I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: covers really do help sell books. In the case of Wytches, by Scott Snyder and Scott Jock, the cover features this dark, creepy image where the only splash of color is in the form of a thin dribble of red coming from a tree. The pale blue/gray, dark shadows, and cracks of white reminded me of a creepy old television show called Tales from the Darkside, a horror anthology series created by George A. Romero in the style and vein of The Twilight Zone. All of that came together in my brain when I saw the cover and I felt a chill.
It’s an arresting cover.
I like to be scared, but oddly, I don’t read horror. After a bad experience with a Stephen King novel around the age of 11 or 12, I just never felt much desire to read horror again. But I watch scary movies. Love them, actually. Especially when they have a story that twists in on itself, taking you along for a roller coaster ride, building tension as it goes and delivering a kick to the gut that always has me jumping out of my seat.
Wytches delivers just that kind of story.
Really, it’s several stories in one. Not multiple stand-alones like Tales from the Darkside did week to week, but a single, layered narrative focusing on one family at different points in time. They are the Rooks, and when we first meet them they have moved to a new town following a tragedy.
Charlie and Lucy Rook, and their daughter, Sailor, appear to be the typical American family. Charlie is a children’s book author, Lucy a nurse, Sailor a teenager in high school. Peel back the top layer, though, and Charlie is a recovering alcoholic, Lucy is paralyzed from the waist down due to a car accident, and Sailor, well, Sailor witnessed something horrific, something no one quite believes. Not even her mom and dad. That situation was the catalyst for their move, but it’s not the entire story.
I mentioned several subplots here, and we experience those stories slowly and relentlessly spun out page by page, panel by panel. In the present, we see the family struggling to regain what they lost. Maybe it’s innocence, maybe it’s something else. But they are struggling, and moving to a new town is supposed to help them heal and become whole again. Only the past isn’t quite done with them yet. We see that path unfold in flashbacks seamlessly interwoven with the present. Charlie’s addiction, Lucy’s accident, and the incident Sailor had to endure are all brought out into the light with huge impact for the characters, as well as the reader.
I’m purposely being vague. I don’t want to spoil anything from this book. The creep factor is high, the chills I got reading it very real, and believe it or not, I found myself leaning closer and closer to the pages as I turned them, scanning every panel, looking for every bit of detail because I didn’t want to miss out on anything.
The family dynamic is real and plausible and I think anyone can identify with it. Charlie is a dad who is desperately trying to redeem himself in his daughter’s eyes; she’s the most important thing to him. Even as the world starts to spin out of control beneath him, his love for his daughter and his need to prove himself to her are what continue to drive his actions.
Having mentioned Stephen King earlier, I have to say that this book reminded me of King’s style: family moves to a small town in New Hampshire, everything appears normal, and then, slowly, we learn it’s not, and something is just there in the corner of your eye…or was that just a shadow?
The interior art is utterly fantastic.
If you’re looking for a gripping, gritty, spooky tale of horror, Wytches is for you.
Patrick Hester is an author, blogger and 2013 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fanzine (Editor - SF Signal), and 2014 Hugo Award Winner for Best Fancast. He lives in Colorado, writes science fiction and fantasy, and can usually be found hanging out on his Twitter feed. His Functional Nerds and SF Signal weekly podcasts have both been nominated for Parsec awards, and the SF Signal podcast was nominated for a 2012, 2013, and 2014 Hugo Award. In addition to his Kirkus posts, he writes for atfmb.com, SF Signal and Functional Nerds.