Author: Santino Hassell Narrator: Geoffrey Alan
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Release Date: 9-30-2016
Genre(s): Contemporary Romance, Paranormal/Vampires
Length: 5 hours and 53 mins
Reviewed by: Lily G Blunt
Heat Level: 3 flames out of 5
Rating: 4-4.5 stars out of 5
Jeremy has been isolated and adrift since the death of his brother. Most people just see him as the skinny emo kid who wears eyeliner and plays drums. No one gets him. Nobody tries. He thought the indie rock band Stygian would become his anchor, but—lost in their own problems—they’re far from the family he sought.
Still, hoping to get close to Kennedy, the band’s enigmatic guitarist, he follows Stygian to northern Louisiana for a summer retreat. They had planned to spend six weeks focusing on new music but things go awry as soon as they arrive at the long-deserted Caroway mansion. Tempers flare, sexual tension boils over into frustration, and Jeremy turns away from the band to find a friend in his eerily beautiful landlord Hunter Caroway.
Kennedy suspects there’s something off about the creepy mansion and its mysterious owners, but Jeremy thinks he’s finally found somewhere he fits. It isn’t until Kennedy forces the Caroway’s secrets into the light that Jeremy realizes belonging sometimes comes with a price.
Geoffrey Alan is a new narrator to Audible and this is his first story there. At first, I thought his voice was rather monotone with no clear distinction between the character voices. Yet, as the story unfolded, I grew to appreciate how his storytelling suited the spooky story, and I noticed the slight variations for each character. At times the editing could have been improved, though. Sometimes there needed to be a great pause between sentences or scenes. Occasional words were mispronounced or deviated slightly from the text. It may be there was a more up-to-date version of the story for the audiobook. Overall it was still a very enjoyable story to listen to.
This is the first Santino Hassell book I’ve read/listened to and I definitely grew to like the descriptive style of his writing. Stygian means very dark, and the scary atmosphere is certainly portrayed skilfully in this book.
The characters created by Hassell are both physically and emotionally diverse and distinct. Each member of Stygian is flawed—damaged by their past with issues and guilt that need resolving. I particularly enjoyed how the different relationships between the guys was shown.
Jeremy is the insecure outsider. Even though he was invited to join the indie band after the death of its previous drummer, he doesn’t feel like he belongs and is hoping a summer of making new music with his band mates will improve things for him. He’s crushing on the guitarist, Kennedy, although he doesn’t seem interested in him. Plus Jeremy is still dealing with the shock of discovering his brother after he’d committed suicide. Tension runs high from the start, with vicious remarks and attacks against each other, especially from moody Watts, the lead singer. Quince is nice and makes an effort to mediate, but tempers fray in the Louisiana heat, and the drugs and alcohol don’t improve matters. Jeremy feels like he’s ruining the band’s vibe. Things go from bad to worse and Jeremy isn’t sure who he can trust as secrets are slowly revealed.
They’d planned to write songs for their next album and rehearse over the summer in an isolated and very creepy mansion in the middle of some woods. Its history is obscure as none of the locals wish to talk about it and as time passes the band members fall out and argue even more. They are all seeking something but not quite sure what it is. There’s UST between Jeremy and Kennedy, especially when Hunter, the beautiful yet manipulating owner of the mansion interferes.
We are treated to a couple of hot loving scenes. Although weird, I liked the steam and ‘romance’ that existed between Watts and Quince. I wondered about Jeremy and Kennedy at first, but this was the main love interest of the story, and so was rooting for these guys to sort out their issues. Their make out scenes are lovely.
The scene setting is excellently accomplished. The paranormal element was creepy and atmospheric; the foreboding mansion with its dark history, the mysteriously beautiful and charismatic owners, the eerie woods, the river and the clearing. Even the way the locals and the police behave isn’t quite right. And all these elements impact on the band and their interaction with each other.
Things build to a very exciting and scary climax. Will they all escape in time? This was definitely a favourite part of the story for me. Shame it all ended so swiftly, with not all the paranormal backstory fully explained.