Fantasy and horror blend in Winter’s debut novel about a man who discovers his family’s links to the supernatural.
The relative normality of Alex Whitfield’s existence is a feat in itself. Between his father’s suicide, his half sister’s disappearance, and his uncle’s arson conviction, it’s miraculous that the worst thing he can point to in his own life is a divorce that he’s basically gotten over. But on the anniversary of his dad’s death, he begins to see that there’s much more to the horrors plaguing his family than mental illness—and that he’s nowhere near free of them. When he sees a vision of his half sister, April, in his bathtub with her wrists cut, his mind strays from the rational, and he fears that he’ll be committed to an institution like his father was. His friend Martha advises him to seek out a reputed witch, who introduces him to the existence of a parallel world to our own. There, he may be able to solve the mystery of his family’s plight and save April’s soul, if not her life. But he’ll have to endure a journey across the country and beyond the bounds of reality in order to fight unimaginable enemies and dangers—not to mention something that could pose the biggest challenge of all: the truth. Overall, this novel has a lot to recommend it, especially its complex set of characters, including protagonists and antagonists who provide clear context to Alex’s life and to the more fantastic elements of the story. The prose is clear and crisp throughout but never rushed, giving the tension plenty of time to build. Winter also makes sure the emotional elements of the story—fear, grief, uncertainty—fully hit the reader. The character of Alex is the true core of the novel; his skepticism masks his deep-seated insecurities and fears, and his detachment eventually resolves into a compelling form of courage.
A clever, engaging view into dark places.