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Book: “All Hallows” by Christopher Golden
Publishing Info: St. Martin’s Press, January 2023
Where Did I Get This Book: I received an eARC from NetGalley.
Book Description: With the 80’s nostalgia of Stranger Things, this horror drama from NYT bestselling author Christopher Golden follows neighborhood families and a mysterious, lurking evil on one Halloween day.
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?
New York Times bestselling, Bram Stoker Award-winning author Christopher Golden is best known for his supernatural thrillers set in deadly, distant locales…but in this suburban Halloween drama, Golden brings the horror home.
All Hallows. The one night when everything is a mask...
Review: Thank you to NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this novel!
I’m a person who holds Halloween in my heart all year round, so it’s not a huge stretch for me to pick up a Halloween themed novel or movie or what have you any month of the year. But I think that there’s just something that hits different if you read a certain book during a certain season, and boy am I kicking myself for not picking up my eARC of “All Hallows” by Christopher Golden during October. I’m by no means saying to delay reading this book until NEXT Halloween (don’t sleep on this book until then, it’s super enjoyable and horror fans should read it ASAP), but man oh MAN is this just the perfect Halloween book. It’s the kind of book that makes you feel like you can feel the crisp air of an autumn night, or that you can smell the leaves and woodsmoke in the air. It just screams Halloween, and that isn’t just because it takes place on Halloween in 1984. The aesthetic of masked children running around for tricks and treats after dark jumps off the page, and it feels like a love letter to my favorite holiday. Especially since some of these masked children are, perhaps, not what they seem.
In the description there is a comparison to “Stranger Things”, and I think that that is correct in the sense of “Stranger Things” feeling like a 1980s Spielberg/”Goonies”/”Stand By Me” vibe of kids being realistic kids in the face of danger or adventure. More danger, in this case. I really loved all of the kids in this book, as we’d shift from one perspective to another and see how they are spending this momentous Halloween in which all their lives are going to be changed. Whether it’s punk and closeted lesbian Vanessa, or earnest and serious Rick, or kind and a bit downtrodden Julia, all of the kids out on Halloween are grappling with their own baggage even before mysterious masked children they haven’t met before start infiltrating their evenings, and begging them for help to protect them from ‘The Cunning Man’. The neighborhood kids can kind of tell that something is off with these new kids, whether it’s their weird behavior or their vague pleadings, but they know that kids have to stick together, and it makes for a camaraderie that may or may not be a good thing. I loved all of the neighbor kids and got a good feel for them, and I liked the building unease surrounding the stranger children, and not knowing just what their deal was. It did feel like a nostalgic take on childhood friendships at the precipice of everything changing, and I really liked how that affected how we cared about these characters.
The other big component of this book that I really liked was the way that Golden focused in on the ennui, dissatisfaction, and toxic aspects of 1980s suburban life. While the kids are running around on Halloween night, encountering strange masked children, the adults are so focused in on their own dysfunction brought on by their troubled lives and relationships that they are a bit distracted during a dangerous time. Whether it’s Barb, whose husband Donnie is a drunk and a philanderer and whom she has just thrown out, or Tony and Alice, who run the neighborhood haunted attraction and are about to lose their home due to financial issues, to the mysterious Zach and Ruth who are the only childless couple and seem… off, Golden has created some suburban drama that fits in the story’s greater themes of how adults can fail the children in their communities and the consequences that can bring. You could just see how this was all going to come to a head and it was very unnerving.
And finally, the more supernatural horrors. Golden really knows how to create creepy moments, characters, and aesthetics. We don’t know just what the Cunning Man is, and we don’t know why he wants these mysterious children who have just appeared, and as we slowly learn more and more we get some very disturbing and scary beats here and there. And even when we think we know something, Golden will pull the rug out from under us and it will be something else completely. I do think that I could have used a little more world building, or at least mythos building, when it came to the supernatural forces at work. I definitely liked how Golden created a scenario that could so easily be turned upon its head through misdirection and clever hints here and there, but once we did get one of the more surprising reveals thrown out there, I felt like we didn’t really focus too much on what exactly the driving force was and how we got to where we were. I know this sounds strange, but I do want to be vague because I don’t want to wreck or ruin anything, plot wise. It’s worth having all the tricks that Golden is hiding revealed in their own time! I just wanted a bit more explanation on some things.
“All Hallows” is a very twisty horror story that will surely send chills up a reader’s spine. Maybe break out some candy and a Fall themed candle to set the mood while reading it, as it will give you all the Halloween feels and everything that implies.
Rating 7: Creepy and nostalgia driven with some pretty good surprises, “All Hallows” has tricks and treats in store.