Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Review: Sundial by Catriona Ward

by Catriona Ward
Release Date: March 1st, 2022
2022 Tor Nightfire
Kindle Edition; 304 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250812681
ASIN: B0927D374F
Audiobook: B092NWVT5C
Genre: Fiction / Horror
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

All Rob wanted was a normal life. She almost got it, too: a husband, two kids, a nice house in the suburbs. But Rob fears for her oldest daughter, Callie, who collects tiny bones and whispers to imaginary friends. Rob sees a darkness in Callie, one that reminds her too much of the family she left behind.

She decides to take Callie back to her childhood home, to Sundial, deep in the Mojave Desert. And there she will have to make a terrible choice.

Callie is worried about her mother. Rob has begun to look at her strangely, and speaks of past secrets. And Callie fears that only one of them will leave Sundial alive…
My Thoughts
Sundial is one of those books I went into blind, but that is something I prefer when it comes to horror.  There was quite a bit on which to reflect in this book, and I definitely enjoyed the setting, but I wasn't a fan of the main character and I thought the author tried way too hard to throw in those red herrings to throw you off that some discrepancies arose in the story line.  

First of all, let me start with the setting as I really enjoyed that part of the story.  The history of the place, set deep in the Mojave Desert, has a creepy atmosphere; one of the first things you encounter is a ghost town as Rob takes Callie to Sundial which sets up the atmosphere rather nicely. I love these kinds of things so I soaked up the eeriness and enjoyed the author's descriptions of the place.  Now add in animal experimentation, drug abuse, murder, and family secrets, and you have all the markings for a creepy story line. For me, the creepier you go, the better.

The plot does twist and turn, but it was quite easy to figure out.  Unfortunately, the author got caught up in the descriptions and seemed to lose track of the story line at times, so I did find some discrepancies and some things that didn't quite add up. The story was told from Rob and Callie's POV, and a lot of Rob's story line was malignant memories of her time growing up with her twin sister, Jack.  While some of it was convoluted to the point where it broke the overall tension of the story, it wasn't hard to see where the story was going.  I did enjoy the author's descriptive prose, but it says a lot when I felt more sympathy for the animals than I did for the humans in the story. The philosophical nuances about nature versus nature were quite interesting, and it did make me think about what happens when man plays around with something they shouldn't be touching.  

To be honest, the weakest part of the story was the main characters as they were all toxic, I was not a fan of Rob, who lives with her husband, Irving, and her two daughters, Callie and Annie.  Their whole family is toxic and the way the two adults treat each other is just awful, especially as they include the kids int heir squabbles.  Irving has some mysterious hold over Rob, and when the reason was revealed, I wasn't overly impressed.  There is something incredibly disturbing about Callie, so Rob decides to take her to Sundial to see if the two of them can bond, to see if her suspicions about her are correct. I felt like the author spent so much time developing the creepy atmosphere that she forgot to develop her characters so they all felt the same, pretty one-dimensional.
Sundial did not have that spine-tingling feeling and tenseness that I would have liked.  The overall setting was fascinating and was creepy, with a lot of thought put into it, but I felt like the actual story line and character development were sacrificed due to that reason.  I just wasn't a fan of the main characters and I wasn't as invested in what happened.  However, this is still a good overall read and I will recommend it to anyone who likes horror.