|+| Trigger Warnings: mentions/descriptions of self abuse, and suicide |+|
“You’re the one that’s cursed, being born on Friday the Thirteenth and all.” ~Pat (Darkness Released)
Author: Candis Vargo
Genre: Horror, NA fiction, Psychological Thriller
Summary: For Hailey James, the ghosts of the past have never truly been laid to rest… After a troubled childhood and one last visit to her family’s abandoned home, everything in Hailey’s life seems to be going according to plan. The business she runs with her best friend, Pat, has hit big time success, and she isn’t even twenty-five. When night terrors come out to play, her future is in jeopardy… With the demolition of her childhood home, and her twenty-fifth birthday drawing near, Hailey’s nightmares become even worse. She is no longer able to do her job.
At Pat’s insistence, Hailey undergoes hypnosis. She doesn’t remember much of her childhood, but when she sees a man dressed all in red in her visions, Hailey knows he is the key to her understanding. Hailey can’t seem to escape her past and the ghostly women who haunt it. But she can break the cycle of suffering that has surrounded the women of her family, especially with the future of her little niece, Lilly, on the line. To move forward, sometimes we must go back… Hailey’s future remains uncertain if she can’t face her demons. She can only hope she will be able to defeat the evil which has pervaded her childhood and threatens her family. When the shadows of her past threaten to cloud her future, Hailey must find the strength to unlock the truth of her troubled childhood.
My Opinion: This book just didn’t click with me. The premise sounded promising and fresh yet I found the story to be filled with horror tropes that can be found in any b-grade horror movie. I also felt like some of the characters were there more as props than as actual characters that really contributed to the story. Luckily I was able to get behind the heroine and root for Hailey throughout the story. The scares were well done too. Sadly that wasn’t enough for me to be sold on the book and I wound up giving it 2.5 stars.
Darkness Released has an interesting idea at it’s core. Multiple entities are haunting a young woman who’s not sure where the entities come from or how to stop them, despite knowing they’re rooted in her past. That idea, if deeply explored would have been a fascinating and spooky read. I felt though that the author was trying to fit in every horror trope and in doing that lost sight of what made the book unique and special. The story would have been stronger for me if the author had picked one or two tropes to really explore and make their own.
I also felt like the tropes expanded into the characters as well. Pat was a gay Black man, and he fit the Hollywood version of what that’s supposed to look like. There were a couple of other scenes related to the gay community that I found rather tasteless due to how stereotypical they were. Because of how stereotypical it felt, the diversity didn’t seem like diversity at all. I feel like the author was trying to get in diversity, yet missed the mark.
The book was at it’s best when it was bringing out the scares. The scares were different than the usual ghosts and incredibly well done. Unfortunately, they were over too soon and quickly dampened by humor or a change of scenery. I never had time to have that all important sense of dread build. When our heroine finally discovers the source of the monsters, the fear of them was washed away for me. When the monsters showed up again, the fear was gone. Even when explained, I still want the monsters to scare or unsettle me on some level.
TL;DR: This book was a mixed bag for me. While the scares were genuinely interesting and enjoyable, they were dampened by the stereotypical characters and other tropes that reminded me of a b-grade horror movie. Although I wanted to enjoy this book, it didn’t live up to my expectations.