Near the Bone, by Christina Henry is about a married couple, Mattie and William. They live on an isolated snowy mountain that has suddenly been threatened by a mysterious and dangerous creature. But the monster isn’t the only thing on the mountain to be afraid of.
This book has isolation, a monster, survival, and the scariest thing of all….snow. I’m from Florida, snow is terrifying. Combine all that with the evilest husband to ever evil and you’ve got a cold and creepy book I couldn’t put down.
TW: Domestic Abuse, Rape, Gore, Death (for further description of trigger warnings, please refer here to Story Graph’s content warnings)
What I liked (no spoilers)
This was an easy read and my brain enjoyed it
By easy read, I don’t mean the subject manner as this story covers a really messed up and abusive relationship. But the writing itself isn’t complicated and the prose is still nicely done. You get the sense of dread and the gut-wrenching gore without it being too over the top.
Compared to my last read, ‘Nothing But Blackened Teeth’ by Cassandra Khaw, I closed this book satisfied and mostly question-free. No weird or thought-provoking purple prose here. And sometimes, that’s all you want out of a story.
The monster does the story well
I love a good monster story, especially one that gives you glimpses of the creature without giving too much away. Some people don’t care for this but I enjoy filling in the blanks of my own. It puts you in the same position as the characters, who aren’t sure what they are dealing with. Plus, the actions committed by the monster were creepier than if we just got descriptions of its appearance.
A little gore is good gore
There are some horror stories that need lots of guts and gore, it’s part of their charm but this wasn’t it. This book has it but it deals it out sparingly and it matched well with the story. Having rare moments of gruesomeness gave those passages in the book more punch in their delivery. The yuck factor was tasteful and well done.
Neutral Observations (no spoilers)
You get one POV, no more, no less
Usually, I’m not a big fan of having only one POV. No matter how likable a character is, you can eventually get sick of them after a few hundred pages.
Mattie though is pretty sympathetic and you feel like a jerk if you start disliking her. As the protagonist, she does her job well. You can relate to her, feel really bad for her and cheer her on all while she’s pulling you through knee-high snow.
There’s some odd formatting that might be distracting
Mattie has got a lot of inner monologues, which are sometimes italicized, sometimes bold and sometimes, not. The whole story is told from her POV though, so you know exactly who’s thinking. There are whole pages completely italicized, which may or may not be annoying, but they are few and far between. It’s occasionally done to represent different time periods, so there is a reasoning behind it, just not sure it was necessary.
The Pacing has to get through the snow too, at least once
The pacing of this book is medium with one slow section in the middle but for a 300+ page book, it isn’t too bad. I wouldn’t classify it as a slow burn but it’s not a sprinter either. The story follows the standard horror points of highs and lows that pretty much even themselves out in the end.
Final thoughts (no spoilers)
“Near the Bone’ has been my favorite horror read this month so far and I wish I didn’t plow through it so quickly. The concept is intriguing and chilling and you can’t help but feel for the main character. It’s not overly complicated, has a creepy atmosphere and some horrifying moments that might make your skin crawl.
I definitely recommend it if you like horror or suspense and if the trigger warnings don’t bother you.
What I didn’t like
I only had one glaring problem with this book and for those who have read it, hear me out.
William as the antagonist is only there to be evil and that was boring
This was my biggest problem with the book and even though it didn’t ruin it for me, it could have. William is so over-the-top evil I half expect him to start twirling his mustache (I don’t think he actually had one). Villains need to be interesting just like the protagonist and William was basic and boring.
I’m not saying the author should have made a spouse abuser sympathetic but more dimensional would have been nice. Mattie even says at one point that after twelve years of living with him, she knew nothing about him, not even his likes or dislikes. Yeah, as the reader you know nothing about him except William=bad.
I never met Hitler but I heard he liked dogs. Does knowing that make him likable or redeemable? No, of course not but he was a real person and real people are faceted. Characters, the good and the bad need to be multidimensional for them to be believable.
Honestly, I was more inclined to believe in the possibility of the monster existing and not the way William was portrayed. There had to be something more to him. It gave Mattie no internal conflict about him other than fear of getting physically hurt. Unfortunately, abuse situations are more complicated than that and if you’re going to write a book about it, don’t shy away from the grey areas.
I enjoyed this book and found it interesting and entertaining, as far as a horror book goes. It kept me turning the pages and what more could I ask for?
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