A few pieces of media consistently scare me, and those I’ve spoken about a lot. Sadly, horror books are almost never on that list. When I’m reading horror, one scene per book (max) will affect me on a gut level—one perfect culmination of tension and imagery that sears itself into my memory. This book has one of those moments; if you read it, you’ll know which one it is.
Originally Published: May 30th, 2022
The Twisted Ones Is Eventually Terrifying
I wish I had more nice things to say about The Twisted Ones. Given how impressed I was with The Hollow Places, I expected another creative cosmic horror with a breezy pace. And while I will ultimately have several nice things to say about the book, it’s a step down in quality.
The biggest issue I noticed here was also in The Hollow Places but wasn’t nearly so pronounced: the dismal pace. This book takes such a long time to do anything substantial. Building dread is essential for horror, but The Twisted Ones drag things along with only a few mysteries to sustain interest.
And, honestly, that would’ve been fine enough—some payoffs are worth it—if the scary part didn’t also take some weird swerves. I physically jolted once and found several ideas phenomenally disturbing, but I also felt like abandoning the book before I got to that point.
Before the horror, there are just too few hooks. The main character is simply an average person—with a cute dog—tasked with cleaning her hoarder grandma’s house after she passed. And, while those who’ve dealt with heavy hoarding might find some intrigue in this, it’s more time-wasting than anything else. Even when it finally pops into the horror plot, it’s still too drawn out. The main character’s also functionally a carbon copy of the main character from The Hollow Places—except that book came later. This is not only annoying but makes what I called refreshing in that review into basically a recycling effort.
It Actually Retroactively Makes Other Books Worse
But what did I mean when I said some of the fear was good and some flat? Well, it all comes down to the dueling subgenres. The Twisted Ones is both dark fantasy and brutal body horror. And the dark fantasy makes the book weird and detracts from solid tension. The narrative spends too much time dealing with a magical dimension. Once again, this worked better in The Hollow Places. That location was disturbing just by itself—it felt like its own monster—while this one has spooky rocks. It makes narrative sense as an in-world explanation for why the horror is possible, but horror doesn’t benefit from explanation. We don’t need to understand why these monsters exist. And this is incredibly frustrating when those monsters, that other half of the fear, work so well.
I can’t spoil much, but the inventive use of animal carcasses is inspired. Their implications are both tragic and gristly. I’ve never read monsters like these before. They are perfect thematically. If I ever found myself alone in the woods, I would think of these things staring at me in the dark. I wish we got them sooner.
The Twisted Ones was a well-written book on a prose level. It’s got a strong voice and likable characters. But you’ve got to work for why you’re reading it. And for a piece of entertainment, especially a book in the era of short-form videos, that’s not ideal. Unless you’re starved for folk/cosmic horror, there are just better book choices.
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