Everyone has wanted their favorite book to be real, if only for a moment. Everyone has wished to meet their favorite characters, if only for a day. But be careful in that wish, for even a history laid in ink can be repaid in flesh and blood, and reality is far deadlier than fiction . . . especially on Addington Isle. Winterset Hollow follows a group of friends to the place that inspired their favorite book—a timeless tale about a tribe of animals preparing for their yearly end-of-summer festival. But after a series of shocking discoveries, they find that much of what the world believes to be fiction is actually fact, and that the truth behind their beloved story is darker and more dangerous than they ever imagined. It's Barley Day . . . and you're invited to the hunt.
Winterset Hollow is as thrilling as it is terrifying and as smart as it is surprising. A uniquely original story filled with properly unexpected twists and turns, Winterset Hollow delivers complex, indelible characters and pulse-pounding action as it storms toward an unforgettable climax that will leave you reeling. How do you celebrate Barley Day? You run, friend. You run.
(Disclaimer: I received a free digital review copy of this book from the author. All opinions in this review are my own and are honest and unbiased.)
With elegant prose and captivating characters, Winterset Hollow by Jonathan Edward Durham was a unique, oddly addictive mix of dark fantasy, thriller, and horror. If I had to describe this book in one word, I'd call it peculiar. I mean that in a good way. It's so original that I can't think of any books to compare it with. Winterset Hollow was one of the rare books that both charmed and horrified me in the space of a chapter. The one problem I had while reading this was that there were so many long sentences that the narrative, while highly enjoyable, meandered a bit. It didn't lose my interest, but it was a more difficult read because of that. I adored the enchanting poetry excerpts and unnerving illustrations provided here and there. Durham's writing style, though a tad long-winded, was engrossing. As for the setting, it was beautifully eerie. I loved exploring Addington Isle.
The plot had quite a few unexpected, gut-lurching twists and others that were more predictable. Twice, I felt Durham employed a deus ex machina. That isn't necessarily bad, but those events seemed incongruously convenient given the rest of the work. I identified strongly with the antagonists. They were multi-faceted characters with a deep, dark history. I personally understood the pain of their past and the emotional struggles of their present. The main characters were also very sympathetic, especially Eamon, with his traumatic past. Because I sympathized with both sides, this was a tear-jerking read. I don't want to risk any spoilers, so I'll stop here. I wholly recommend Winterset Hollow to readers who want a heartbreaking, dark contemporary fantasy novel with some grisly horror elements and pulse-pounding action.
Trigger Warning: This work contains some disturbing themes, including violence, murder, and brief scenes of self-harm.
Jonathan Edward Durham was born near Philadelphia in one of many satellite rust-belt communities where he read voraciously throughout his youth. After attending William & Mary, where he received a degree in neuroscience, Jonathan waded into the professional world before deciding he was better suited for more artistic pursuits.
He now lives with his partner in California where he writes to bring a unique voice to the space between the timeless wonder of his favorite childhood stories and the pop sensibilities of his adolescent literary indulgences. His debut novel, Winterset Hollow, an elevated contemporary fantasy with a dark twist, is mined from that same vein and is currently available everywhere.