Publisher: Dark Chapter Press
Publication Date: 10th Nov 2015
A copy of The Other Boy was sent to Confessions of a Reviewer by the publishers, Dark Chapter Press in exchange for an honest review. This is said review. This is a book I would class as a novella.
Now, for whatever reason, I didn’t fancy this one. Don’t ask me why. I have no idea. I think it may be because I have never heard of either authors. I am generally a bit sceptical of collaborations, especially when it is authors I have never heard of. Very especially if it’s a husband and wife team. I have been there before. It didn’t work out so well.
However, I have faith in the chaps at Dark Chapter Press so decided to give it a go. How did it work out?
Alice and her husband Will have moved into a house in the country with their seven year old son Toby. Things haven’t been good for the family in recent times. Will has been naughty boy and had a fling. This is an attempt to make things better.
The area they have moved too seems to be steeped in pagan history and folklore. There are certain places that are “sacred” to the locals and they don’t seem to like new blood coming into the area. Apart from their neighbour Simon, a sort of Lord of the Manor.
Not long after they move there. Toby briefly disappears during a walk with his dad. No one can explain where he went or what exactly happened. When he comes back he is acting a bit strange. Almost as if he has been replaced by another.
And that my friends is all you are going to get about this little gem.
Now. I was hesitant about it. Should I have been? In terms of the collaboration thing and the husband and wife thing? Absolutely not. You will be convinced this was written by one person. It flows very well.
The main characters in this are obviously Alice, a slightly neurotic thirty something that seems to suffer from extreme paranoia about what exactly her husband, Will, is up to even though it appears he isn’t up to anything. Talking of Will, I felt really sorry for him. He has obviously been a bad boy and done something he shouldn’t have and is getting a second chance to put things right. Alice though seems hell bent on making it hell for him although again this is caused more by paranoia than anything else. Toby is just a typical little seven year old boy who wants to play with his trains and Lego and have fun. Until he comes back.
The Lord of the Manor, Simon, is a different kettle of fish. He lives in a large estate, he is an artist and seems to be very rich. He is a stereotypical rich playboy type that I found very hard to like. He comes good later in the story but I still couldn’t trust him. Slimy is the word I’m looking for.
The final main character is the “Other Boy”. Can’t tell you anything about him other than the fact he is horrible. If I told you it would just spoil it for you.
The plot? This is where it got fun for me. This is essentially an English ghost story. A story of possession and the fight to bring back the good and banish the evil. A true old fashioned horror story. It is set in the English countryside but in a small town steeped in pagan ways and rituals. Ways that have been hidden for decades but still simmer under the surface. The way it is written, you would think it was straight out of the “How to Write a Story for a Hammer Horror film” book. If you remember those films of the seventies and eighties this is right up your street.
Now I have a negative. I am assuming from the short introduction that this is a debut release from the Taylor’s. In some ways it shows. The writing at times can be a bit “unpolished”. I couldn’t help but feel that at times, Alice and Will just didn’t gel. I know in the story they don’t like each other very much but sometimes it just didn’t work. Alice in particular was a bit overboard for me at times. Also, Simon the neighbour on occasions just didn’t seem believable to me. He seemed a bit “plastic”.
However, and this is a big however, when this story gets into its stride it takes off like the proverbial rocket and turns into an extremely good story. It ended up being very atmospheric. I know it is set in modern times and deals with an ancient evil but it could almost have been set in Victorian times the way it was written. The story is a very effective take on the whole demonic possession theme and works very well indeed.
On the whole I really liked this book. Once the story took off and paranoid Alice disappeared it was really enjoyable. If Mr and Mrs Taylor keep coming up with ideas like this one, keeping the same sort of atmosphere, I can see them going far with this writing partnership. It had a James Herbert type feel to it. The ghost story writing James Herbert.
To summarise: a story about demonic possession set in the old pagan English countryside. A story of secrets that all come to the fore by accident. A story with a wonderful race to the finish that reveals a bitter battle between good and evil with a wicked twist at the end.
★★★★ a great read for a debut.
★★★.5 could have been scarier for me
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Desperate to save their crumbling marriage, Will and Alice Harding retreat to an isolated cottage in the English countryside.
A landscape of standing stones and holy wells provides perfect fodder for the fertile imagination of their seven-year-old son, Toby. Toby vanishes before his father's astonished eyes only to reappear, with an impossible explanation for his disappearance.
Soon, Alice notices that her son is different, changing into a monstrous stranger. Her fears are compounded when a hooded figure is seen skulking around their troubled new home. Over the days that follow, Alice fears for her own sanity, as local tales of dark magic and sacrifice appear to be true.
Will suspects that his wife is mentally collapsing as a result of his past infidelity. With their marriage stretched to breaking point, the Harding’s stand to lose more than just each other, as Toby deteriorates further with every passing hour, feeding the vengeful spirit of... The Other Boy.
Ian has been interested in traditional folk magic, landscape archaeology, earth mysteries and the paranormal for many years. He has had books published on these subjects and written numerous articles for a range of specialist journals.
More recently he formed a screenwriting partnership with his wife Rosi and they have several scripts awaiting the attention of funders. Supernatural horror novella The Other Boy marks their first joint publishing effort and they have more horror stories planned for the future. Their free time is spent prowling about in Britain's ancient haunted landscapes, which are their primary source of inspiration.
And for more about Ian and Rosi you can check their details on the Dark Chapter Press website.