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Thursday, February 15, 2024

Throwback Thursday - Horns by Joe Hill

note: This review was written over twelve years ago for another project I was working on. After rereading it and doing a bit of clean up before posting it here I have to say that I still really enjoyed it. Joe Hill has gone on to become one of my favorite authors and has certainly carved out his own path separate from his famous father. I should also get around to covering the movie adaptation as well since I also very much enjoyed it. Now onto the review.

This is the second book that I’ve read from Joe Hill and I have enjoyed the heck out of both of them. In this one we follow three main characters, Ig, Merrin, and Lee. Ig and Merrin are a couple and when the book opens up it is a year after Merrin’s body has been found. In that year everyone believes that Ig killed her. He wakes up on the one year anniversary of her death with a set of horns on his head. These horns make anyone that he talks to admit their deepest secrets, no matter how terrible. Quite by accident this leads Ig to the surprising truth about her death (just a hint he didn’t kill her…). So who killed Merrin? What will Ig do with this information? And just what the heck are up with the horns growing out of his head? All this unravels in a satisfying and enjoyable way.

And I do mean that. This is one of those books that had me hooked right away. Hill tells the story in a series of flashbacks wrapped around what is presently happening to Ig. Not only do we get some of the story from those telling Ig terrible secrets, but he also discovers that when he touches someone he can experience their memories. This is a neat narrative trick for Hill to use because it allows us to see the story unfold thru the eyes of several different characters. In the case of one of them it becomes quite obvious that while they are delusional, we the reader can see how they twisted things around in their head. I found that this made the characters all the more interesting.

Since I’m on the subject of the characters I have to say that Hill does a great job of making them feel real. They jump right off of the page and I as a reader felt invested in their fates. There were times when I was actually worried about what was going to happen to Ig. I’m not easily taken in by characters, even when I like a book, so I was obviously hooked. This was one of the reasons that I was glued to the book and unable to put it down. I cared and wanted to see what happened to them next. Even the supposed “bad guy” had a backstory where it was not forgivable but sad to see what life had done to put him or her in that situation. 

At first, I didn’t like the story jumping around from past to present back to past, but without giving anything away there is a good reason that this happens. There is a point where the action very cleverly wraps back around on itself as a couple points in time intersect. Between this, the identity of the killer, and a twist that I should have seen coming but didn’t had me smiling and satisfied when the last word was read. 

I don’t know what else I can say about Horns without spoiling what makes the books so much fun to read. Joe Hill is quickly becoming a must read author for me and I look forward to checking out his collection of short stories which I have on my eReader already. If you get the chance to check out either Horns or Heart Shaped Box, I encourage you to do so. He is a talent that we all will be hearing about for years to come so get in on the ground floor! 

© Copyright 2024 John Shatzer

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