Happy Thursday everyone!
Last week, I was extremely hyped over the upcoming Pokemon Scarlet & Violet games in November, but in the last few days, I’ve been thinking more and more about Square Enix’s debut into the life/farm simulation world with Harvestella, also coming out in November. It’s going to be a hard hitting month on my wallet!
For this week’s review, I’m sharing my thoughts on Old Country by brothers, Matt & Harrison Query!
Book Title: Old Country
Author: Matt Query & Harrison Query
Length: 341 Pages
Published: 26 July 2022
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy > Paranormal, Fantasy > Supernatural, Horror, Thriller > Mystery Thriller, Adult
Disclaimer: Thank you to Grand Central Publishing for this gifted copy! All opinions are of my own.
Based on the Reddit sensation, a horror thriller of a young couple who buys the perfect, secluded house—only to discover the terror within.
It’s the house of their dreams. Former marine Harry and his wife, Sasha, have packed up their life and their golden retriever, Dash, and fled the corporate rat race to live off the land in rural Idaho. Their breathtaking new home sits on more than forty acres of meadow, aspen trees, and pine forest in the Teton Valley. Even if their friends and family think it’s a strange choice for an up-and-coming pair of urban professionals, Harry and Sasha couldn’t be happier about the future they’re building, all by their lonesome.
That is, until their nearest neighbors, Dan and Lucy Steiner, come bearing more than housewarming gifts. Dan and Lucy warn Harry and Sasha of a malevolent spirit that lives in the valley, one that with every season will haunt them in fresh, ever-more-diabolical ways. At first, it seems like an old wives’ tale. But when spring arrives, so does the first evil manifestation, challenging everything Harry and Sasha thought they knew about the world.
As each season passes, the spirit grows stronger, the land more sinister, and each encounter more dangerous. Will Harry and Sasha learn the true meaning of a forever home before it’s too late? Haunting and bone-chilling, Old Country is a spellbinding debut in the horror genre.
This book had its ups and downs, and most of the downs revolved around a particular character, but otherwise, it was actually a pretty good read and I enjoyed the general theme and atmosphere as well as intrigued over the different rituals that were needed to appease the spirits in each season. I generally space my books over the course of a single week (two weeks if they are longer fantasies), but I managed to eat through this book to finish it up early. There were moments when I noted that it was kind of slow, and almost felt like the [in-book] days was dragging on and felt repetitive, but it’s followed by moments and chapters that kept me flipping through the pages like a mad woman, eager to see what happens next; cliffhanger chapters that make you gasp and all.
That’s a lot of swear words. It’s amusing.
The second half of the book felt like it had a slightly different writing style than the first half. This was the case in not just the story, but the characters and tone as well. I’m always curious how the writing in books with multiple authors, are split up; whether one person did all the writing and the other added bits in, or they split up sections to each other. The first half was sprinkled with swear words in a way if you were to hand the toppings to a kid and told them they had free rein to the ice cream. Don’t get me wrong! I have nothing against swears, I just happen to take notice of repeating words (there were 71 fucks/’ers/’ing in the first 100 pages alone!). It was amusing, to say the least. The only other thing I noted was, despite there were two POVs (Harry and Sasha), the two seemed to meld into each other. There were times I’d flip back to check on which POV I was reading in.
I mention writing styles because towards the middle, the swearing suddenly dies down by quite a lot. The tone feels different, the characters feel slightly different, and I’m able to start recognizing which chapter is narrated by which person. Rather than having a hard time distinguishing the two from each other, Sasha’s side of the story really felt like Sasha and Harry’s his.
Regardless of how it’s written or split, it’s easy to read and I enjoyed the book thanks to other aspects. The descriptions are fantastic and it doesn’t matter if it’s visual and something the characters see or if it’s physical and something they felt, everything they experienced is right there for you to experience with them, and it’s not pretty.
Seasonal manifestations of a malevolent spirit older than you can imagine!
There are four main characters in this book. There’s Harry (Harold) and Sasha (the two protagonists) and their neighbors, Dan and Lucy, who is this adorable and caring older couple that immediately takes a liking to Harry and Sasha, making sure to provide them with tips and tricks on both this new country lifestyle they’re living (both Harry and Sasha were city folks, so this rural ranch life is new to them) and, most importantly, the rituals that Harry and Sasha must follow.
In this valley, there is a malevolent spirit that manifests itself in different ways across the seasons, with winter being the only time it seems to take a vacation and not bother most of the residents of the town. With each different manifestation, there were rituals that Harry and Sasha must follow in order to not face its wrath.
In spring, when a light appears in the pond, you must light a fire in your house. If you don’t, you will hear drums outside your house and at that point, you’d better prepare to hunker down and bear the “storm” that follows.
In the summer, a bear will chase a man wearing his birthday suit, both running out of the forest in an almost slow jog. The man will be screaming his head off (as one would expect of a guy being chased by a hungry bear) and you must put a barrier between you and the man, not the bear. There’s no extra special ritual to follow other than to make sure that the man doesn’t get a hold of you. But, to purposefully sit, watch, and not interfere with a man being torn apart is definitely hard to watch.
The autumn one (which I thought was the creepiest) involves waking up to a scarecrow standing somewhere on your property, and you must burn it before sundown of the same day. There will be short bursts where the scarecrow will come alive and beg for its life, but, like the screaming crying man, you must ignore its pleas.
“‘How the hell is it standing like that?…It looks like it’s gotta have a frame or something to hold it up.’
That was, indeed, perhaps the most abnormal characteristic of the scarecrow. Its weird, lumpy feet were barely touching the ground, yet it stood upright, healthy posture and all.'”
The manifestation and rituals themselves were probably the most exciting part of the book. Knowing that each season will be worse than the last, you start to wonder what will happen next. The first season is the easiest, the second was kind of scary, so by the time you’re mid-book, it’s already a gripping tale because what is the last hurrah before the spirit, apparently, takes a break until spring?
I hated Harry from the beginning to almost the end.
Where I had the most problem were the characters, or rather, the one character of Harry (Harold). He and his wife, Sasha, are the two prospective in this book, and I actually kind of liked Sasha. She felt a bit flat and almost boring, though this begins to improve towards the end when Harry is nearly emotional incapacitated due to consequences of his own actions, and she starts to take charge of the situation for him. However, from the start, she was immensely more careful regarding the spirit. Of course, the disbelief was still there, but at the back of her mind, the spirit always lingered. She would ask Harry to at least humor Dan and Lucy and maybe entertain the idea of “but what if it’s real?” She always played it somewhat safe and this made me like her so much more than Harry.
Harry though, was nothing more than this stereotypical angry frat boy jock from the movies that somehow is always alive and kicking. Maybe a bit bruised up and scared, but still very much breathing. He’s so angry, can be mean, gives no chances to people, has no patience to speak of, doesn’t trust anyone, so reckless, and there are even times when he’s pretty childish. Because of this, he ends up putting multiple people in danger, including Sasha, the one person that he goes on and on about protecting.
From the start, Dan and Lucy try to talk to them about these rituals and what needs to be done each season to ward off harm. I get it. I really do. Imagine moving from the big cities to this rural countryside and your only neighbors, who, at first appeared to be this sweet old couple, turns out to be loons telling you about some crazy spirit of the valley. Of course there would some doubts that will surface! But, before they can even finish their next sentences, Harry has already unceremoniously booted them from his land.
At least, until the first signs of the spirit (light in the pond) begins to manifest themselves and suddenly things are starting to feel very scary and very real. There are still doubts and even when the town sheriff drops by to warn him that they’d better follow the rituals, thus confirming the spirit’s presence. From there, Harry turns his anger from disbelief into bullying the spirit. There are times when he mocks and taunts the spirit, and he doesn’t do it just once, but twice! The first time he taunts the spirit, he immediately knows he messed up big time…he could feel it…and then he does it again.
He kind of grows towards the end and learns from his mistakes. It’s hard not to when the consequences slap you in the face like a truck on fire. The part where a character rips into him and tells him he’s gone and messed up hard with disastrous results to follow was the single most satisfying moment of the book. Dan and Lucy, as well as Sasha and Dash (their golden retriever) are honestly the only reason he’s alive when he should’ve been dead ten times over.
The mood was creepy and kind of somber; so many bad things have happened in this valley and land in the past that the residents almost seem to just accept their shitty haunted life as normal. When it comes to acres upon acres of ranch land in the middle of absolutely nowhere, and you have like…one pair of neighbors that stops by? It’s creepy and feels so isolated! There are more people towards the end (like…two extra) and there was one sheriff towards the beginning, but that’s about it. In that general area? It’s Dan, Lucy, Sasha, Harry, and their dog (and their farm animals). You get this vibe where, you know you need to take care of each other because were anything to happen, things get really lonely really fast.
The spirit manifestation changing between the seasons and the rituals you have to perform were scary and interesting to read. The descriptions of the spirits and its wrath is bone-chilling. There’s a bit of mystery too, Dan and Lucy having their own secrets to hide. This secret and the history of the property is unknown to Harry and Sasha, so throughout the book, you get to have your own wild guesses about it until eventually things are revealed.
I kind of wish there was more lore regarding the spirit, but overall, it was a good book. I enjoyed some of the characters and certainly enjoyed the atmosphere around the settling as well as the different manifestations across the seasons. It wasn’t as creepy as I thought it would be (I’m a huge chicken when it comes to horror) so even the scare level was perfect for me.