Book Review: Winterset Hollow by Jonathan Edward Durham

Title: Winterset Hollow

Author: Jonathan Edward Durham

Publisher: Credo House Publishers

Genre: Fantasy Horror

Content/Trigger Warnings: Death, violence, torture, animal cruelty, blood, stabbings

Rating: ★★★★★

Book Links: Bookshop::TBD::B&N::Amazon::

Goodreads Synopsis

Everyone has wanted their favorite book to be real, if only for a moment. Everyone has wished to meet their favorite characters, if only for a day. But be careful in that wish, for even a history laid in ink can be repaid in flesh and blood, and reality is far deadlier than fiction . . . especially on Addington Isle. Winterset Hollow follows a group of friends to the place that inspired their favorite book-a timeless tale about a tribe of animals preparing for their yearly end-of-summer festival. But after a series of shocking discoveries, they find that much of what the world believes to be fiction is actually fact, and that the truth behind their beloved story is darker and more dangerous than they ever imagined. It’s Barley Day . . . and you’re invited to the hunt.

Winterset Hollow is as thrilling as it is terrifying and as smart as it is surprising. A uniquely original story filled with properly unexpected twists and turns, Winterset Hollow delivers complex, indelible characters and pulse- pounding action as it storms toward an unforgettable climax that will leave you reeling. How do you celebrate Barley Day? You run, friend. You run.

Jonathan Edward Durham was born near Philadelphia in one of many rust-belt communities where he read voraciously throughout his youth. After attending the College of William & Mary, where he received a degree in neuroscience, Jonathan waded into the professional world before deciding he was better suited for more artistic pursuits. He now lives in California where he writes to bring a unique voice to the space between the timeless wonder of his favorite childhood stories and the pop sensibilities of his adolescent literary indulgences.

Thank you to the author for providing me with a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review! All opinions contained within are my own.

Two of my favorite genres are fantasy and horror. I like magic and I liked to be spooked. So when you mash those two genres together, I am automatically interested. That is what happens in this haunting book that absolutely captured my imagination!

Winterset Hollows follows a young man named John Eamon Buckley who comes from a very peculiar background. After escaping his childhood home and bouncing from foster home to foster home, Eamon is now an adult trying to make his way through the world. He has two things that keeps him grounded and keep him going: his two best friends and his love for a classic children’s book written by E.B. Addington. One day, they travel to the island that inspired the book, and discover that Addington took inspiration from more than just the island. And the truth behind the tale is a lot darker than any of them could have imagined.

I always find it difficult to write reviews for five star books because all I want to do is incoherently gush. But I am going to make an effort to make this make sense because that is what this book deserves! Just know, with every word I write, internally I’m just yelling “PLEASE READ THIS NOW!”

Alright, first, we have to talk about the writing in this book. A good horror story has to have perfectly atmospheric writing and Jonathan Edward Durham does this beautifully! The writing evokes such a dark and melancholy vibe throughout the story that makes the experience that much more chilling. It’s shocking and vibrant and, some may say, a bit flowery. To me, though, that just adds to the otherworldly feel of this entire tale. I adored it and how evocative it could be. The plot was also captivating, with my intrigue building steadily as the book progressed. When I tell you I was on the edge of my seat by the end, I’m not kidding! There are also snippets of the fictional E.B. Addington’s version of Winterset Hollow peppered throughout that I loved. I’m a sucker for a good rhyme, what can I say?

Now, we get to the characters. The main character, Eamon, truly shines in this story. He’s nuanced and compelling in a way that makes him come to life on the page. Like he was someone you might bump into on the street or in a nearby bookstore. His motivations, his past, and his morality all combine to make an incredible character that I connected with instantly. But he wasn’t the only character that held a lot of depth. Most of the characters in this book were wonderfully fleshed out and interesting. There was no one that felt one dimensional which, with the amount of characters that are peppered throughout this story, is no small feat.

Overall, this was a hauntingly beautiful story about identity and revenge. It blends the fantastical with the horrific in an incredible way that had me tearing through the pages! I’m a little sad that I didn’t wait to read it until autumn because this would be the perfect spooky season read. All that said, I am definitely down to read whatever Jonathan Edward Durham writes next! And here’s hoping I did his wonderful book at least some justice 😅

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