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Book Review: HORNS by Joe Hill

Books, 2015 Reading ChallengeKristina PinoComment

"Once, Ig lived the life of the blessed: born into privilege, he had security and wealth and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more - he had the love of Merrin Williams, a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

Then beautiful, vivacious Merrin was gone - raped and murdered, under inexplicable circumstances - and Ig was the only suspect. He was never tried for the crime, but in the court of public opinion, he was and always would be guilty.

But now Ig can hear people's deepest, darkest secrets and means to use this ability to find whoever killed Merrin.

It's time for a little revenge.

It's time the devil had his due."

As a reminder: I read this book as a part of the Book Riot 2015 Read Harder Challenge. This is my first challenge-related read of the year (making me 1/24), and it fulfilled the "book that someone else has recommended to you" task.

Horns is divided into several parts, jumping through time and perspectives, and the very first one was a bit of a shock - really not my usual reading fare. I didn't expect this book to get all up in my face with descriptions of all of the gross, awful things humans make up in their heads. The kind of stuff one never says out loud. But the main character, Ig, becomes this sort of devil character and everyone around him suddenly tells him about their ugliest secrets and fantasies, just ripe for the temptation to act on the impulses.

After getting used to it, tone-wise, I actually found it all brilliant. A lot of the people around Ig turn out to be really disgusting on the inside. Not all of them, as I'd originally thought based on the first part of the book - I was already scoffing incredulously at my pal's book (I borrowed it!) and grumbling about how I like to think people are generally good. And eventually you see that some people are good by default, but sometimes have awful (or perceived-to-be-awful by the individual) impulses like the desire to overeat or just run away from it all. Some characters aren't necessarily bad or gross on the inside, but want things they think are wrong although they're perfectly alright. And the main character realizes this too, which is where I think this story is brilliant.

Ig becomes a devil, as I mentioned earlier, but he brings a lot of depth to the character. He doesn't seek destruction or bedlam or immorality or whatever for the sake of it, though it could have easily gone that direction. He learns that some kinds of temptations or desires can be turned into productivity towards a greater good. Or at least, a much better future for the individual. Something that is, basically, not altogether bad, even though the impulses might have come from a place one perceived to be bad. It was a learning process for Ig, and a lovely development for me as the reader. Though he did pull a few bad moves throughout the book here and there, he learned something from each one, and applied all of his knowledge and cunning to the real meat of the story, which was getting back at his beloved's killer.

I was a little bit worried this book would end on a sour or sad note. In a way, it is pretty sad - I mean, the whole point is that a young lady was murdered. But the tone of the finale is hopeful, and I like stories with happy endings. The material is a little heavy, and eventually suspenseful, so if you're going to pick this up be prepared for a bit of an emotional roller coaster ride. Additionally, if you're the type who likes loads of references to myth or religion or legends in their material, this story is full of them. I also hear the film adaptation is a good one, so I'll be giving that a go whenever I can.