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.
**** Huge thank you to Tor for sending me this copy in exchange for an honest review!****
I was so excited when I first saw this novella, I mean the cover and the title are both so unique and creepy in the best way possible! Then I read the description, which promised some creepiness, magic, mystery, and even some paranormal vibes, and I was sold!
Since this is a novella and therefore very short, the pacing was fast and stuck with it throughout the story and I can always appreciate a well paced plot. The most interesting aspect of the plot for me was the spirit/demon protector of the town, there is a bit of world building provided and we do get some backstory/info on the spirit as well. This is sort of a mix between magical realism and urban fantasy, because the magic/paranormal aspects were there but they weren’t “thrown in our faces” either. It was more on the subtle side. But everything was just SO interesting, I could have read more and more about the world Margaret Killjoy created here!
Another big part of the plot revolves around the main character, Danielle Cain, as she tries to find answers about her friend’s sudden suicide by going to one of the last towns he was in: Freedom, Iowa. Danielle and the characters she meets in the town are all punks/anarchists (they use a lot of different terms throughout the book) and “squat” in the houses of the abandoned town. I thought this really provided a unique POV for the story as a whole and I really enjoyed it because I don’t know about you but I certainly haven’t read a lot of books featuring punks/anarchists/wanderers.
Another little thing that I personally really liked was the setting. Being from the Midwest myself I don’t see too many books that are set here and it was refreshing to see it and even read mentions of towns/cities I’ve been to.
Danielle Cain, is a pretty great heroine and I related to her a lot since she suffers from anxiety and panic attacks. I thought this was also represented well.
There’s some diversity as well featuring POC characters and LGTB characters, at one point in the story a character asks Danielle which pronouns she prefers which was also nice to see.
Overall I liked all of the characters, they were all well developed and had personality for such a short story and they were realistic and flawed too. Also they’re just pretty badass.
Romance, thank goodness, isn’t the focus in this novella but there is a bit of one that develops. It isn’t a full blown romance either though, just sort of a crush. So I’m looking forward to a slow burn romance developing!
What I Liked:
- Interesting plot
- Fast pacing
- Great world building
- Loved the Midwest setting
- Well developed characters
- Unique POV
- Diverse characters
- Good anxiety rep
What I Didn’t Like:
- I would have loved more world building but in a novella this was forgivable
Overall I really enjoyed this novella it offers not only a unique story but also a unique POV from the characters. I’m definitely excited to see where the rest of the series goes! I definitely recommend checking it out especially if you enjoy some creepiness and magic/paranormal vibes in your novellas!