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The Loney (Andrew Michael Hurley, 2014)

The Loney is a rural folk horror novel set in the north of England, dealing with a folk Christianity which blends seamlessly into the pagan ways of yore. It is also a study in the social aspects of religiosity, family and the idealization of the past; characters and setting will reverberate with people who have been raised in a Christian environment. Most of all, it is as British as books go.

Pros:

  • Excellent prose, flowing, and eloquent without falling into pitfalls of pretense and archaic language.
  • The rural environment is evoked extremely vividly; it seems that the author has deep first-hand experience.
  • Moorings (the house where the families stay in their annual pilgrimage), the surrounding countryside, Coldbarrow, the Loney, they are all places that feel intimate with all who have lived in the countryside (not necessarily the English one). You can easily get lost in the interior of Moorings, in the nooks and items and stone walls, wallowing in half-remembered half-imaginary nostalgia.
  • Most of the characters are very well written and developed. Normally I do not care about character development, but here the writer does a splendid job.
  • The setting comes alive organically through bits and pieces and fragments of description: folklore, décor, discarded items, they all fit in the world, not feeling forced (something that could have easily be with such a cliché setting).
  • Bits of philosophical and religious wisdom hidden within the flow of the narrative, like reverie musings.

Cons:

  • The plot is quite vague, leaving many branches to fade away in hazy mist. What is more, some of the main plot points are underwhelmingly resolved, leaving an unfulfilled sensation.
  • It could definitely benefit from more lore, especially area-specific. Too much is left in the readers’ imagination.

Be forewarned: the pacing is slow, the action minimal, the focus on characters and environment absolute.

All in all, it as a surprising specimen of subtle horror, religious/magical realism and symbolic thought. It could be improved, especially plot-wise, but as a debut it is impressive.

20 Oct 2019


Tags: horror   folklore   2014
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