Book Review: The Asylum Novellas

|+| Triggers: mental illness, mental institutions, torture,  serial murders, stalking, unreality, unreliable narrators |+|

Anyway it worked, and he’s the doctor, right? ~Tanner (The Warden)


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Author: Madeleine Roux

Genre: YA Horror

Summary: There are three sides to every story…

Before Dan, Abby, and Jordan ever set food inside the Brookline asylum, its legacy of terror stretched far and deep. Be careful where you go digging in history. Sometimes the past is better off buried…

Enter the twisted world of the New York Times bestselling Asylum series with these three bone-chilling novellas, featuring new found photographs.

My Opinion: Because this book is composed of three novellas I’ve done a short review for each, and then over all how the novellas added into the series. To prevent any spoilers I read each novella after the proper book. I read The Scarlets after Asylum, The Bone Artists after Sanctum, and The Warden after Catacomb. Overall, after averaging the ratings, I gave this collection a 3.5 star rating (rounded up on Goodreads to 4 stars).

The Scarlets: This takes place after Asylum, where the college still hasn’t fully updated their dorms so they are using Brookline as student housing. Cal, rebellious, failing classes and son of the dean is forced to help archive things in the basement of Brookline. 4 star rating.

This was strong and gritty, fitting right in with Asylum’s mood. I actually think Roux’s writing style has improved in this (and I had no problems with it before when I first read Asylum). The suspense was well done and the story had a good, solid pace. I was surprised at how likable Cal was simply because he was so unlikable. Yet he had a good friend and despite him being a jerk, there was acknowledgement he was a jerk and he actually confronts that aspect of himself in the story. I was a bit disappointed with the ending as The Scarlets felt very generic horror, while one of the things that I adore about Asylum is that it takes generic horror (ghosts, asylums), and does something unique with them. Yes, The Scarlets brought the creepy but it was a bit too generic in parts for my liking.

The Bone Artists: This takes place before Sanctum with a focus on Micha and his friend Oliver. Oliver is the main character in this one. He’s hoping to leave his boring life in New Orleans and go to the University of Texas to learn not only how to tinker with cars, but design them too. Assuming he can pull off one last grave robbing job. There was a lot wrong with this story though so I wound up giving it 2.5 stars. Which was generous.

I don’t think this story was as strong as the others for a number of reasons. The writing style isn’t as strong as in the previous works, it felt disconnected from the rest of the series unlike the first novella, and there were elements that came off as racist. This story lines up with Sanctum, because we find out about Micha’s past. Yet the whole thing read much more like the start of a murder mystery and not a horror novella. Not at any point did this feel remotely horror. My biggest issue were the things that came off as racist. The story takes place in the deep south where racism is more prevalent. I get that, and there’s ways to acknowledge that but Micha, who is one of my favorite characters in Sanctum, suddenly turns out to be Black and his race and ethnicity are used as a prop/plot device in this story. His heritage was never mentioned in Sanctum because it wasn’t “interesting” or “vital” but in The Bone Artists it’s suddenly both. He’s been demoted to the superstitious Black guy. It’s lazy writing at best, racist at worst. I feel like his character took a beating in this story, and it breaks my heart because he is such a great character in Sanctum. I kept waiting for this to get better and this one just disappointed.

The Warden:  Jocelyn is hired as a nurse in the Brookline Mental Institution and works under Daniel Crawford aka, the Warden. Jocelyn has a purpose, and the Warden thinks so too. Only time will tell if their ideas align.  Hint. They don’t. Which made this really great to read. I gave it 4.5 stars.

So I’ve finished Catacomb and the final Asylum story is the story of the Warden. The Warden has to be one of my top 10 villains so the fact we get a whole novella dedicated to him??? Yeah my expectations were high here. They weren’t fully met because I was hoping for something from his perspective. Despite Sanctum, we still have never fully gotten into his mind. We get some answers of things that were left open in Catacomb which was nice, but also felt a bit like cheating to me. But this is story gets us to the heart of what the whole series was about which I really enjoyed.

Over all, what’s great about these is that you don’t have to read them. They give more details, they make things click more quickly, and they’re a whole lot of fun, especially if you’ve got some time to kill but not enough to dedicate to a whole book. If you’re a die hard fan of the Asylum series like I am, these are a must read. If you like the books but aren’t a die hard fan, feel free to check these out or not.

TL;DR:  For highest enjoyment read these after you read the corresponding book (Asylum –> The Scarlets, Sanctum –>The Bone Artists, Catacomb –> The Warden). If you read them before certain books then you’ll get spoilers or just become dreadfully confused. While the novellas don’t answer every question, they typically add more, they do help the reader connect the dots and I had quite a few eye opening moments because of them. There were some great ones and some bummers in this collection, but if you just like the books and aren’t fans of novellas in general, you aren’t missing too much. If you’re a die hard fan of the series like I am, these are must reads (except for The Bone Artists, you can skip that one).


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