Author: Dan Howarth
Release date: May 11th, 2022
Huge thanks to Dan for sending me a digital copy of this one!
I gotta say, when Dan announced this and I saw the cover I was really intrigued. I mean, this is right up my alley. Then when Kev Harrison raved about it on Twitter, I was hooked and couldn’t wait for release date! Imagine my surprise and gratitude when Dan reached out to see if I wanted an early copy! Heck yeah!
In truth, if it wasn’t for a migraine headache the other night, I would’ve read this in a single sitting. Instead, I started it and had to stop, going to bed for the first time in a few years after only reading for about fifteen minutes. Even my wife couldn’t believe it.
When I dove back in, I was so excited to see just what Howarth would do in this small hunting village in the remote Finnish wilds.
What I liked: The story follows Jari, a once-respected hunter who has lived in the village his whole life. Over the last few years, his wife has died and then his trusted hunting dog was attacked and killed by wolves. This led him to spiral, drinking excessively and coming close to being ostracized by the community. His friend Astro, who has moved back from Helsinki, has helped him regain his footing. But now, the wolves have returned and this time, Howarth has them growing bolder, moving in closer and killing more ravenously.
I loved the characters and the setting. Other than something I’ll discuss in a moment, this novella hums along closer to the movie ‘The Grey’ with Liam Neeson (which FYI is one of my all-time fav movies and a huge influence on my writing aesthetic) than anything approaching supernatural or paranormal. I’d even say this has a similar feeling to Adam Nevill’s ‘The Ritual’ without any of the otherworldly influence. The crack of branches will have readers hyperventilating in places and a scene involving a bus stop is practically anxiety inducing.
I also really loved the inter-community dynamics at play. We see the relationships pushed back and forth over what to do and how to do it. The argument for preservation versus community protection. Having grown up myself, in a very small hunting town, this brought me back to some townhall meetings decades ago.
The ending of this is quick, violent and unexpected. If my son hadn’t been asleep beside me while reading this, I would’ve loudly cursed Dan’s name.
What I didn’t like: I mentioned it before, and I’ll do my best to stay spoiler free, but the reason behind what happens at the end, and the pseudo-epilogue that occurs after felt a bit unnecessary to me. I loved how it remained far away from a supernatural based novella and was firmly planted in a real, living and breathing moment in the world and I know when the “reveal” occurred my face scrunched up.
Why you should buy this: It was so refreshing to read a novella that embraces the cold and the small town aspects and elements and really pushed forward with suspense, thrills and dynamics of life. Howarth does a splendid job of making this location come to life and feel like a place the reader has lived their entire life, even in a page count just hovering North of 100. The storytelling is fast-paced, but succinct and the plot is solid and tangible.
This was really outstanding and will make many, many readers happy.