Saturday, June 10, 2023

Review: All Hallows by Christopher Golden

by Christopher Golden
Release Date: January 24, 2023
2023 St. Martin's Press
Kindle Edition; 325 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250280299
ASIN: B09Y4632Q1
Audiobook: B0BRYNJTMM
Genre: Fiction / Horror
Source: Review copy from publisher
3/5 Stars
It’s Halloween night, 1984, in Coventry, Massachusetts, and two families are unraveling. Up and down the street, horrifying secrets are being revealed, and all the while, mixed in with the trick-or-treaters of all ages, four children who do not belong are walking door to door, merging with the kids of Parmenter Road. Children in vintage costumes with faded, eerie makeup. They seem terrified, and beg the neighborhood kids to hide them away, to keep them safe from The Cunning Man. There’s a small clearing in the woods now that was never there before, and a blackthorn tree that doesn’t belong at all. These odd children claim that The Cunning Man is coming for them...and they want the local kids to protect them. But with families falling apart and the neighborhood splintered by bitterness, who will save the children of Parmenter Road?
My Thoughts
All Hallows is one of those books that I was hoping would get better as I went along, but unfortunately this had a story line that meandered too much for my liking, destroying any tension that built up. Not only did it do this once, but several times throughout the story, leaving me a bit disappointed in the overall experience.  It's not that it was boring and I definitely didn't dislike it by any means, but scary? No. Full of tension? No. Full of tingles and shivers? No. 

First of all, the nostalgic feeling of the 80s was something I loved about this book. At first, I thought it was going to be one of the strengths of the book, that whole neighbourhood feeling when everyone got together to enjoy a night full of fun and escapades.  The Barbosa's always put on an epic Haunted Woods and this was to be their last one so they wanted it to be a good one, while the Koenig's were getting ready to host their after-Halloween party. Fun, right? It was until the author decided to bring all this neighbourhood drama into the story about a philandering alcoholic husband who created chaos with a number of friendships; I am not usually opposed to this drama, but the focus on it took away from the unfolding drama that was supposed to be the highlight of the story, the return of the Cunning Man. 
When the slasher stuff finally starts to happen, I was already starting to lose interest in the story, about two-thirds into the book.  Children dressed in these vintage clothing, a clown, a Raggedy Ann, and a scarecrow, would not really have drawn that much attention in 1984 even though I remember Madonna and Michael Jackson being hugely popular costumes as well as Star Wars.  There was always someone dressed as a clown.  But I did appreciate all of the 80's references to remind people of the time line.  
As a result of all this, the plot is the weakest point of the novel, with the Cunning Man and the creepy children sort of running in the background, and once in a while they show up to deal with some neighbourhood kid, but the whole story becomes disjointed because of all the other stuff going on. When the Cunning Man and the kids should have been absolutely terrifying, the author had already lost me with the other drama, enough hat I didn't really care about what was happening.  And on a side note, I did have an issue with one of the relationships, although not the relationship itself, but the openness of it. This was 1984, and I do have an issue when modern sensibilities and thinking are put on the past for as teen growing up the 80s, exploring all forms of sexuality was not really acceptable.  We are talking about the time of the AIDS epidemic when fear mongering was quite high, so teenagers were definitely not encouraged to openly explore their sexuality. And furthermore, a lot of people left their doors unlocked during this time period and would definitely not have been thinking someone is a pedophile the moment they saw someone, especially in a small neighbourhood like this, especially not kids.    That is current-day thinking. Small things, but they were jarring nonetheless. 

All Hallows had a lot of potential, but the over-focus on the neighbourhood drama which included everything from infidelity to alcoholism to job loss to abuse, affected the overall story and rendered the Cunning Man and his children to the background.  Unfortunately, instead of the eerie and creepy, I got disjointed and...weird.  I did really appreciate the nostalgia and the creepy forest and would love to have had a haunted forest like that while I was growing up, but it was not enough to save this book for me. 


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