Forsaken: Book One of the Shadow Cove Saga - J.D. Barker

(I got an ARC of this book from the publisher through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.)

I'm not too sure how to rate this novel.

Its plot managed to be "simple" enough without being boring, able to bring enough elements to keep readers entertained, as well as interesting twists, especially at the end. This isn't something easy to achieve. The wink to Needful Things made me go "wait, what?" for a second, but it all made sense, and was in fact a nice addition, all things considered. (I am ashamed to say I haven't even read Needful Things, not yet. I just now enough about it to get the cameo.)

There's a lot of meta-ing in here, too: the writer whose inspiration gives life to horrors, yet you quickly realise that his inspiration itself didn't come just out of nowhere. The literary agent whose greed translates into another kind of greed. The Journal of Clayton Stone, made of excerpts from Thad's novel, also acting as a way to pepper the plot with more information. Said novel as a medium of carrying just about anything: a story, a curse, a legend... and with so many people about to read it, who's to know how the paradigm will shift?

The short chapters also made for an easy read—I like short it when you can stop often, since I also often read in public transportation or during breaks. Although I didn't often want to stop, because to regular shift between Thad, Rachael and Clayton kept me wanting to go on to see what would happen next.

And yet, I can't explain why I wasn't more thrilled. It's the kind of book I should've devoured in two sleepless nights; I didn't. I thought it'd scare me more, with its depiction of the house becoming a trap; it didn't. I'd read ten or fifteen chapters, and then suddenly feel like stopping. I'm not sure why this happened. It may be because some elements weren't shown enough to my liking (like Zeke's role: I thought he deserved more screen time). The "followers" sort of popped out of nowhere, and the way they were led and organised was a little jumbly. And the characters felt somewhat one-dimensional: while Rachael's and Ashley's plea was almost tangible, with creepy descriptions of the minions and the dust invading everything, the people themselves seemed more like victims cast in their role than like "real" people with likes, dislikes, a before and an after... This may be why the horror part didn't touch me so much.

Forsaken's still definitely worth a read for its pacing, its descriptions, and its twists.