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Horror stands on the shoulders of giants. Poe and Lovecraft have left a mark on the genre that will be felt for generations to come. The question remains, however, are modern audiences willing to return to the classics that shaped today’s fiction?

Stephen King has been famously influenced by H. P. Lovecraft, as can be seen in his nihilistic masterpiece The Mist. A lesser-known influence is the short story Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne, which inspired King’s The Man in the Black Suit.

It begs the question: is Young Goodman Brown worth visiting for modern readers? And what are the advantages and challenges of returning to classic fiction?

The advantages

Authentic language

Gothic horror is a popular sub-genre that stands out for its prose. While many emulate the style today, can it really claim to be authentic, especially when catering to modern readers? How long until any resemblance to gothic–or any other style of prose–is lost?

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Readers evolve and so should the fiction they read, but that only increases the value of the literature that paved the way. Young Goodman Brown was written in 1835 and is set in Salem, Massachusetts. It features “Shakespearean”, religious language that would have been spoken a hundred years or more before Hawthorne wrote it. If a language-rich experience intrigues you, Young Goodman Brown is worth a visit.

See What Inspired Your Favourite Authors

When a wine taster sips from a new class, he compares his experience with the other glasses that came before it. When a horror aficionado spots a reference to Lovecraft in any horror-related media, he bobs up and down and points enthusiastically. He remembers what this feels like.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of Young Goodman Brown.
Nathaniel Hawthorne

When retracing your favourite author’s steps by reading a classic, not only are you sharing the same experience, but you are comparing different flavours of the “same” thing. This is a great way to discover new stories, ideas and authors. You might learn a thing or two.


The challenges

Difficult Language

While a classic story might expand a reader’s vocabulary, for another reader the old fashioned language could make it inaccessible. The plot sounds great, according to Goodreads, but the weary reader had enough poring over dense, Victorian prose at school. But what one reader finds to be a slog another might find beautiful.

Young Goodman Brown certainly fits into that category. Its beautiful language could turn into a riddle for the impatient reader. Then again, maybe he could grow to appreciate it?

Sharing The Experience With Other Readers

Arguably, the best part of being a reader is sharing your experiences with friends? What part of the story maddened you so much that you stayed up all night? What part made you cry?

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Some classics are so obscure there will be few people you can share your experience with, especially outside of your reading circle. However, for some, that might be part of the attraction. While others are lording their vast knowledge of Lovecraft, ask them, “Have you heard of the ill-fated Young Goodman Brown?”


Why You Should Read Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Young Goodman Brown ventures into the forest to fulfil an unspecified errand, leaving Faith, his wife of three months, behind. What follows is an unsettling discovery in the forest that will test his religion, where the townsfolk have taken to sin. Worst of all, his wife has become part of the ceremony. Can Goodman Brown ever be sure of his sanity, or if the events even took place?

The story oozes allegory and is ripe for analysis, though the prose can make it a difficult read at times. 3 out of 5 stars (3 / 5)

Young Goodman Brown can be found in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story collection Mosses From an Old Manse and Other Stories.

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Book Reviews

Brutality, Motherhood, and Art: Nightbitch Review

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“In the distance, she heard her husband in the backyard call for her , but she was not that woman anymore, that mother and wife. She was Nightbitch, and she was fucking amazing. It seemed she had been waiting for this for a very, very long time.” -pg 89, Nightbitch by Rachel Yoder

Nightbitch is the debut novel of Rachel Yoder about a stay-at-home mother coming to terms with the loneliness and brutality of motherhood. The main character, only referred to as The Mother, begins to undergo a frightening change as she sinks deeper into a depressive state. She transforms into Nightbitch, an animalistic creature full of anger, bloodlust, and freedom. The Mother must utilize the help of a strange book and a group of multi-level marketing mommies to harness her newfound strength before she loses herself or her family.

The novel is a stunning commentary on the everyday violence of motherhood centered within the context of werewolf and mystical woman mythos. The Mother spends much of the book contemplating her future and the abandonment of her dreams. Specifically, she grapples with the loss of her ability to create art, her longtime passion. On a larger scale, Nightbitch examines how many women are asked to stop being individuals after having children and only become mothers–existing only in the presence of their child. The message is clear, poignant, dark, and at times, hilarious. The prose and structure of the book are abnormal, however, it works with the overall messaging and plot. 

As far as negatives go, Nightbitch was pretty ambiguous. This was by design, and created an aura of magical mysticism around many of the characters and events. The Mother is the definition of an unreliable narrator. However, towards the end of the book, I would have liked a little more clarity in what certain characters knew. 

Nightbitch is a must read for any parent. As a non-parent, I highly recommend it for those interested in feminist horror or more avant-garde approaches to horror narratives. Those who don’t like books with heavy introspection or ambiguous storytelling may enjoy something else, however I still think it is an interesting read nonetheless. 

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4.4 out of 5 stars (4.4 / 5)

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Book Reviews

Gothic, Ghosts, and Tlachiqueros: The Hacienda Review

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“Dread washed over me. Had she been sitting there, watching me sleep, the whole night? Her skin gleamed like candle wax in the light; then she grinned and whatever color her eyes had been before, now they turned red. In an instant, her skin transformed, dried and desiccated into leather, and her teeth grew long and needle sharp.” -pg 214, The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas

The Hacienda is a gothic horror novel by Isabel Cañas set in the wake of Mexico’s War for Independence. The debut novel by Cañas, it delivers a classic haunted house tale with a twist of Mexican high society. Recently made homeless by the execution of her father, Beatriz marries Don Solórzano to escape her cruel treatment by her relatives. However, once she joins him on his estate, she finds that the promise of a new life holds dark secrets and darker spirits. She enlists the help of a priest, Andrés, to uncover both. Together, they find the home has more dangers than they bargained for. And more threats both supernatural and far too material await every corner.

I adored The Hacienda from start to finish. Cañas’s prose was accessible but full of deep imagery. While told from the perspective of both Beatriz and Andrés, neither outweighed the other. The perspectives were interesting and the transition between the two was well executed throughout the novel. I usually don’t seek out romantic books, but I loved the romantic and sexual tension between the two main characters. Specifically since the romantic tension developed within both perspectives, the relationship’s “will-they-won’t-they” felt both plausible and full of stakes. And of course, The Hacienda was spooky! I loved the way the spirits manifested and the impact that had on the characters.

My only minor criticisms would be the resolution was fairly quick and mostly offscreen. Though maybe I’m just saying that because I wanted to keep reading, even after the book ended! I also found myself slightly annoyed at the characters for not picking up on some of the more obvious clues to what had happened in the house. 

A thoroughly enjoyable gothic (and dare I say, romantic) novel that kept me on the edge of my seat, I highly recommend The Hacienda. If you enjoy haunted house tales, you will enjoy this book. 

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4.8 out of 5 stars (4.8 / 5)


Preorder Isabel Cañas’s new book Vampires of El Norte now!

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Book Reviews

“The Family Game” Glimpses Into The 1%

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Are their traditions innocent or are they darker than they seem?

The Plot

Harry, short for Harriet, is a British writer gaining popularity after the publishing of her first novel. She meets Edward, a member of the widely known Holbeck family, and the two strike up a relationship. The Holbecks are high powered executives, running family businesses that bring in massive amounts of wealth. When Harry learns she is pregnant, the couple decide that it is finally time for her to meet the family.

During her first meeting with the family, Edward’s father, Robert gives Harry a vintage tape that he says holds a story that he’d like her to listen to. As Harry listens to the tape, she begins to believe that the Holbecks have done some very bad things.

As she continues visiting the family, their strange traditions are revealed to her. The games that they play traditionally involve darkness and fear. Can Harriet find out the truth about the mysterious Holbecks?

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The Verdict

Catherine Steadman outdoes herself in The Family Game. She creates such a mysterious family in the Holbecks and their dynamics are intriguing. Readers will follow Harry as she tries to determine the truth about Robert’s misdoings. The cast of family characters are a wonder to watch. We’ve all always wondered what the extremely rich live like. Harry shows us their virtues and misdeeds.

The novel really remarks on the power of wealth and the wealthy’s ability to commit audacious crimes and pay for them to go away. Robert, as the patriarch of the family, is a prime example of such. As Harry begins to discover that Robert may be confessing to a series of murders on the cassette tape, she must decide how to proceed. She knows that the power that Robert holds cannot be taken lightly.

As Harry navigates potentially deadly Christmas traditions, she races for the truth, unable to forget once she finds it. Harry is such a compelling character – a developing mother willing to risk life and limb to protect her unborn baby. Harry is brave and unapologetic and is a true testament on how to write a female main character.

It was very difficult for me to decide between 4 and 5 Cthulus, so we will call it 4.5. This is a novel I highly recommend thriller lovers check out. 4.5 out of 5 stars (4.5 / 5)

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