Seamlessly blending classic horror and a dramatic narrative with sharp social commentary, The Only Good Indians follows four American Indian men after a disturbing event from their youth puts them in a desperate struggle for their lives. Tracked by an entity bent on revenge, these childhood friends are helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.
I’m not really sure what to think of this book, I enjoyed it well enough but it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting it to be and I also wasn’t completely smitten with it either. I very much think this is a case of “it’s me, not you” because I do think this is a great story and it will find the right readers but it just wasn’t really for me. So here I am, writing a review with a rating right down the middle because it’s good, just not my cup of tea.
This is an Own Voices book with Native American representation, which of course is very important and honestly the narrative about Native American culture is worth the read alone. I really enjoyed that aspect of the book but the horror aspect of the book is where it really let me down, personally. The book follows four men that are being hunted by an entity after a tragic event that happened in their youth. I was expecting something with Native American lore or mythology mixed with the supernatural and that wasn’t really it at all, of course, I don’t want to spoil anything but it’s something I found to be a lot more underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still pretty creepy, but not as horrific and terrifying as I thought/hoped. Maybe it’s just because there isn’t an explanation of the lore behind the entity hunting the main characters that I feel this way, because I love when lore is introduced and we get the story behind it. This, however, was just sort of there and I didn’t get that explanation I craved. I will say that I have a pretty healthy fear of elk now though…..
I think my main issue with the book was the writing style, I don’t think it’s for me. I can’t put my finger on it but it’s just something about the writing that doesn’t vibe with me. It’s strange and I felt really disconnected from the story when I read it. It made the story feel confusing at times, like I never could fully grasp what was happening. It also seemed really slowly paced and it failed to really ever pull me completely in. Which, again, is more a “me as the reader” thing. Because this felt so slow to me and I didn’t enjoy the writing style it felt like “nothing” was ever happening too. There isn’t a ton of action to start with but it just made everything seem kind of boring at times for me. I will say that towards the end of the story it does pick up quite a bit and it has a bit more action.
I also enjoyed the overall theme of revenge in the book, because who doesn’t like a good old fashioned revenge story? Especially when it feels justified. However, it does get a bit….morally grey. Which I also enjoyed. I really don’t want to spoil anything, though, so I’m not going to explain that further. I thought the ending was perfection too because when things get so dark and horrific it’s really nice to see a sort of happy ending. Speaking of dark and horrific, this story does get pretty gory and those where the horror elements I liked. It definitely did not let me down in that regard, played out like a classic slasher in my head when I did get to those scenes. However, it wasn’t the horror I was expecting which is why it still left me a little unsatisfied. There is also a lot of brutal animal death in the story and I’m not very comfortable reading that, I will include this in the trigger warnings but it’s still pretty rough.
We also do get quite a few different POVs from each of the four main characters and then some but I think my issue with this was HOW the story was told using each POV. You see, we don’t get all of them simultaneously but rather “in order” before each one…..ends. I felt like this wasn’t the better choice because you can catch on fairly early to what’s going on. We know what’s going to happen to each one at the end and I feel like if we got each POV at the same time it would have been way more tense. However, I completely understand why this method wouldn’t work with how the entity hunts the men but I just felt it helped the plot lose a bit of tension. Which wasn’t great for me.
The characters, though, are all fairly complex and I thought they were written well. The characters are really where this book shined because it’s a lot more character driven than plot driven. They’re morally gray and all have their demons, which is what made reading about them and from their perspectives interesting. However, I wanted to know a bit more about their pasts, it’s constantly being alluded to throughout the book but I never felt like I really knew them because of this. Therefore, when they all slowly get hunted down by the vengeful entity I didn’t feel too bad about it. Which, to be fair, is the reason a lot of us watch slasher movies. You want to watch everyone get hunted down by the villain. So, conflicting feelings on that but I think for me personally it has to do, again, with the writing.
What I Loved:
- #OwnVoices Native American Representation
- Slasher style horror scenes
- Complex characters
What I Didn’t Love:
- Writing style.
- Pacing felt really slow to me.
- Horror and entity weren’t really what I was expecting, not scary.
- No explanation on the entity in the story, no lore or mythology.
Overall I do recommend this book, it just wasn’t for me but I still think it will be worth a look for a lot of readers. I would say if you’re expecting something really spooky and scary, either go into it without that mindset or skip it because that really isn’t the focus of the book in my opinion.
Trigger Warnings: Animal Death (Very Gory), Child Death, Death, Gore, & Mention of Suicide.
**** Huge thank you to the publisher for providing me with a copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review ****