Title: Something Wicked This Way Comes
Author: Amy Rae Durreson
Publisher: DSP Publications
Release Date: October 29, 2019
Genre(s): Things That Go Bump in the Night
Page Count: 338
Reviewed by: CrabbyPatty
Heat Level: 1 flames out of 5
Rating: 5+ stars out of 5
A workaholic teacher and a cranky blacksmith investigate a haunted orphanage in the remote Scottish Borders. What they find together might help them heal the wounds of their pasts… if they survive.
When the charity Leon works for inherits the orphanage, he travels north to see if the site is suitable for a new school. But Vainguard is a place of dark secrets, and Leon unearths a mystery about four children who died there in 1944—a tragic tale with an uncanny connection to the death of Leon’s parents.
Still bitter and guilt-ridden over his daughter’s death, farrier Niall joins Leon in uncovering Vainguard’s cruel history, including not just abuse but a tale about a vengeful spirit preying on local children. As the orphanage’s disturbing past comes to light, another child goes missing.
Niall and Leon know they don’t have long before the child falls victim to a legend straight from the Borders’ blood-soaked past.
It’s hard to define this book – Ghost story? Yes. Horror? Absolutely. Paranormal? Yup. Contemporary M/M romance? Nicely done. Amy Rae Durreson layers a contemporary story of a man sent to the Scottish Border to assess an old orphanage for use as a children’s school, and as he slowly learns of its horrific past and deaths in 1944, he also realizes the site has been a catalyse for evil for far longer. Durreson beautifully combines Celtic and older cultural legends and myths into a work that is definitely my favorite book of this year and any year.
The author does a magnificent job of pulling the reader in bit by bit. As Leon muses about the Scottish borderlands: “Every region had its dark history, of course, but here it still seemed close to the skin, like a bone fractured but not quite snapped, one that could puncture through into the modern world at any moment.” There is an underlying tension throughout slowly building and ebbing, ever growing more terrifying, conditioning us like that poor doomed frog in the slowly heating water.
The tension builds as Leon realizes some unsettling truths about our place in the whole scheme of it all:
Humans are strange creatures. We behave as if we’re kings of the world, the ultimate predators, but put us alone in the dark and our instincts remind us what we really are when we lose the power to hurt others – weak, hairless mammals with brains too quick for our weak limbs. Prey.
Against the backdrop of this steadily growing unease, Durreson gives Leon and Niall a wonderfully tender chance at love and while there’s little in the way of on-page grappling, their relationship develops into a steady and solid love. Even the secondary characters are well-developed and charasmatic in their own right, and all the backstories are elegantly woven in the greater story.
But always just at the edge of the page is the prevailing evil that has destroyed so many lives:
At the time, I didn’t think to wonder what it was. People talk about the banality of evil, use the word monster in reference to human beings casually and easily, as if it were an everyday word to use on a sunlit street. I know that sort of evil exists too, but the thing that was in the lightless chapel with me was something else – something ancient and vicious and hungry. Something wicked had come my way.
Without giving away too much, the culimination of this story offers redemption and mercy and it is powerful and tear-inducing in equal parts. 5+ stars for “Something Wicked This Way Comes” and I highly recommend it.