I Call Upon Thee

June 15, 2018 at 6:00 pm (Reads) (, , )

theeI Call Upon Thee by Ania Ahlborn

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I stumbled across Ahlborn last year, and was pleasantly surprised with her command of atmosphere, and her ability to tell a creepy tale. I Call Upon Thee is her latest novella, and I’m pleased to say that nothing has changed in that respect. This is a dark, creepy tale of dysfunctional families, sibling bonds and rivalries, and possession.

When Maggie left home three years ago, it was partly to escape her family, and partly to escape something she brought home from the cemetery when she was twelve years old. When tragedy strikes the family, she’s forced to return home, convincing herself on the way that what she remembers from the cemetery could only be in her head. When her headaches inexplicably return and she starts seeing shadows moving along the hallway, she realizes that she’s come home just in time, to face off with whatever it was she left behind when she left home.

Like Ahlborn’s other books, the story here isn’t particularly original, but the way Ahlborn tells it is. She captures the characters, and the dysfunction that exists between them, so well that it’s hard to care that you’ve read a variation of this story before. Stephen King may have said “It is the tale, not he who tells it”, but I disagree. Ahlborn’s tales shine because she’s the one telling them. Another writer could tell this same story and not have it sing like this one does.

The story is told partly in the current time, partly through flashbacks, which works well with this kind of story, since Ahlborn teases the details of the story out through the reminiscing. We know something terrible happened to Maggie, but not what until we encounter that part of her childhood. I was distracted, though, by the font change that occurred when the story went into flashback. It was clear from the story when the shift took place, so the font change was unnecessary. It seems like an odd choice, either by the author or the publisher.

It’s funny, though, that this book is considered a novella. It’s twice as long as The Pretty Ones, the novella that turned me on to Ahlborn, and a few pages longer than the other two books of hers I’ve read. I’ve grumbled before about the weird distinction of novella versus novel, and how it’s an ambiguous demarcation that seems to be up to the publishers to define, and I’ll keep doing it until I get a proper answer.

Modern horror has become synonymous with surreal, bizarre, and nihilist, so it’s nice that Ahlborn is writing more classic horror, with strong characterization and a straightforward plot. Horror readers who haven’t discovered her are missing out, and her novellas are a great place to start. Short, sharp, and effective, they’ll prepare you for her novels, which pack quite a punch.

Started: May 2, 2018
Finished: May 3, 2018

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