Book Review | Malus Domestica by S.A. Hunt

Malus

This is a book that I bought over a month ago and had been meaning to read ASAP. Finally, I had a gap in my schedule and sat down with the paperback. I’ve never considered myself all that much of a fan of horror, probably because I assume that means there will be overdone violence/gore for the sake of shock value, stupid characters making stupid choices that leave them meat for a killer, or child death (I tend to avoid books/movies with that as there’s quite enough of that in the news.) While there are allusions to murdered children in this book, it’s off-camera and you don’t ‘get to know’ any of the victims per se prior to that, which while unsettling isn’t past my limit. There was only enough of it to underscore the type of creatures the witches are in this setting. Anyway, here is my Review:

athameSynopsis:

From the award-winning author of the Outlaw King series comes another harrowing adventure in the grand tradition of Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Charlaine Harris.
Robin Martine has come a long way.

She’s not your usual college-age girl. More often than not, Robin’s washing a load of gory clothes at the laundromat, or down at the lake throwing hatchets at pumpkins. She lives in an old van, collects swords, and dyes her mohawk blue.

Also, she kills witches for a living on YouTube.

You see, Robin’s life was turned upside down by those hideous banshees from Hell. She spent high-school in a psych ward, drugged out of her head for telling the cops her mother Annie was murdered with magic. Magic from a witch named Marilyn Cutty.

After a three-year warpath across America, she’s come home to end Cutty for good.
But she’ll have to battle hog-monsters, a city full of raving maniacs, and a killer henchman called the “Serpent” if she wants to end the coven’s reign over the town of Blackfield once and for all.

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My thoughts:

Malus Domestica by SA Hunt is a masterful tale of supernatural horror told with an ensemble cast. The mythology/setting that he’s created is fantastic, deep, and creepy as all hell. This author has a gift for description that paints vivid (often disturbingly so) images in the mind. One caveat―if you are a cat lover, this book is going to be quite disturbing. Some parts were hard to read.

The description on the jacket makes it sound like Robin is the “main” character, but in the beginning of the book she feels more like an equal part of a large cast. At about the 70% mark, she takes a more prominent role as the story brings the multiple characters together as all of them are affected in one way or another by an ancient and powerful coven of witches who dwell in Blackfield, GA.

Robin is a witch hunter. The Blackfield coven killed her mother prior to the events of the story when Robin was still a child, an event that has left deep emotional wounds. After years in a psychiatric facility (child Robin made the mistake of telling the authorities witches did it), an enigmatic occultist finds and trains her to do one thing: kill witches. Problem is, killing things that are already dead is often a tricky (and painful) task.

Increasing hallucinations of a strange creature, dreams of her mother, and an inexorable pull to return draw Robin back to her childhood home. It is time for her to face her demons once and for all.

This book has a lot of characters, but unlike what can often happen with such a large cast, I never felt as though I got lost as to who is who. Each character is portrayed vividly, from the minor characters (like the child that decides to hide in the wrong car) to the primary characters like Robin, Wayne, Joel, and Kenway – and of course the witches. You know you are reading the work of a gifted author when you have been shown how awful and evil the primary antagonist can be – yet in a quiet moment where they are talking to Robin, you start to wonder if the old woman has a point… maybe it is Robin who’s misguided. Maybe they could bury the hatchet… and you almost want them to. THAT is a great story.

I don’t, as a general rule, read a lot of novels classified as ‘horror,’ but I decided to jump on this one based on his previous Outlaw King books. I’m glad I did. This is a long book – and I still got so caught up in it that I finished it one day. Hollywood needs to stop with the remakes and start reading some of SA Hunt’s books.

This book will make you change your mind on self-published authors. The formatting and editing were near perfect. If I had been unfamiliar with SA Hunt’s prior work, and someone told me this was from a major publisher, I wouldn’t have doubted. Malus Domestica is a near-flawless foray into a frightening world of dark thaumaturgy, mystery, and evil that will haunt you for quite some time.

If I had to say something critical, it would be that some of the scenes (where new characters are brought in) may feel extraneous at first… You’ve been reading about one character and then the action jumps to someone new that doesn’t seem related to anything going on―but it all winds up tying together and making perfect sense by the end. (That… and I felt bad for the cats.)

 

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