Tuesday 14 July 2015

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Review: Horns by Joe Hill

Horns by Joe HillHorns by Joe Hill - Once, Ig lived the life of the blessed: born into privilege, he had security and wealth and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more — he had the love of Merrin Williams, a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

Then beautiful, vivacious Merrin was gone - raped and murdered, under inexplicable circumstances - and Ig was the only suspect. He was never tried for the crime, but in the court of public opinion he was and always would be guilty.

But now Ig can hear people's deepest, darkest secrets and means to use this ability to find whoever killed Merrin.

It's time for a little revenge.

It's the time the devil had his due.
From the blurb.

I bought Horns by Joe Hill after having it recommended to me by my best mate. It's not my usual thing, I tend to stay away from horror, but my friend convinced me, telling me it's not actually horror. I'm so glad I took his advice, because Horns is awesome!

It's been a year since the rape and murder of his girlfriend Merrin when Ignatius wakes up from a drunken night out to find horns have sprouted out of his head. No idea what's happening to him, he seeks help. From doctor, from a priest. But instead of helping - or being terrified at the sight of his horns - everyone he encounters has a compulsion to tell him their deepest, darkest desires, and ask for his permission to do the things they want. He also discovers that whenever he touches anyone, he gets a glimpse into their past, their memories of the sins they have committed. When someone reveals something about the night of Merrin's death, Ig decides to embrace his new abilities to discover what happened to Merrin, and seek revenge for her death.

Oh my god, this book! Despite being shelved in horror when I bought it, there's nothing typically horror-esque about this novel. I'm quite a wimp, and I can't deal with scary, but there's nothing terryfying about this story - at least not in the way you'd think. What scared me the most was the things people would admit to wanting when they saw Ig with his horns. It's such a clever idea, but complete car crash territory. The things the various characters admitted to wanting or feeling were so disturbing, sometimes sickening and disgusting, but I couldn't help be fascinated by the horns compulsion and by what would be admitted to next. It's horrifying to think that these normal, ordinary people would harbour such desires - not all sexual, though some were. It really has your thoughts going in directions regarding the people you know you don't want them too; what do these people really think? At the same time, it was also darkly funny; the matter of fact, calm way they admitted to these thoughts, and then their eagerness and hope when asking permission for Ig to do these things. The first third of the book is about this side of things as Ig tries to work out what's going on and how to fix it, and it's pretty amusing while disturbing.

Then the story moves on when we discover hints about what happened the night of Merrin's death. There are a few flashbacks throughout the book from Ig and two other people, giving background to Ig from when he was a teenager, and then from others about the night on Merrin's death. Despite being a fan of YA, I wasn't so interested in Ig's life as a teenager, despite feeling like YA. It's just, with what's happening to Ig in present day, and the piece of pivotal information he's just been given regarding Merrin's death, I was eager to get back to the present day and find out what would happen next. The background is necessary though; it shows us the start of Ig and Merrin's relationship, and various other relationships that become important later on. When we get back to present day, it's interesting to see how things go with knowledge of who people were in the past. And with the other flashbacks... wow. I don't really want to say much more because of spoilers, but with everything pieced together, it's seriously screwed up. With other people's flashbacks, you get their points of view, and some people are just really not at all who they seem.

Considering this, Horns does an amazing job at looking into good and evil, and also religion. Ig seems to be turning into a demon, but he's not the person who has wronged. And there are nice, good people, who turn out to be the complete opposite, and yet are thought so highly of. There is a part of the book where Ig gives a speech to some snakes (who have become enamoured by him since the horns) about God and the devil, and the supposed respective good and evil of the two. It's really thought-provoking, and as an atheist, I found it a really fascinating discussion. It's not a book that talks about devil worship or anything like that, but it does ask the questions, is God really good, is the devil really bad? The arguments are really interesting, and Ig really had me seeing where he was coming from.

I do have one problem with this book though. The ending. Once it reaches it's conclusion, and the main plot has been wrapped up, it ends really ambiguously. To the point that I was complaining to my best mate and to my mum, and "What the hell?!"-ing. I like explanations, I like to know the hows and the whys, even if the answers are non-plausible fantasy elements. I'm a fantasy fan, I'm great at suspending disbelief and just going with it. But don't just leave me hanging with no explanation whatsoever! I want to know how and why that ending was possible, and it's bugging the hell out of me that there are no answers! Seriously, I was thinking this book was amazing until that part, and now I'm left floundering with no answers. This doesn't sit well with me! It feels unfinished! Not the story, but my reading experience. I need to know, but I never will. And I am so wound up about it.

Saying that, this is maybe one or two pages of the whole book, which really is awesome! A really fantastic story, with an awesome premise, that gets you thinking. If you have no problem with ambiguous endings, I highly recommend Horns. I highly recommend it even if you do. So looking forward to watching the movie now.

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Published: 23rd October 2014
Publisher: Gollancz
Joe Hill's Website


  1. Omg. I want to read this. Even if it's not horror-y (I like horror-y stuff) I want to try it because it looks dark and intriguing! AND I ALSO WANT TO SEE THE MOVIE BECAUSE HARRY POTTER.
    erm. Daniel Radcliffe. heh. (I know, I know, this is shameful, but still true.)

    1. It is SO intriguing! And kind of disgusting and awful at the same time, but soooooo good!

      Haha! I'm not a big fan of Daniel Radcliff. I don't think he was great at Harry Potter, though I went to see every movie. Still, I want to see the movie, because oooooh my god, I think it'll be good! Or I'm at least intrigued because the book was so awesome. The trailer looks amazing, though I can already see it's changed bits.