Bane of Kings Reviews The Concrete Grove, a novel by Gary McMahon, published by Solaris Books.
“A fascinating mix of fantasy and horror.”~The Founding Fields
I’m going to start this review with a confession. I’ve never read anything in the horror genre before, apart from Blood Oath by Christopher Farnsworth if that counts, and that’s pretty much urban fantasy. I’ve hardly ever been scared after reading a novel, although maybe that’s because I haven’t actually touched this particular genre before.
And in a way, it’s kind of ironic that my first horror novel wasn’t actually a full-on horror, as whilst reading it, it felt like it was more like a horror novel with elements of urban fantasy added in.
McMahon manages to shine in the horror part of the novel though, so if you’re a fan of this particular genre (or indeed, this particular author), you should enjoy The Concrete Grove. Myself, I haven’t read anything by McMahon before but he is certainly an author who I would like to check out on a bit more.
For all of those who haven’t read the book, The Concrete Grove is an inner city housing estate in the North East of England, and indeed – a place where you wouldn’t want to live if you had a choice. However, Hailey and her mother Lana don’t have a choice, following her dead father’s debt issues. Another one of the main characters is Tom, who is dealing with his wife’s illness, and her inability to leave her bed.
The book, as to be expected from a horror novel, has a particularly dark tone. Although there is a whole area of unexplored potential of the world of the Concrete Grove in the 380-ish pages that McMahon has written, the sequels that are coming soon will hopefully give the reader a chance to understand more about McMahon’s latest creation.
Although the story revolves too much around the every day, ‘real life’ of our main stars, which kind of bogs the story down a bit, the pacing is otherwise well-thought out and entertaining. The novel itself is unsettling and pretty intense in certain places, including a few sexual scenes (nothing too explicit). The book itself wastes no time in ploughing right into the action though, and that’s not a bad thing at all.
The Concrete Grove is indeed, a pretty good book, that all said. The characters are realistic (and indeed, McMahon mentions that they were based around real life ones), and the backdrop for this novel puts the reader in a dark place before they’ve even read the book.
It’s a rundown council estate. Drugs low-lifes and small-time lawbreakers populate the Grove and the surrounding areas, making life hell for Lana and Hailey the moment they arrive. But, when the supernatural becomes involved, things could change.
And, even worse for our main stars, the loan shark Monty Bright’s in town, and has plans of his own for the residents of the Concrete Grove. It’s a place where you wouldn’t want to live, and I think I’ve already established that by now.
This was defiantly a thrilling horror read, and I would like to state the obvious here, if you enjoy horror novels with something different, then this book should be the book for you. It’s quite fast-paced as well, or at least I found it to be, having read through it all in a sitting.
Indeed, it was a refreshing break after reading a big, 500 page fantasy epic, The Dragon’s Path by Daniel Abraham, and a considerable change in both writing style and genre after a couple of days.
More Concrete Grove: The Concrete Grove, Silent Voices (Out April 2012)