The House of Silence by Avalon Brantley
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
RIP to the late Avalon Brantley, whose novel, The House of Silence was released in the same year she sadly passed away. It sounds like a platitude, but it's not: Brantley's passing was a true loss of some incredible young talent, and The House of Silence is proof-positive of her excellence as a writer.
Truth be told, for the first 100 or so pages, I found little to no evidence that this was a horror novel.
I should have been more careful . . .
Brantley will pull your heartstrings with sympathy and respect for the protagonist, she will make you love them for all their weaknesses and foibles: but she is only setting you up for a long, loooooong plunge into horror.
And what kind of horror? All kinds. Brantley here plays with tropes of gothic, folk, supernatural, cosmic horror, psycho-geographical, and post-apocalyptic horror, and even a dose of what feels like sword and sorcery. She has claimed that Poe was "Virgil to my Dante", and it shows in all the right ways. This is no pastiche, but an infusion of Poe. But even more so, this work rings with echoes of Gene Wolfe's best work, especially in terms of a non-linear plot, replete with long memory gaps, flash-backs that might be flash-forwards, and just an overall churning of time itself.
Furthermore, there is a great deal of vagary regarding who is and is not a friend or foe. The mistrust engendered here adds to the confusion, occasionally knocking the reader off their balance. This is true right up to the end, where friends become foes and foes become friends - ulterior motives are hidden until they explode on the scene, but in an organic way. Nothing here feels forced.
It's rare to read a novel that has so many disparate elements ("something for everyone to love/hate") and yet feels like a tightly-coiled whole, especially when said novel has a staccato structure and such whirling emotional highs and lows, all of it done in a highly poetic style that flows like a river.
A river of blood.
Those who know, know . . . You really should know!
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