A supernatural soap opera with compelling family dynamics at its center.
Smith’s thriller takes place in the sleepy hamlet of Harbor Lake, an all-American town that seems all too familiar, with its nosy neighbors, central meeting place and familiar faces. However, unbeknownst to its citizens, Harbor Lake is about to become ground zero for a supernatural war that will pit troubled family members against one another in ways that are both dark and disturbing. To establish the broken family dynamics, Smith’s freshman effort is heavy on early exposition, and readers will have to stick around for the first 100 pages or so to get past the complex family setup and into the action, since Smith sometimes belabors a point and reiterates character traits long after readers will have picked up on them. However, as the action picks up, Smith intelligently weaves together the seeds of deep familial drama with dark magic and a sinister evil to give the readers a complete picture of how each character is uniquely motivated to follow the individual darkness within him or her. Amid the rich background, Smith impressively shows how a broken stepfamily can bring an entire town to the brink of collapse. Though main characters Ben and Gerald are uniquely well-suited to fill their roles of darkly gifted hero and sinister villain, they possess authentic personality traits that enhance their characterizations outside of their otherwise otherworldly personas.
Even though it drags in places, Smith’s first novel successfully blends deep family drama with dark, supernatural elements.