Title: The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion
Author: Margaret Killjoy
Rating: 5 / 5 ✨✨✨✨✨
Danielle Cain is a queer punk rock traveller, jaded from a decade on the road. Searching for clues about her best friend’s mysterious and sudden suicide, she ventures to the squatter, utopian town of Freedom, Iowa. All is not well in Freedom, however: things went awry after the town’s residents summoned a protector spirit to serve as their judge and executioner.
Danielle shows up in time to witness the spirit—a blood-red, three-antlered deer—begin to turn on its summoners. Danielle and her new friends have to act fast if they’re going to save the town—or get out alive.
“Sometimes you have to pull a knife.”
Wow, what a fun ride this little novella was! How many times can I talk about how much I love queer horror in my reviews before I get put in a box? 😂 I am what I am, and I like what I like! These traits are shared by the main character in the story, Danielle Cain, which made her super likable immediately.
I loved Danielle’s edge, but also her softness. The way she cares for the people around her and truly wanted to help and be a part of Freedom, Iowa’s found family and built community was touching and brave, and made her perspective particularly compelling. The whole cast of characters was interesting, honestly – Killjoy fits quite a bit into this story without sacrificing what it takes to keep the reader completely invested, and it really worked for me.
The diversity and representation in the story really hit home for me, as did the focus on finding your own family rather than relying on the ones we’re born into. The community of Freedom is a complete utopia, reliant on the kindness and trust of its inhabitants to continue running smoothly. Well, I mean, that and the fact that there’s this huge, three-antlered deer god watching over the town. Did I forget to mention that?
I love stories about wishes gone awry or best intentions turned sour, so the idea that a god meant to protect instead turning on the people that summoned it was really fun for me. The author’s ability to fit an entertaining story along with important messages about politics, gender, sexuality, and equality without coming off as preachy is incredible, and I how uniquely inclusive this novella felt from some of the other things I’ve read with similar intentions, but less satisfying executions.
As the title suggests, the story deals a lot with the idea of power, and how it changes things not just for those who wield it, but those around them. There are strong messages about acceptance and community, but at its heart, it’s also still a horror novel about a giant deer spirit that literally rips the hearts from its prey, and has a zombie animal army as its disposal. It’s impressive, and I loved it! It’s apparently also got a sequel, so I can’t wait to grab a copy of that one soon!
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