REVIEW: Mothtown by Caroline Hardaker

Caroline Hardaker’s Mothtown is haunting, atmospheric and wonderfully uncanny. It is a novel unlike any other, tiptoeing that fine line between obsession and the supernatural with great skill, leaving the reader feeling uneasy until the very end. This is her second literary horror novel with Angry Robot after 2021’s Composite Creatures, and Mothtown builds and grows on the strengths of her debut.

Cover of MothtownMothtown is a horror novel, but not one as you might imagine hearing the term. There is no blood or gore, there are no ghosts in the traditional sense. The story revolves around David, ten years old when his grandfather passes away. Despite his young age, he quickly realises that something didn’t quite add up and becomes consumed by figuring out what happened to his beloved grandfather. And he soon finds out that in this world, people go missing far more often than you’d think. As he grows up, he gets drawn deeper and deeper into his obsession – convinced his grandfather is still alive somewhere in a different world.

The story’s biggest strength is its writing. Outside of writing fiction, Hardaker is also a poet, and that shows in how she uses words. While the plot itself is relatively straightforward, Hardaker’s telling of it makes it exciting and evocative. Much of what makes the uncanny horror aspects work as well as it does is down to how it is written, using words to really effectively create an atmosphere and bring these characters to life. The story is illustrated by Chris Riddell, marking key moments with his unique pencil drawings. I will always fall for adult books with interior illustrations (such as Spear), and with Mothtown too, Chris Riddell’s style and choice of illustrations manage to complement and enhance the story in just the right way to add another dimension.

I am sure that Mothtown is a story that will stick with me for a long time to come and personally, I am looking forward to reading more Caroline Hardaker. There is much to enjoy for the Grimdark reader too, with complex characters driven by selfish motives – emotional hurt is just as (grim)dark as physical hurt, after all. Highly recommended.

Read Mothtown by Caroline Hardaker

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Fabienne Schwizer

Fabienne Schwizer

Fabienne can usually be found with her nose in a book or two. Most of her life revolves around words, be that reading, writing, or editing. You can find more of her ramblings over on www.libridraconis.com, where she also reviews YA books and more lighthearted Fantasy and Science Fiction, as @FLSchwizer on Twitter, and @libri_draconis on Instagram. If you're curious about what she is currently reading, check out www.goodreads.com/libridraconis.