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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
3.7 out of 5 stars
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on 9 February 2016
Okay, I never write bad reviews normally, especially about authors whose work I have really loved... but this truly is a massive, frustrating disappointment. Adam Nevill's novel The Ritual is one of the most scary, disturbing horror novels of the decade, something really close to a modern classic. But since then the wheels have fallen off. His last book, No One Gets Out Alive, was a gigantically over-written, dull and repetitive bore in which pages and pages of endless description, all of it very good and atmospheric, existed only to distract the reader from the complete absence of any action. And this latest, House Of Small Shadows, is more of the same, in fact even worse, in that in amidst the spectacularly over-padded prose is the potential for something amazing, a kind of weird Wicker Man horror story. But the plot is so convoluted it is simply gibberish - it's like Nevill had ideas for ten different novels and decided to just stitch them all together into one giant mess which makes no sense even at the climax. The lead character, an antiques valuer drawn to a creepy old house to value a collection of weird stuffed animals, seems so dim it's quite flabbergasting. For 300 pages she is terrified in this house, and never, ever, ever just walks out the door. Barely anything actually happens, she just wanders around the house endlessly, bemoaning her situation, and, I repeat, NOTHING happens ! She asks herself a thousand questions, trying to work out what is happening, but the problem is that WE are also wondering what the hell is happening too... and nothing is ever explained, even in the end. It's just a huge, and hugely repetitive dead end. Which is such a shame, because as with The Ritual, Nevill is capable of amazing horror fiction, I've given this book two stars because he is truly brilliant at creating atmosphere and genuinely creepy imagery, but after his excellent first three books he now seems to have literally lost the plot; there's a great, Ben Wheatley-esque story lurking in here somewhere, but it's hopelessly lost in endless descriptions of creepy rooms, the character's non-stop repetitive onslaught of inner thoughts, and a story which makes absolutely no sense. Horror fans, read The Ritual, it's amazing, but everything after (so far), forget it.
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on 7 December 2015
Well, another example of Mr Nevill's unfortunate habit of fizzling out. Good atmospheric, creepy start, soggy middle, but really poor ending which was left unexplained and unsatisfactory. The chap can write, but I've found all of the books I've read of his so far have left me a tad flat. I'll persevere in the hope he gets there.
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on 11 June 2014
I bought this book having downloaded the sample from Kindle.

I was a bit disappointed. The book did seem to ramble a little and I found it hard to pin it down - maybe it left too much to the imagination for me - never quite sure where it was going - was it a supernatural tale or was it a mystery story which was going to be resolved at the end?

It does successfully evoke a very unnerving and unsettling atmosphere and it was in part the very unusual scenario it creates in the house with the animals that hooked me in. However the female protagonist became a little tiresome (I like to have some sympathy for the main character) and I did not feel her back story worked in as well as it could have done.

Very much a book that stands or falls by your own particular tastes in reading.
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on 25 February 2016
Nevill is constantly compared to Stephen King. Frankly if I was King I would take that as a real insult. Having already tried and failed to vaguely enjoy another book by Nevill, Apartment 16, I succumbed to the glowing endorsements of the writer to try again, to see if I could discover what the hype was all about. All I can say is that I failed.

Just like Apartment 16, House of Small Shadows has an extremely plodding pace with a basic, unoriginal concept, a ridiculously irritating and quite pathetic central character, and the sole claim to fame of being able to present page after page after page where precisely nothing of interest happens.

Believe the other negative reviews. If you want something scary, or entertaining, or in fact anything of interest, look elsewhere. I won't be reading anything else by Nevill that's for sure.
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on 23 August 2015
Very well written, i found the story gripping leaving me wanting to read on and on.
I look forward to discovering more of Adam Nevill's books.
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TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICEon 15 October 2013
I'm a real fan of Adam Nevill having read all of his novels and even gone to great lengths to search out his short stories. I'm used to his style of writing. Ready for the bizarre and wacky. Waiting for him to wander away from his original thread only to return pages later with something truly dark and scary. House of Small Shadows starts off as typical Nevill, completely off-the-wall, but once he hit his stride I was hooked, at least for the first half.

In this novel Nevill has gone back to traditional, typical, horror and added his own unique, nightmare, twists. An old house in the middle of nowhere shelters weird, demonic characters and offers to reveal a particularly evil history. Dolls, puppets and stuffed animals abound around the house and are used to great effect to create a sense of unease with their ever watchful glass eyes and the subtle suggestions that maybe that one moved?. Nice twist in the name of the house, 'The Red House', which throws up suggestions of madness, war, blood and murder and it's obvious that once a mentally frail woman, damaged by inexplicable events in her past, is called to the house it's not going to end well for anyone.

There are some nicely written macabre details set around the character of The Red House which seems to shift and alter with a life of it's own, while the old town at the end of the lane has it's own fair share of secrets and shadows. Most of the 'nasty' comes in the form of taxidermy, bizarre ritual and a real sense of building insanity. The puppet angle is well constructed and packed with themes almost too horrible to contemplate. I was fascinated by the history and tradition of the puppet troupe but amazed at how little was made of that towards the latter stages of the novel, which brings me neatly to my real criticism; House of Small Shadows is a novel of two distinct halves.

The first half of the novel sets up the mystery, sets the stage and introduces the main characters. It can be a little vague at times, does repeat itself but has enough eerie, supernatural angles I'm willing to forgive that. However; the second half of the novel is little more than a ramble. There are times when it's so far fetched and Nevill has to reach so far to join the threads the whole thing becomes unbelievable and almost impossible to stay with. What was a wonderfully original plot packed with 'nasty' dissolves into little more than a cliche and the repetitive themes of insanity and breakdown amble on far too long. I'm sorry Adam Nevill but this really isn't one of your best.

How can I give 4* to a novel I was disappointed by? Adam Nevill is usually one of the best writers of horror and the first half of House of Small Shadows promised to be one of the best horror novels I've read for a long time. That's why I've given 4*. His initial themes of insanity, missing children, huge displays of dead rodents and a troupe of macabre puppets were thoroughly unsettling and chilling. I'm just sorry to say that at half way the plot loses it's way and the predictable, rather confused ending doesn't save it.
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on 16 November 2014
I had high hopes for this book which from the blurb seemed deliciously dark. However I was disappointed, Britain's answer to Stephen King he definitely is not! The prose is clunky and plot entirely predicatable.
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on 8 June 2017
This book was very hard to read sand follow, the use of big wording used constantly throughout every sentence made for a very boring read and the storyline left alot to be desired i think the guardian stating britans answer to stephen king is an insult to mr king.
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on 29 December 2013
To be honest this is a really difficult book to review. There are both some truly wonderful and totally awful parts to it. Lets start with the good:the images that Nevill creates are fantastically disturbing and dark. The best parts are the descriptions of the contents of the twisted house which really leap out of the page and stay with you long after the boook is closed. Nevill is very successful at taking the old cliche of a haunted house and doing some new and intriguing things with it. I have read a lot of horror and I must admit I am fairly jaded but this book actually managed to scare me (Nevill's other books succeed in this as well). However the plot is a little meh. The actual story doesn't go anywhere,the main chracter is merely a victim who doesn't seem to possess her own agency and she makes some rather nonsensical decisons which lets down the story. In general I'd say that Nevill isn't very good at female characters which is a pity because his male characters are actually very good.

Read this book for the amazing (and terrible) images but don't hope for the plot to go anywhere. But even with its flaws it is still vastly superior to 90% of so-called "horror" published these days. Overall I think the concept of "the journey is better than the destination" applies quite well here.
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I found this a most chilling and disturbing book.

Catherine Howard is a professional valuer. Called in to examine the private collection of a noted taxidermist, she encounters a house seemingly preserved intact from the 19th century. Filled with mystery, it houses much that is grotesque. There are tableaux of Great War battles, featuring hundreds of preserved rats. There are chilling child puppets. There are the taxidermy tools, enough in themselves to put you off your lunch... lastly, there are the custodians, a pair of eccentric - and, yes, grotesque - humans.

Catherine has had a troubled life. Adopted, bullied at school, and scarred by the disappearance of her friend when she was 10, she suffers from mental heath problems and lost her promising London career when she hit a colleague (we never learn exactly why). Now she encounters things that awake dark childhood memories, and soon seems to be being drawn into a bizarre carnival, centred on the decaying village beneath the Red House.

Catherine is a sympathetic and believable character, whether as a cool professional dreaming about how this job will make her reputation, a vulnerable child taunted by cruel classmates, or an anxious young woman desperate to attract and keep her boyfriend after - something bad happened (which we learn a bit about - but not all). That said, there were times when I wanted to scream at her to to something - to turn and fight, or to get out. Her self-doubt, while believable, betrays her into a frustrating passivity in face of what threatens her. And Nevill creates a truly threatening, a repellent yet fascinating enclave of Middle England. It's a kind of "Wicker Man meets Bagpuss" experience where mouldering puppets, embalmed flesh and decayed locals are distressingly hard to tell apart. Something really nasty is stirring, but what? Catherine has been taught to reject her childhood fantasies and hang on to reality - but what do you do when the world turns inside out? How do you know what's real? How do you tell where the real threat comes from?

I have to admit that I nearly stopped reading the book twice. The first time was at the start. Although Catherine's first visit to the Red House immediately shows how grotesque it is, little then seems to happen for a long time. But hang on, when it does, it has real bite. The second time was towards the end, when the story seemed to be getting very unpleasant indeed. But I did keep reading and would encourage you to do the same - the book repays that. Yes, in the end, "House of Small Shadows" is threatening and repellent - but also compelling. While I had sort of guessed what was going on part way through, I had to read on to see what finally happened.

It is the kind of book that really does leave a stain. Nasty, but very, very readable.
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