The Halloween Children Review

Title: The Halloween Children | Authors: Brian James Freeman & Norman Prentiss | Publisher: Hydra | Pub. Date: 2017-6-13 | Pages: 189 | ASIN: B01NATQGW2 | Triggers: None | Rating: 4 out of 5 | Source: Received a copy from Netgalley for review consideration | Purchase on Amazon


The Halloween Children

The Halloween Children are watching—they’re always watching in this chilling novel of suburban horror from Bram Stoker Award winner Norman Prentiss and Brian James Freeman of Cemetery Dance Publications.

The accommodations at Stillbrook Apartments aren’t exactly glamorous, but they’re quiet, affordable, and well maintained. The handyman is usually available to help with a leak or a broken bulb, his wife and two adorable kids often tagging along. When occasion dictates, the neighbors gather to wish each other well and spread the requisite holiday cheer. Everything’s very nice. Very normal.

But as Halloween approaches, strange occurrences are happening all around Stillbrook. The children tell disturbing stories, bizarre noises bleed through the walls, and one abandoned unit is found to be inhabited by something sinister—something that’s no longer alive.

For the safety of the tenants, the Halloween party has been canceled. There will be no decorations or masks, no candied apples or witch’s brew. But without treats to divert the Halloween Children, they have no choice but to play some very nasty tricks.

Book cover for The Halloween Children

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The Halloween Children Review

 

The Halloween Children has an interesting format. Right from the beginning you’re aware that something horrible has happened, but you don’t know exactly what. You learn that via a short digital transcription. And instead of the normal methods of relaying the information, you have to listen to the parents tell their (very separate) views of the time leading up to the event. The mother’s side is mostly told via her entries into a text file on the computer, as it happens whereas the father’s is told as he looking back.

Lynn and Harris, the parents, are a couple in a relationship on the verge of ending. They have two children, and though they both love their children, it’s no secret that each one has a favorite. Their dialogue and their instinctive defense of their chosen child rings true in The Halloween Children. It also causes even more friction on an already strained marriage as tension builds. As for the children themselves, Mattie and Amber aren’t really fleshed out. You see them solely through the lens of their parent’s eyes. You never get a chance to know them. It’s someone frustrating, but really effective in keeping you from figuring out if the two were actually terrors or not.

The Halloween Children not a tale to read if you need an immediate payoff. Freeman and Prentiss force you to wait as they spin things out at their own pace. Normally, this slow burn would have irritated me, but the way the story was told it kept me on edge. I can’t say that I think this particular format would work well for many stories, but in this case it did.

The one main problem I had with The Halloween Children is that we never get the payoff of seeing the action happen. We get the leadup, and we get the fall-out, but not the action itself. It’s not exactly the satisfying climax you’d expect, given the sheer amount of drawn-out lead-up involved. It works in the context of the story, and I can see why the authors chose to do it the way they did it, I just don’t particularly like it.

Overall, The Halloween Children was definitely a creepy, different read. It’s not the slightest bit scary, but it will keep you interested in how everything is going to play out. It took me a while to read this one, as I read it in snatches between other books, but I never had problems following what was happening. I’d recommend giving it a read.

Note: I‘m really becoming a fan of Hydra as a publisher. Of course, I could be biased because they publish Bill Schweigart’s Beast of Bacroft series that I love. Do any of you have a publisher that you instinctively gravitate towards because you know you’re likely to get a good read from them?

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