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314 (Widowsfield Trilogy) Kindle Edition
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Alma Harper’s brother disappeared on 14th March 1996. Alma believes it happened in Widowsfield, on the same day the town was mysteriously abandoned, but can only remember fragments. Her mother spent the rest of her life obsessed with the number 314. Her father denies they were there that day. Sixteen years later, Alma is a successful and well-loved music teacher. But when the reporters sent to cover the opening of a new music room turn out to also be investigating Widowsfield, Alma is drawn back into the horrors of her past.
The novel is told in two threads: one following the protagonists in 2012 and one showing brief moments in Widowsfield on 14th March 1996. Balancing Alma’s ongoing struggle for closure and snippets of evidence provided without a wider context, Wise provides the reader with enough extra knowledge to feel fear while still sharing Alma’s struggle to unravel the truth.
The scenes of 14th March 1996, for the most part, focus on gory supernatural horror, whereas the 2012 time line focuses on character with little overt threat. This counterpoint both makes the horror more horrific and avoids the building implausibility that repeated gore risks.
While the evidence does start to fit together in the later section of the book, Wise’s combination of a partially amnesiac protagonist and narrowly framed scenes from the incident might make the first part of the novel frustrating to readers who do not enjoy struggling to uncover each snippet of possibility.
Wise’s characterisation is similarly well-balanced. Drawn to her ex-boyfriend yet remembering how bad for her he could be and worried about her job, Alma’s current happiness rests on more than achieving closure on her past. As well as preventing her from being one-dimensional, this complexity undercuts the possibility of happy ever after, making her inner struggles more than the good-vs-evil of some horror.
The same conflicted motives and hidden qualities are revealed in the remaining cast. Although the flaws of both the reporters and Alma’s friends pale in comparison with the creatures behind Widowsfield, the readers opinion on whether they are villains or troubled heroes is likely to change several times.
While this novel is very clearly the first part of a series, it features a strong main arc which is resolved at the end. Combined with the constant sense of only seeing parts of a greater whole that Wise creates throughout, it is likely that readers who reach the ending will find it further cause to speculate rather than a mere hook for the next book.
Overall I enjoyed this book greatly, although more for the challenge of uncovering more of the truth than the overt gore. I recommend it to readers seeking a mix of visceral horror and mystery.
In a good way; that ebb and flow that at times turns into a torrent.
What some others have referred to as disjointed is one of the reasons why this book is so good, you can't help but be absorbed by the story, wondering what the heck is going to happen next. If these books (and if I'm honest, this is something I secretly would love) were to be adapted for Movie/TV, the attention to detail is such that there would be practically no need for a director. The scene is so well painted that rather than leaving nothing to the imagination, it almost has the opposite effect. I generally read on my commute on the train, roughly 45 minutes per leg of the journey and there has been times I've been that drawn in that I've barely had another thought cross my mind.
In terms of characters (and the same applies for the Deadlocked series in my opinion) feel like they belong. There doesn't seem to be that sense of convenience that you so often get in stories like this, like when you feel something's gotta give and then lo and behold, up pops somebody new to do exactly what's required. These books don't seem to bend the characters to fit the plot. Example being the driver of the van. It's as if the story was written backwards or retrospectively, i.e. their story is being told because of who they are rather than them being there to fit the story.
It is quite gory in parts and can be repetitive in those descriptions but again, that feeds into the sense of insanity as well as the fact that it reinforces the idea of many characters having the same experiences.
In all honesty, come the end I felt like you could easily draw a line and let that be the end of it, like a door slamming shut to be locked and never opened again, but then you realise there's still a flicker of light creeping out of the gap beneath it....
Currently halfway through book 2, I just had to see what that light was ;)
This is honestly the best horror book I have read so far. I am not easily scared, I’ve read and watched all kinds of horror and remained calm and collected. This book opened my eyes to uncertainty, to the uncomfortable feeling that someone might be lurking in the shadows..
The book flits from 1996 to 2012 from chapter to chapter and in doing this the author builds an extremely tense atmosphere whilst simultaneously telling the story of the main character, Alma. At first when the book swapped from some rather nasty happenings to a more neutral setting I was unsure, but A R Wise has a fantastic writing style and the skill to pull off this structure of story telling.
The Skeleton Man is quite possibly one of the scariest book characters I have come across, resembling a mixture of Jack Skellington (Nightmare Before Christmas) and The Slender Man he had taken up residence in my head the first time he was mentioned. Each appearance only adding to the horrific image I had built up.
There are three books in the 314 series and I am definitely going to read them all, I want to know more about this story, before I was even through with the first page I had become hooked on the curse of 314. By the time I was into the third section of the book I was checking in the mirror whilst brushing my teeth to ensure than nobody was behind me.. like.. The Skeleton Man.
I feel like inspirations behind this story may have included Silent Hill the creatures described and the way they make their appearances remind me of that. However there is also a fantastic imagination behind these stories and I cannot wait to delve further in to the mind of Mr A R Wise.
…..and he taught me how to hate”.
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Book 2 here I come !
Scary and full of suspense
Highly recommend this book if you are into horrors