Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Book Rant: Long Lankin

Beware of Long Lankin, that lives in the moss . . . 

When Cora and her little sister Mimi are sent to stay with their elderly aunt in the isolated village of Bryers Guerdon, they receive a less than warm welcome, and are desperate to go back to London. But Auntie Ida's life was devastated the last time two young girls were at Guerdon Hall, and now her nieces' arrival has reawoken an evil that has lain waiting for years.

A haunting voice in an empty room ... A strange, scarred man lurking in the graveyard ... A mysterious warning, scrawled on the walls of the abandoned church . . . Along with Roger and Peter, two young village boys, Cora must uncover the horrifying truth that has held Bryers Guerdon in its dark grip for centuries - before it is too late for Mimi.

So I never read horror novels. Like seriously, never. I never even read the Goosebumps series when I was little. You know how I felt about The Name of the Star. And I dunno if this has always been a thing and I've not noticed, but I wandered through the YA section of the bookstore the other day. It seemed there was a resurgence in YA horror/thriller. I saw this book, and it immediately caught my attention. God, just look at that cover. Isn't it something?* So of course, because I'm a masochist, I had to pick it up and read it.

I was hooked after the first chapter. I had to read it whether I was scared or no. And let me assure you, I was SCARED. After I started the book, I googled some Goodreads reviews, and confirmed my feeling about this book. It is legitimately terrifying. It is not only because I'm an absolute loser and cannot stand any kind of spookiness. This book has HIGH TERROR LEVELS.

I read The Name of the Star at night, and it was not a wise decision. I read Long Lankin in a bookstore in the bright afternoon hours, surrounded by people. Someone dropped a bag of coffee on the ground while I was reading, I shit you not, I jumped out of my chair. I'm so glad I did not read this alone in the dark. I mean, I was scared by Maureen's book, I think I would actually have a mental breakdown if I read Long Lankin at night. Friends, I was scared shitless by this book. I'm scared now writing this review. I don't even want to think how I'm going to be when I go to bed tonight. Probably going to bolt all of my windows shut and cry.

Don't want to ruin the mystery, but Lankin is the stuff of nightmares. When you get a glimpse of the monster, it's like, wow, okay. I think I never want to go anywhere alone ever again. He's grotesque. He's not any less fearsome in the light than he is in the shadows.

Okay, so now that we've established how FUCKING SCARY this book is, let's actually talk about other stuff. It is a great book. I could be whistling a different tune when the sun goes down, but I'm glad I stumbled upon this gem. The writing is lovely. It's clean and perfectly bleak and would be worth reading regardless of genre. The author is just pro at setting the stage for a horror. Story is in the 1950s, and you get this sense of stifling isolation. The descriptions are moody and atmospheric. I felt so drawn into the tale. I love that this is based off an old creepy nursery rhyme. I mean, things that scare me the most: pale, big-eyed children and morbid songs being sung in hallways while you're alone; Long Lankin capitalizes on them like a champ.

The story is told from three POVs: Cora, Roger, and Auntie Ida's. I like that the children actually sound and act like children. Think Coraline, except Coraline is whimsical on top of being vaguely creepy. There's no whimsy here. It's just crap-your-pants petrifying. Auntie Ida to me was the weaker voice, just because she got less screen time, but POVs aside, I found nothing wanting about the writing. Really didn't.

My criticisms are sparse. I wish more questions were answered. Like any good horror, the story unfolds slowly (I did feel like the plot meandered in the middle a bit; it's a 450-page book, and it could've been shortened, I thought) so it can taunt you with the unknown, but some stuff remains unknown even after the conclusion. I like neatly tied up loose ends. On the other hand, the story ends way too abruptly. Also, maybe because I'm used to how horror movies work, I secretly wanted some big twist at the end to scare me one last time. No such luck.

Finally, the resolution was too predictable. I guessed how it was going to happen a hundred pages before the end. Basically, before you have explanations, the story is full of awesome surprises, but once the cards are on the table, the plot moves in a very straightforward way to the end. Heart-pumping, fast-paced end, but in no way unexpected. That was rather disappointing when the book had so much other great stuff going for it.

In any case, I recommend. This is a big deal coming from someone who hates horror. I am not planning on picking up any more YA horror any time soon (giving my poor heart a break), but I certainly hope this genre sees a rebirth. I've been seeing a lot of ghost stories on shelves lately, but Lankin is not a ghost, and that sets the book apart.

*Look at the tree on the left. You can see part of his head and his hand. AHHHHHHHHHH, brb, weeping with terror.

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