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The Croning

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  3,756 ratings  ·  552 reviews
Strange things exist on the periphery of our existence, haunting us from the darkness looming beyond our firelight. Black magic, weird cults, and worse things loom in the shadows. The Children of Old Leech have been with us from time immemorial. And they love us....

Donald Miller, geologist and academic, has walked along the edge of a chasm for most of his nearly 80 years,
Hardcover, 245 pages
Published May 2012 by Night Shade
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Average rating 3.74  · 
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I thought if I waited a few days, I would have the time to give this book the review it deserves, but I was wrong.

It deserves something though, so here it is: I think this book was outstanding. The prose, the imagery, even the vivid retelling of an old fairy tale-all converged to produce this "out of this world" novel.

It's literary, it's scary, it's darkly beautiful. You should read it.

That is all.
T.E. Grau
Apr 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Laird Barron made me gain five pounds.

No, he didn’t hold me down and shovel deep fried butter wedges into my gaping yapper (although, dare to dream). What he did was write a colossal piece of fiction that was nearly impossible to put down, even at the gym, where I do much of my reading every morning. As I hazily recall, just before cracking open Barron’s debut novel The Croning some weeks back, I marched my happy ass off to the local garishly lit LA Fitness, eager to absorb a few pages in betwee
Dan Schwent
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2017, 2017-books
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: Fans of Lovecraft
Recommended to Carmen by: Ɗắɳ 2.☊
"But I'll tell you something right now. I know Edgar and that wasn't Edgar. It's like something was wearing Edgar. Like a... like a suit. An Edgar suit."

Ah, obviously that wasn't from the book. It's MEN IN BLACK. But I thought it was rather appropriate.

So, I friend-read this with Dan 2.0. We are trying to read spooky books for October. Previously we had read Bone White together with Erin. Yay!

So... this book. Don Miller might be (view spoiler)
May 14, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
Okayyy. *deep breath* This could be a bumpy ride ...

A number of people whose opinions I greatly respect loved The Croning. They point to its impeccable prose, its incredible imagery, and the darkness that readily gets under the reader's skin. Which is to say, they summarise The Croning as true literary horror.

And I agree with them. Precisely 25% of the way.

The first 15% of Laird Barron's first full novel drew me in expertly. Starting with the "true" version of an old fairy tale, it then moved o
Jul 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary
WOW! Review to follow, after I can get my thoughts straight.....
In the meantime, READ THIS BOOK. :)


THE CRONING, by Laird Barron is quite possibly the most hauntingly, beautiful novel I have read all year. I would consider this work "literary-horror" at its absolute finest.

We begin Chapter One with a "different" version of the Rumpilstiltskin fairy tale that we learned as children.

The adult version, undiluted. ". . . There are frightful things, Groom. Time is a ring . . . We who crawl
Updated review after a re-read in March 2020.


“The deepest cavern in the world is the human heart.”

Don Miller is missing some memories. Now that he is about to celebrate his sixtieth wedding anniversary, people shrug it off as an early onset of senility, but these blanks started a long time ago, before old age could be considered a factor of memory loss. It doesn’t bother his beloved wife Michelle, but then, she is pretty unflappable: a world-famous anthropologist, she still travels the world t
Jul 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
". . . all serve the Great Dark, each in his or her own way; some with enthusiasm, some with reluctance; but completely and without mercy. Our cult is monolithic with tentacles in every human enterprise throughout history, into prehistory."

Well . . . okay, then.

Laird Barron knows what scares you: dark cellars, scratching sounds from under the bed, and nervous dogs growling at unseen things. This one made the hairs stand up on my forearms, even though I was reading it in the daytime. I'll be divi
Brett Talley
Feb 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Note: I received an ARC copy of The Croning.

It’s rare that I read a book and think to myself, I could never have written this. Call it hubris, pride if you will. It just doesn’t happen.

I could never have written Laird Barron’s The Croning, and I consider that the ultimate compliment.

I’m a naturally optimistic guy, and it shows in my writing. I like keeping hope alive, and so even when I write horror, it tends to have a hopeful tone. The Croning is not hopeful. It is not sunny. It’s dark man,
This is my first Laird Barron and it will not be my last. In fact, I'm very excited to grab anything else he's written for all kinds of reasons: beautiful prose, a creepy old-school horror mastery that straddles the lines between haunting images, idyllic life, and mind-destroying terror.

Indeed, I fell down the rabbit hole of this fantastic exploration of an *obviously* wrong interpretation of the Hollow Earth theory. I got caught up trying to piece together the many different time periods, the c
Jen - The Tolkien Gal
Jun 19, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2021, horror, lovecraft
The Croning, aka How I learned to Stop Worrying and Accept that My Wife was Worshiping An Eldritch Abomination

Benjamin Uminsky
As a caveat to this overly long review... full disclosure...I have an odd aversion to horror fiction in the long form. Hard to say why, but my preference in my weird fiction is for the short form, and to say that Laird Barron excels at this length is mildly understating it... the man is a modern master of the cosmic horror short story. Not to prattle on too much, but while I was of course very excited to hear about Barron's debut release of his first novel, my initial thoughts were: NOOOOOO!!! D ...more
Jon Recluse
Aug 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror
Like straw into gold, Barron spins words into a palpable darkness, weaving a tapestry of old gods and modern madness in this masterful work of literary horror. From it's horrific re-imagining of Rumpelstiltskin that out-grims the Brothers Grimm, the story unravels with the logic of a nightmare, as a forgotten evil reaches out from the dim past into the present day.
Barron brings an unspeakable allure to horror, creating a beautiful dark gem, it's facets beckoning us with the cold caress of fear
Initial Review Before I Was Able To Gather My Thoughts:

This is the best book I've read in years. I'm in awe of Laird Barron.

My friends who have this marked as to-read, move it up your list for lord's sake. I'll try to write a more comprehensive review at a later time but for now I'm just going to let it all sink in.

REAL Review:

I finished The Croning two days ago and I am still thinking about the epic scope and terror this novel is packing.

Cosmic horror never has really scared me. Lovecraft ne
Jason Parent
Mar 24, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My first read of Laird Barron, and I can guarantee I'll be lining up more. What seems to be a popular motif at the moment (until the bandwagon tips over), Barron gives his take on a classic fairly tale, modernizes it, and makes it oh-so-enjoyably full of dread.

I am convinced this story was inspired by the poet and apparent knight, Sir Mix-A-Lot, when he opined: "ooh, rumple smooth skin. You say you wanna get in my Benz?"

Yes, Rumplesmooth... ahem... Rumpelstiltskin provides little more than an a
Chris Berko
Sep 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
A very cool, very creepy book. More unsettling than scary with a lot of story crammed into the less than two hundred and fifty pages. I read The Light is the Darkness years ago and loved it so i don't know why it has taken me so long to get into something else of his. Look, I was confused as hell in the beginning and actually thought it was kind of boring until the veil was parted and the author gave me glimpses of what was "really" happening. As with most of the cosmically themed horror novels ...more
Heidi Ward
The Croning is a perfectly horrible book, and I mean that in high compliment.

It's rare that a horror story actually scares me these days (and more's the pity), but Barron's first novel is wrong in all the right ways, leaving behind a caul of unease, and a wicked dose of the cosmic heebie-jeebies. (I'm thrilled to admit that when I finished it last night, I left the lights on.) Also? Un-put-downable. The Croning sustains the poisonous adrenaline level of one of Barron's short stories over almost
David Brian
Oct 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Having finally sat down to write this review of The Croning by Laird Barron, I find myself still with something of a conundrum. Having spent a couple of weeks mulling over what rating to award this novel, I'm still currently struggling to reach a decision.

Here's the thing: The Croning is a very good book. A very, very good book...but still, it isn't without problems.
Don and Michelle (Mock) Miller are educated professional types now headed towards the twilight (no, thankfully not that twilight!)
Mar 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of horror and psychological suspense
Recommended to Katy by: NetGalley
Book Info: Genre: Horror Reading Level: Adult Read: started 5/17/12; re-started 5/20/12 and finished 5/21/12

Disclosure: I received a free eGalley (eBook ARC) from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Oops, forgot to rate this!

Synopsis: Strange things exist on the periphery of our existence, haunting us from the darkness looming beyond our firelight. Black magic, weird cults and worse things loom in the shadows. The Children of Old Leech have been with us from time immemorial. And they love
Aidan Fortner
Aug 06, 2012 rated it it was ok
First off, I hadn't read any of Barron's short fiction prior to picking up his debut novel. However, I read a rave review of "The Croning" in my favorite horror culture rag, Rue Morgue, and thought there was no way they could steer me wrong. What a naive, misguided fanboy view...

Barron's prose is dull. He relies on crude swearing and very tired cliches much too much to be interesting. His characters are rather one-dimensional and also seem cut from a cliched cloth. I'm sure he thought he was bei
Gary Cantara
Feb 20, 2013 rated it liked it
I absolutely loved the opening of this book. So imagine my disappointment when the main plot began to unfold and I found myself so utterly bored, the notion of finishing the book began to seem like a terrible burden. Really, I was that bored with it. I get this story's effect depends on the accumulation of small details. And maybe if I managed to get through the first half of the book, it would snap into shape and I would understand the five star reviews here. But it was just too slow and too du ...more
Mar 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: weird
The deepest cavern in the world is the human heart.

Laird Barron is my favorite contemporary weird fiction author. I love his short stories but let's face it, many times weird and or horror fiction does not fare very well in a longer format, it's just too difficult to maintain the feeling of dread/horror/unease over an extended period of time. Needless to say I was a bit worried about this book before I started and honestly, I did a decent amount of bitchin' as I read through the story........thi
Jordan West
I am literally counting the days until this comes out; Laird Barron is easily the greatest US writer of weird fiction since Ligotti and his first novel is a cause for celebration. I haven't been this excited about a book in a long time. ...more
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
5 stars--amazing book.

I've loved all of Laird Barron's short stories I've read, so I was eager to read this novel. And I wasn't disappointed. This is a non-linear book of connected stories, about a man whose memory is flawed and for whom time slips and skips around. For reasons he can't quite remember, he's terrified of the dark. This might be due to his family history--or it might be from his wife's involvement in an ancient, evil cult.

That's a simple explanation for a deep and fascinating stor
Dec 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: horror
I don't buy many books soon after they come out but Barron is one of those I do, being one of my favourite contemporary horror authors. I approached this with mixed feelings of excitement and trepidation, uneasy at how well Barron would adapt to writing a novel. I need not have worried.

Barron draws together, and more thoroughly elaborates on, themes he has touched upon in previous stories to deliver a more complete vision of overarching cosmic horror permeating every facet of our world and yet s
Benoit Lelièvre
Sep 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
In good Laird Barron fashion, this was a fascinating weaves of different genres ranging from fantasy to horror and noir, and different storylines that go back and forth with time. Not unlike for his short stories, you have to really invest yourself into these and trust the payoff is coming. Because THE CRONING is built like a labyrinth where space and time are malleable concepts. But the payoff is so freakin' there is you're into horror. This is like, the horror novel you've always wanted to rea ...more
Apr 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Laird Barron’s debut novel, published by Night Shade Books, opens with a fairy tale most readers will recognize: A miller’s daughter spins straw into gold with the help of a strange, misshapen man who demands equally strange payment. When the spinning is done the miller’s daughter marries the king, and must reward her magical benefactor with the gift of her firstborn son. The only escape from the contract is to guess the benefactor’s real name by the time he returns to collect the child.

Paul Nelson
Sep 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013-books-read
The story starts with an anecdote on the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale, telling the events that inspired the child friendly fable but this version lacks any semblance of a happy ending. In fact an altogether darker affair that develops into a tale that easily and scarily broaches modern day times and I was definitely hooked by the events of the first section.

The stories main protagonist is the geologist Donald Miller and present day he is retired, through different stages of his life the story focu
Laird Barron can flat out tell a hell of a story. His prose is intelligent, yet not overly complex, his characterization is deep and polished; his atmosphere is dark and brooding and he knows how to quietly ratchet up the tension chapter after chapter.

The Croning is a perfect example of why I enjoy his work so much. There is beauty in the madness of this story. And believe me there is plenty of madness, as Dan and Michelle try to uncover ancient secrets and fairy tales that may just be the end
Nov 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Geologists married to anthropologists, in-laws of the children of Old Leech
Laird Barron is one of the new generation of up-and-coming horror writers. He's found in almost every recent anthology of horror, and has won high praise, deservedly, for his collections such as The Beautiful Thing That Awaits Us All.

I think he really shines in short form. He writes with beautiful, grim, bloody prose, and has carved out a particular time and era as his main stomping grounds, while being able to range afield a bit. Just as King has made Maine's small towns and backwoods a spooky
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Laird Barron, an expat Alaskan, is the author of several books, including The Imago Sequence and Other Stories; Swift to Chase; and Blood Standard. Currently, Barron lives in the Rondout Valley of New York State and is at work on tales about the evil that men do.

Photo credit belongs to Ardi Alspach

Agent: Janet Reid of New Leaf Literary & Media

Articles featuring this book

For as long as people have been telling stories, we’ve spun tales of the monsters and nightmares that lurk in the shadows of our imaginations....
190 likes · 63 comments
“The cold impassive stars didn't bother him so much as the gaps between them did.” 23 likes
“The deepest cavern in the world is the human heart.” 7 likes
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