Author: Hunter Shea
Page Count: 279 pages
Rating: 3.5 / 5 ✨✨✨✨✨
Five years after Ashley King survived the infamous Resort Massacre, she’s found hanging in her basement by her fiancé, Todd Matthews. She left behind clues as to what really happened that night, clues that may reveal the identity of the killer the press has called The Wraith.
With the help of his friends, Todd goes back to the crumbling Hayden Resort, a death-tinged ruin in the Catskills Mountains. What they find is a haunted history that’s been lying in wait for a fresh set of victims. The Wraith is back, and he’s nothing what they expected.
I absolutely love the slasher horror genre. I grew up watching movies about teenagers dying to maniacs wielding machetes and chainsaws and knife gloves, and I ate that shit up. Before even knowing what a “slasher” movie was, I was in love with them. There’s just something so entertaining about seeing a group of flawed characters get offed one by one, especially when every decision they make or thing they do makes you scream, “NO! NOT THAT WAY!” at the screen.
When I started discovering books in the horror genre that followed the same familiar tropes I loved, I was ecstatic! Being able to appreciate one of my favorite subgenres in a new way is a great feeling, and I’ve loved the wild ride that horror fiction takes me on.
With SLASH by Hunter Shea, we start off by flipping the script and coming into the story after the main massacre has occurred, rather than before. The sole survivor, or final girl, as they’re usually known in the horror world, is struggling with survivor’s guilt, and a number of post-traumatic stress issues caused by the massacre she lived through.
We don’t normally get to see this side to the final girls in our stories – typically, we see them struggle and prevail, leaving their side at the end when they’ve made it to safety. The idea that “safety” isn’t actually so safe – especially emotionally and mentally – for someone in this situation isn’t hard to understand, and I loved this twist. I wish we could have spent more time with Ashley, but alas, her boyfriend Todd is actually the main character of the story this time!
I didn’t find Todd particularly compelling as a character, which was a bit off-putting to me, since he experiences his own bit of tragedy and grief through the story. Honestly, I didn’t really connect with any of the characters on any sort of deep – or even superficial – level, which was a little disappointing for me. Normally in books like this, I can find at least one person to relate to or to root for – and I suppose I did, maybe, in Ashley. Once you realize the role she plays in a majority of the book though, you may see why that’s not a super great thing.
I really enjoyed the build up, and the urban exploration aspect of the story. I’ve gone into buildings I shouldn’t have with friends as a teenager due to our curiosity, and the thought that something super terrifying could have happened there like the stuff in this book really stayed with me throughout! Hunter Shea is amazing at describing locations, and really making you feel like you’re there, and can see the things the character is seeing. When he described the main villain’s appearance, I really saw it, and felt the terror that I imagined the characters were feeling.
Speaking of the big bad from this story, I really liked him. The Wraith was a totally unique character for me, although he shared similarities to a few killers I already knew and loved – big, scary, unstoppable forces of nature? Yeah, I’ve seen those, and the Wraith was just as formidable and scary as his predecessors to the genre.
But the twist, or backstory, to this one came out of nowhere to me! For full disclosure’s sake, I’ll say that the reveal/solution to the mystery seemed to come out of nowhere for everyone – the characters make these big mental leaps that they seem to pull out of thin air and then accept and act on as if it’s fact, without having any actual proof to back it up. And then pivotal information that was searched for / led up to for awhile culminated in the watching of a single video that seemed unlikely to have even been made, given the situation leading up to it. It’s hard to full explain this without spoiling anything, but this bothered me more than any other aspect of the book, and is the reason for detracting a whole star in my rating – I know Hunter Shea’s got really amazing writing chops, so having this part feel underdeveloped and almost “too easy” was a little disappointing, I’ll admit.
That said, I did love the Wraith character, and thought the actual story behind him was really original and interesting to have revealed as we went. I loved the gore and kill count I expected from a book in this subgenre was on par with expectations, and that I had a lot of fun reading it. Flame Tree keeps putting out stellar releases, and I’ll definitely be picking up future books from them and Hunter Shea in the future.
PS – this book is out today! Happy publishing day, Slash!
Like my blog? Support me on Patreon for as little as $2 per month, and gain access to Patron-exclusive freebies, polls, blog previews, and more!