)
Many thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for a review copy!
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