Gothic horror! Now that’s a taste I haven’t pulled out of the pantry for some time. Today’s meal is Apple served up by chef R. A. Black, promising us tragedy, horror, and all manner of terrors. Will the taste rival the promise or will I be cutting up this apple to make a better apple pie?
Before we find out, let us put our hands on our hearts and recite the Starving Review creed:
- I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre
- I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible
Crisp, tart, and delightful, Apple delivers on its promise. As with my more positive reviews, this one will be short and sweet, much like the narrative itself. Short this meal is, but it still delivers a flavor-packed novel-sized feel. But why?
There are many reasons, but the core of Apple (pun not intended, but still funny) is its characters, especially its protagonist, the eponymous Apple herself. All the major players are fleshed out and feel real, with solid motivations while veiled in enough secrecy (outside of the first-person protagonist of course) to let the mystery necessary for horror to stay intact. Again, to give props to the flavorful protagonist, simply because it is a challenge to create a youthful character, have them act in an age-appropriate manner, while still keeping her a competent heroine.
As for the horror, Black delivers by flavoring her meal in layers, adding in dashes of despair, anxiety, hunger, want, desire, mystery, and a splash of good-old-fashioned bloodshed. By mixing all these elements of horror, both the very real and the supernatural, the chef never overdoes any one horrific flavor, avoiding the problem of desensitizing the reader from the ever-present aura of dread that pervades the plot once it winds up. Speaking of that, Apple takes its proper time to wind up the horror, blending in those varied spices over the first act before cranking it up hard. Pacing, pacing, pacing, it’s always about the pacing!
Which is excellent, much like everything else in this book. Alongside the build of dread, there’s a solid build of dramatic tension and the flavors build to a delightful intensity by the end. Every bite is delightful and every morsel feels like it fits the bigger meal, that it has a purpose. That is pacing done right.
There’s little else to say, so let’s sum this up. Apple is a delightful, perfectly baked slice of Gothic horror pie, a must-eat meal! Even if you don’t like Gothic horror, I think you should take the time to read this particular book, because I feel, as with the best representations of any genre, its quality transcends its genre. Bravo, Ms. Black, bravo!
FINAL VERDICT: ***** (A delightful, perfectly baked slice of Gothic horror pie, a must-eat meal!)