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Malus Domestica #1

Burn the Dark

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Supernatural meets Stranger Things in award-winning author S. A. Hunt’s Burn the Dark, first in the Malus Domestica horror action-adventure series about a punk YouTuber on a mission to bring down witches, one vid at a time.

Robin is a YouTube celebrity gone-viral with her intensely-realistic witch hunter series. But even her millions of followers don't know the truth: her series isn’t fiction.

Her ultimate goal is to seek revenge against the coven of witches who wronged her mother long ago. Returning home to the rural town of Blackfield, Robin meets friends new and old on her quest for justice. But then, a mysterious threat known as the Red Lord interferes with her plans….

384 pages, Paperback

First published July 20, 2015

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About the author

S.A. Hunt

23 books283 followers
Samara Abigail Hunt is the Georgia-born author of the Amazon Top 10 Horror Malus Domestica series, and the Outlaw King fantasy series, winner of Reddit.com's /r/Fantasy "Independent Novel of the Year" 2014 Stabby Award. She is also a "Mentor of Poetry, Prose, & Performance" with the National Creative Society.

​In 2005 she joined the Army and after an ill-advised stint in the military police (ACAB), she went back to school to be a transportation coordinator in order to deploy to Afghanistan.

Stationed in Camp Arena, Herat, Samara was promoted to Specialist and placed in a Lieutenant position in a joint Italian-Spanish command room, where she coordinated and recorded hundreds of convoys and outreach missions into far-flung parts of RC West, the western quadrant of the Afghanistan theater. She was awarded a Joint Services Achievement Medal for her efforts.

She currently lives in Petoskey, Michigan.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 240 reviews
Profile Image for Chelsea Humphrey.
1,439 reviews78.1k followers
November 21, 2019
3-3.5 stars

This was a fun and crazy ride! On the whole I enjoyed this, although it did feel like the pacing halted a bit towards the middle, but picked up spectacularly from 70% on. If you enjoy a nice blend of high fantasy and dark urban supernatural (I.E. Buffy-esque storyline), give this one a try!

*Many thanks to the publisher for providing my review copy via NetGalley!
Profile Image for Schizanthus Nerd.
1,151 reviews241 followers
December 21, 2019
“The Red Lord will find you.”
Robin has a mohawk, a cherished fifteen year old stuffed mosquito called Mr. Nosy and a popular YouTube channel called ‘MalusDomestica’. Her subscribers think what they’re watching is fake, but it’s anything but. [If you’re wondering, ‘malus domestica’ is Latin for “the common apple tree”. You’ll learn the significance of this name during the book.]

Robin travels around the country in her van hunting witches. Robin’s father was convicted of killing her mother but Robin knows the witches were responsible. Now, after spending time in a psychiatric facility and subsequently honing her witch slaying skills, she’s returned home to Blackfield to face off with the local coven.
“You witches killed my mama!”
Witches. Demons. Ancient sigils. The quest for immortality. Cats that aren’t just cats. Murder. A pizza guy. A “big blond Viking dude”. Sound effects - “grum-grum-grum-grum”.

Before I began reading I saw several comparisons made between this book and Buffy, so I expected to witness a lot more slaying. Witches are dispatched of in flashbacks but I don’t recall any scenes where a witch meets their maker taking place in the present. I expect the sequel to well and truly make up for this.

A fair amount of time is spent on characters’ backstories and explanations of the supernatural aspects of the story. While it is well written I did spend a lot of the first half of the book anxious for some present day action scenes.

There were plenty of pop culture references in this book, from Batman to Indiana Jones and The Simpsons. Had I realised there would be so many of these references I would have made a list and asked other readers to let me know which ones I’d missed.

I liked most of the characters but the one that I was most interested in, Heinrich Hammer, Robin’s mentor, didn’t . I’m looking forward to seeing them in action in the sequel.

Content warnings include .

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Tor Books for the opportunity to read this book. I’m rounding up from 3.5 stars.
Profile Image for Erika .
415 reviews129 followers
October 27, 2015
3.5 stars

I thoroughly enjoyed Malus Domestica, from the kick ass heroine that didn't need a guy to save her to the fact that there was multiple black folks in it. It was a lot of fun to read. I took away some stars because the book got a little too convoluted and unbelievable towards the middle, and yes I say unbelievable even for a fantasy/horror novel. To me any book with supernatural or fantasy elements still has to have some base in facts or, if the facts are made up, they need to be explained in a way that makes sense. This book felt a little "throw everything into it and see how it works" towards the last half and it suffered for it a bit. However, I felt that the author made a spectacular recovery from that at about 70% and ended everything with a bang.

There was a lot of great action with added sound effects throughout Malus Domestica, which sounds silly but was done in such a way that it really helped to set the tone of the book. Even though there were a lot of characters and multiple viewpoints, they were all (mostly) well fleshed out and present throughout the book. The only time I felt the lack of one character was . Other than that part, I think the author handled his ensemble cast very well.

I would have wished that some of the black folks didn't speak so stereotypically, but I'm always going to think that about any books with black people, since the only accent some of the people in my family might have would be a Caribbean Hispanic accent or a New York accent and not a "stereotypical Black person dialect". I will say that none of the black people acted stereotypically and they weren't poor and downtrodden, which I thought was excellent. Yay for actual diversity in fantasy fiction!

All in all, this was a really good book that could either be a standalone or the start of a series. I'd never read this author before but I definitely need to check out some of his other fare.
Profile Image for Mel (Epic Reading).
904 reviews274 followers
April 30, 2021
This reads more like a preview of book 1 or maybe even a prequel. Generally we get a lot of set-up for the overall world (ours plus magical elements). S.A. Hunt establishes the history, characters, present day situation, and what is likely to be plot moving forward in the series. Sadly Burn the Dark lacks a depth and ends up feeling too generic for me; like many common stories pasted together into one.

Urban Fantasy with Humour
I will confess I much prefer a whole new world different from our own in fantasy novels. The urban fantasy where magic or creatures are added to our existing present on Earth is less appealing to me. I blame Laurell K. Hamilton and Charlaine Harris for over saturating me decades ago with their series Anita Blake and True Blood respectively.
The difference here is that Hunt knows she's writing a bit of a comical story and so plays it up! I really appreciated the cute pop culture references and lines like:
"Cram your light up your ass, Zulu, I won’t your Keymaster."
Note: if you are too young to know this reference please immediately rent the original Ghostbusters from the 80's, forgive the special effects (it was the 80's after all) and sit back to have some fun.
Because Hunt took the approach to not take her world too seriously overall this worked much better than it might have otherwise. Urban worlds always feel a bit ridiculous and so the humour fit right in for me.

Haphazardly Put Together
My biggest complaint about Burn the Dark is that there are three storylines with different characters happening and I couldn't find even a glimmer of reason why I was being told them or how they would come together. Of course they do, because otherwise why tell these perspectives; but I really wish a bit more foreshadowing had happened so I at least felt like I was reading the same book when the point of view changed. This took me out of the story quickly when each character's time came as the point of view was so drastically different. This is an issue I've had before with books my Michael Crichton (as an example) where it all feels a bit too abstract for too long. I don't need the convergence of stories to happen sooner; but some subtle hints about how they may (or may not) connect would be appreciated.

Self Help Book?
I must admit at times I felt like I was ready a caddy self help book. There are a lot of comments and references to being badass, to fighting back, and to overall self confidence. As I'm not big on overstating self-help style adages I found this a bit tiresome and annoying. Although I did really appreciate this one for it's humour and more pop culture references:
"Adapt and overcome. When life gives you a problem, you gotta adapt and be stronger, you know? Be the Hulk. Be better. Be bigger. Be badder."

The Roller Coast Ending
The last 30 pages (or so) are a horror filled ride of ups and downs; and easily my favourite part. Things get gruesome, horrifically creative, and fast paced! If the last few pages are an indication of future plot style in the next few books then sign me up. I'd love to have that crazy plot and speed of story right alongside the humour to create a silly; but intelligent and a bit scary series. That would be the kind of urban fantasy I would love to get on board with.

Given I know what to expect now I might read book 2. This first book felt more like a teaser, prequel, or pitch to get you invested in the series; drop a bit of excitement in the end to hook you in for book 2. A little more plot and character development would have been nice but that can always come in the next book or two. As I also have book 2 & 3 on my eARC TBR I will be getting to them sooner rather than later. This is likely to be a good series for when you need a brain break and just want to be along for a fun, if silly, and probably bloody ride.

"Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review."
Profile Image for Joshua.
4 reviews
July 27, 2015
If you like good books and you aren't reading S.A. Hunt, you're fucking doing it all wrong. Forget the authors that line the aisles of the brick and mortar giants. Read S.A. HUNT. This guy is one of my favorites and this book will not disappoint you. If it does...get back to your Koontz and Patterson. Go back to the kid's table...I'll be over her eating this fucking turkey and green bean casserole like a damned adult!
Profile Image for Matthew Cox.
Author 180 books259 followers
September 8, 2015
Malus Domestica by SA Hunt is a masterful tale of supernatural horror told with an ensemble cast. The mythology/setting that he’s created is fantastic, deep, and creepy as all hell. This author has a gift for description that paints vivid (often disturbingly so) images in the mind. One caveat―if you are a cat lover, this book is going to be quite disturbing. Some parts were hard to read.

The description on the jacket makes it sound like Robin is the "main" character, but in the beginning of the book she feels more like an equal part of a large cast. At about the 70% mark, she takes a more prominent role as the story brings the multiple characters together as all of them are affected in one way or another by an ancient and powerful coven of witches who dwell in Blackfield, GA.

Robin is a witch hunter. The Blackfield coven killed her mother prior to the events of the story when Robin was still a child, an event that has left deep emotional wounds. After years in a psychiatric facility (child Robin made the mistake of telling the authorities witches did it), an enigmatic occultist finds and trains her to do one thing: kill witches. Problem is, killing things that are already dead is often a tricky (and painful) task.

Increasing hallucinations of a strange creature, dreams of her mother, and an inexorable pull to return draw Robin back to her childhood home. It is time for her to face her demons once and for all.

This book has a lot of characters, but unlike what can often happen with such a large cast, I never felt as though I got lost as to who is who. Each character is portrayed vividly, from the minor characters (like the child that decides to hide in the wrong car) to the primary characters like Robin, Wayne, Joel, and Kenway - and of course the witches. You know you are reading the work of a gifted author when you have been shown how awful and evil the primary antagonist can be - yet in a quiet moment where they are talking to Robin, you start to wonder if the old woman has a point... maybe it is Robin who's misguided. Maybe they could bury the hatchet... and you almost want them to. THAT is a great story.

I don't, as a general rule, read a lot of novels classified as 'horror,' but I decided to jump on this one based on his previous Outlaw King books. I'm glad I did. This is a long book - and I still got so caught up in it that I finished it one day. Hollywood needs to stop with the remakes and start reading some of SA Hunt's books.

This book will make you change your mind on self-published authors. The formatting and editing were near perfect. If I had been unfamiliar with SA Hunt's prior work, and someone told me this was from a major publisher, I wouldn't have doubted. Malus Domestica is a near-flawless foray into a frightening world of dark thaumaturgy, mystery, and evil that will haunt you for quite some time.

If I had to say something critical, it would be that some of the scenes (where new characters are brought in) may feel extraneous at first... You've been reading about one character and then the action jumps to someone new that doesn't seem related to anything going on―but it all winds up tying together and making perfect sense by the end. (That… and I felt bad for the cats.)
Profile Image for Lollita .
206 reviews74 followers
April 16, 2020
I received a copy of this book through giveaways. Well it wasn't terrible but it wasn't for me. I couldn't get into the story or the writing, I also didnt really like or connect with any character. Ended up skimming the last half of the book.
Profile Image for Mike.
387 reviews94 followers
September 30, 2015
I've got a lot to say about this one, so for those who don't want to read this whole thing, I'll sum up: this book is really good. Go read it.

Now, more details. First thing I want to say is that, thanks to me winning a little contest on Reddit, there's a character named after me in Malus Domestica. And that character gets brutally murdered, which is AWESOME. My mother didn't seem to appreciate it all that much (philistine), but I love it.

As for the book itself, I'll start with the setting. I grew up in a small, moderately depressed, rural town with a small university. It was in Appalachia rather than the deep South, but still, Blackfield felt really, really familiar to me. Hunt really beautifully captured the feel of that kind of town. I was picturing actual streets and neighborhoods from back home while reading this, and they fit in perfectly. So kudos for the setting.

The protagonist took a little while to grow on me, though I cared about the side characters right away (Wayne especially). I didn't have huge blocks of time to sit and read for hours with this book, which made it really difficult to deal with every time that a character was in danger. I was really worrying about them.

For Robin, like I said, I was cool at first. Not entirely sure why, but it wasn't until she faced some danger that I really warmed up to her. I think it was a matter of her being closed off. She needed some time to open up to those around her, and that was the point when she opened up to the reader as well. The more I think about it, the more I think it actually worked very well.

The plot and story were very intriguing. There were a number of events that caught me totally off guard, and in the places where I could see there was Something Mysterious going on, Hunt managed to hit the balance perfectly between doling out hints and clues and letting it drag on. That's a tricky needle to thread.

So what didn't I enjoy? Well, there's a matter of taste here. Malus Domestica is a horror/fantasy book, and normally I don't read much horror. Hunt did a good job reminding me why. For the back half of the book, I made certain to not read while eating. All that isn't criticism, it's just not what I enjoy reading. Horror fans, I'm certain, will eat it up. Cat lovers might have some issues.

My only real critique is a minor one. The infodumps stuck out: the action stopped while we got explanations of history and what all is going on. But the infodumps were few and far between, and didn't affect my enjoyment of the book.

Bottom line: I really liked this book. I really cared about the characters, which is the most important thing for me. I want to read sequels. And best of all, Mike De Palatis ends up dangling upside down from the ceiling, bleeding out into a white plastic bucket. (Don't worry, no spoilers. I'm really a minor character who's clearly just a doomed Redshirt.)
Profile Image for Mogsy (MMOGC).
2,030 reviews2,604 followers
February 9, 2020
3 of 5 stars at The BiblioSanctum https://bibliosanctum.com/2020/02/03/...

Meet Robin Martine, a social media personality and self-styled witch hunter who achieved internet fame with her wildly popular YouTube channel, Malus Domestica. Traveling around the country, Robin leads her followers to believe that her videos are nothing more than a cleverly acted, special effects laden mockumentary-style series depicting her witch hunting adventures—a fiction she’s more than happy to go along with, because the truth is much more terrifying. For you see, witches are very real, and they have caused Robin no small amount of pain and grief. When she was a young girl, a coven of them killed her mother, destroying her family and upending her whole life. Robin has been on a mission for vengeance ever since, trying to track down the witches responsible.

Now, upon receiving an ominous message about the Red Lord, a malevolent demon that has been dogging her every step, Robin finds that her journey has led her back to her hometown of Blackfield, Georgia. Her childhood home, the site of so many bad memories, has long been fixed up and was sold only recently to a father and his son who are experiencing some very strange phenomena in their new house. Something evil has awakened within its walls, and Robin soon discovers that the circumstances surrounding the events which have brought her back to where everything started are much more complicated that she realized.

Anyway, I have some very mixed feelings about this one. It took me a while to get a feel for this novel, because I had such hard time connecting to its characters and story. I only discovered after finishing Burn the Dark that it was originally self-published, but I’m assuming some reworking and polishing had been done for its second release once it was picked up by Tor Books. In light of this, I feel even more terrible for saying this, but perhaps a little more time at the editing chair could have helped, especially for the first half of the book. In short, the reason I had such difficulty getting into it had a lot to do with the narrative’s overall disjointedness, including how time would skip haphazardly from present to the past, or the way perspectives would shift so frequently that you could barely even tell Robin was supposed to be our main protagonist.

The good news is, after the halfway mark, the experience improves as the story finds its legs and picks back up. If the book still has your attention at this point, I think you’d be pleased you stuck with it, but there are still a few obstacles to overcome. Namely, the characters themselves are pretty bland—not merely based off of well-known archetypes, but the author actually goes quite overboard with the clichés. Robin is practically a caricature of the broken, angsty heroine—which isn’t really a negative by itself, but it does become a problem when readers aren’t getting the full picture of her backstory for the first half of the book, so she just comes off as angry and entitled.

Then there was the writing. Not bad, but certain passages did leap out at me as being overwritten and unnecessarily embellished. To be fair though, I noticed this while listening to the audio version, and perhaps the prose would read smoother in print form.

At the end of the day, had the plot been tightened up and the characters written with slightly more originality, Burn the Dark could have been amazing. That said, while there’s still a lot holding the book back, I think S.A. Hunt is on to something good here, and we’ve at least established a good foundation for future volumes to build upon. Certainly, the last quarter of the novel provided what much of the first half was lacking—excitement, conflict, and most important of all, a clear direction. In a way, this section truly saved the book; it’s a promise that more is coming, and even though the hook came a little too late in this one, perhaps the sequel will be better because we’ll be able to jump right into the action.

Audiobook Comments: This isn’t the first audiobook I’ve listened to with Saskia Maarleveld as narrator, but for the first time it’s really hit me just how unbelievably talented she is. Faults of the book aside, I loved her performance, the way she handled accents and made the best out of some of the hammy dialogue and purplish prose. I don’t think I would have enjoyed this book as much had I read it in print form, and it’s all thanks to the fantastic narration.
Profile Image for Ashe Armstrong.
Author 8 books41 followers
June 17, 2021
2021 EDIT: This review is for the original, self-published version of the book. I'm leaving it up and also correcting Samara's pronouns.

Whoo boy, where to start. I was looking forward to reading this one for a long while. Ms. Hunt would post snippets for all of us to gobble up and it just made it worse. And now, here I am, after glow, typing this up for anyone who might want a little more thoughts on why they should read the book. This was one helluva ride. I'm already a fan of Sam's. I've read Outlaw King 1 and 2 and loved them. If you loved those books, the excellence continues here.

There's a pretty big cast of characters in this one but things move along in such a way that everyone gets a nice little intro and everyone gets their part of the story told. Robin is, of course, our central character, witch-hunter extraordinaire and all around rad lady. Beyond that, the characters range out, connected to Robin in some way. Everyone has a personality. Everyone has a feel. Everyone has agency.

So what about the story, eh? Great story. Fun story. Lore-filled story. Gross story. I will admit that sometimes, things can get a little info-dumpy in spots but it serves the story well and I enjoyed learning about the witches and the magic. Everyone has a stand-out moment and it's good and you root for them when it happens.

Any comparison Sam gets towards Stephen King is well earned. You can see King's influence clearly but it's not pastiche. Sam has her own feel and own personality in the words. So if you're on the fence about reading this, get it a shot. It's fun, intense, gory and gooey. Just watch out for the trypophobia scene if that sort of thing trips you up. That was the only scene I skimmed.
Profile Image for FanFiAddict.
548 reviews134 followers
January 22, 2020
Rating: 7.0/10

Thanks to the publisher and author for an advance reading copy of Burn the Dark (Malus Domestica #1) in exchange for an honest review. Receiving this eARC did not influence my thoughts or opinions on the novel.

I remember purchasing Burn the Dark when it was first released in 2015 under the name Malus Domestica (Malus Domestica #1). It was a release that had circled around my social media pages for a while and I picked it up solely based on the synopsis and original cover art.

Unfortunately, it became just another one of those ebooks that was purchased and set aside to make way for more. That is the unfortunate think about non-traditionally published novels that go on sale. They are bought and easily forgotten, aging away on your reading device until they are either forgotten about or brought into the fold of Big 5 publishing. Well, thanks to Tor Books, Hunt’s novel was resurrected and brought back into my life via a new cover, new synopsis, and an advance reading opportunity.

Burn the Dark (Malus Domestica #1) is only the beginning of what I can expect to be one of the next best urban fantasy series. While it does suffer a bit from a slow-ish middle and doesn’t quite pack the hack-n-slashery I was anticipating, Hunt does bring a fantastic new heroine to the fantasy/horror crossover genre and I am absolutely here for her.

Hunt does a great job of immediately pulling you into the Southern Gothic setting of the novel, which fits right at home with me being from Alabama. They perfectly capture the look, feel, sounds and smells of Southern America from the environments to the food, but especially the dialogue between the characters. Believe me when I say this because I can easily picture these characters in my hometown, and I may have even been one of them at one point in time.

While I wish there had been more slaying and less build-up, much like you get with Sean Grigsby’s ‘Smoke Eaters’ from Angry Robot as an example, understanding a bit more about Robin’s background and motivations for what she does is required to set up the end of the novel and the rest of the series. Hunt packs enough at the beginning and end to keep the reader on their heels and coming back for more, especially with the inclusion of the Red Lord. Think of it like a beefed up demogorgon, or at least I did.

If you enjoy stories in the vein of Stranger Things, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or Supernatural, give Burn the Dark a shot. I think you’ll find plenty to enjoy and come back for. Honestly, even if those are your cup of tea, I think this one is worth it. Just know that there is some fairly coarse language throughout, but when a novel deals with slaying witches and exacting revenge, it ain’t all rainbows and gumdrops.
Profile Image for Holly (The GrimDragon).
999 reviews235 followers
January 30, 2020
"If you got any doubt about what I'm doing, you gotta get this in your head right now: these fuckers ain't Wiccans or hippies, they ain't those chicks from The Craft, they ain't Sabrina or the chick from Bewitched. These bitches are the real deal. Lieutenants of Hell on a vacation to Earth. Soul-sucking hag-beasts."

Burn the Dark, the new novel from S.A. Hunt, was originally self-published in 2015. Then along came Tor Books, who picked it up and has since turned it into a series.

Following Robin Martine, aka Malus, as she hunts witches and documents the action on her YouTube channel, Malus Domestica. The videos go viral, reaching millions of followers. However, the audience just assumes that the action is fake. Surely the realistic violence is the result of a talented, albeit amateur, performer?

Except witches are real and so is the footage that Robin uploads to her channel. Her fans have no idea that she is on a mission to avenge the death of her mother, who was killed by a coven of witches.

Returning to her hometown in Georgia, she discovers another family living in her old house. This family is dealing with their own demons, but it's what is awakened in the house that will truly test them.

"Or an alien, maybe. Some ancient extradimensional being just too old and too weird for people's boring bullshit. Or maybe like we went to Narnia, had a bunch of adventures, and now we're back on Earth, but now we're part elf or something, and we've got this magic sword, and we know what it's like to fight centaurs, and just, nobody around you can understand that shit, so you keep it to yourself, and you hold it inside you so tightly it twists you, makes you weird."

Burn the Dark has a True Blood meets Supernatural meets Buffy and the Scooby Gang as written by Dean Koontz vibe. Full of atmosphere, madcap carnage, witches, humor, action and a wonderfully diverse cast of characters. Each one of them broken in some way.

It's a very current story, with the focus on viral videos and YouTube fame. There are certainly more than a few creepy aspects to social media and Burn the Dark touches on those. Easily digested content, influencers, the lack of privacy, what's real and what isn't. Social media isn't the only monster that Robin is confronted with though, as she navigates past trauma and learning to open up to others.

Burn the Dark is a promising start to a new action-adventure horror series!

(Thanks to Tor Books for sending me a copy!)

**The quotes above were taken from an ARC & are subject to change upon publication**
Profile Image for Bethany (Beautifully Bookish Bethany).
2,041 reviews3,440 followers
January 21, 2020
A punk witch-hunter with a YouTube channel on mission of revenge plus a group of kids with Stranger Things vibes in the American South, where the horror is sometimes less evil witches and more racism and homophobia. Burn the Dark is a fun and cinematic horror novel from a fresh new voice and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it. And I need book 2 after that cliffhanger of an ending! I would love to see Netflix pick this up because it would make a fantastic series.

Robin takes down witches on her popular YouTube channel, but now she is back in her hometown seeking revenge on the witches who killed her mother a decade earlier. Meanwhile, Wayne is a Black kid from Chicago who recently moved into a potential haunted house with his dad who ends up being more important than he realizes.

In some ways this feels like Buffy or Stranger Things. It's definitely horror with a few pretty scary scenes, but horror mixed with fantasy elements, humor, and some really amazing side characters. (For the record, I thought the scene in the public bathroom at night was terrifying) I think this could be a great entry point for paranormal or fantasy readers who want to get into reading horror.

I really appreciated the diverse cast of characters and the places this touches on larger issues: the difficulty of being a gay Black man in the south, PTSD and trauma from military service, complicated relationships with the police force due to race, etc. POC characters feel fully fleshed out rather than stereotyped and there are several of them. The author is queer and served in the military, so it's interesting to see some of their experiences woven into the narrative. But ultimately, all of that is a small part of the larger story about these super creepy witches with interesting mythology. I really enjoyed this and definitely want to read book 2! I received an advance copy of this book for review from the publisher. All opinions are my own.

CW include body horror, monsters, depictions of blood and gore, homophobia, racism, blood magic, creature horror including spiders, moths, and snakes, murder, drug and alcohol abuse, institutionalization due to hallucinations, loss of a parent.
Profile Image for Carrie .
43 reviews3 followers
November 1, 2015
This book pulled me in from the very beginning. I’ve never read a story quite like it, and that’s what hooked me: it felt unique, different in the best way. And it never shied away from being different; it embraced it. The author snapped the reins and said, “Onward, to Differentland!” and I hopped into the sleigh like a giddy little elf, eager to be carried away from a world fill with stale plots and forgettable characters. Malus Domestica offers a fresh take on witches and magic, and a diverse cast of characters that will stay with you long after you’ve finished the book.

Robin, the main character, is a tough, independent woman who makes a living off a YouTube channel that chronicles her “fake” witch hunts. Sure she’s beautiful (as most heroines are), but it’s not your typical Barbie doll beauty. She has a mohawk and wears combat boots. She’s rough, edgy, maybe even a little boyish, but none of it takes away from her femininity. Despite being tough as nails, sometimes Robin’s emotions and insecurities get the better of her, making her not only a believable woman but a believable person. All of the characters are written in a similar way. They’re deeply layered with complex thoughts and motives. And I love that none of the characters fall in to typical gender, race, or sexuality stereotypes. Like the story itself, the characters aren’t afraid to be different.

Malus Domestica is a fun and fearsome read that curves just when you think it’s going to straighten out. I never knew what was going to happen next, and I never knew how the characters would react to it. It was exciting and fast-paced, but still had nice moments of quiet in which the characters (and reader) could recuperate, bond, have some fun, ect. I truly loved every part of this book, it even had a satisfying ending (no cliffhanger, yay!). I’ll definitely be adding a physical copy of Malus Domestica to my bookshelf, and you should too! Can’t wait for the sequel!
Profile Image for Romina Nicolaides.
Author 3 books26 followers
June 3, 2016
A book of truly revolting but thoroughly convincing witches. The scenes are set with extraordinary detail, building a very atmospheric plot of corruptive and enticing magic. The characters were human and at times you wonder if anyone is safe from Cutty and her cronies. Absorbing and entertaining; my only criticism would be the exaggerated use of popular references.
Profile Image for Niki.
743 reviews116 followers
December 23, 2022
Nightmares of things they saw as children they have forgotten as adults, their recognition stolen by smiling hags with chips of ice in their eyes, hobgoblins who would have stolen their hearts for an ageless star-beast if not for hungry Robin and the gleaming silver dagger in her hand.

I need to finally write this review so this book can go back on its shelf at last; it's been next to my bed for months, to remind myself that I owe it a review.

Actual rating 3,5 stars, but I'm feeling generous, so I'm rounding it up to a 4.

What an absolutely enjoyable wild ride this was!

I wanted to read this book for years, ever since it first came out and the first reviews for it popped up. The cover is beautiful and the synopsis is very compelling (witches? Check, mohawked girl kicking ass? Check, an urban-fantasy setting, my favourite? Fucking check), but somehow I kept putting it off until now, ummm, 4 years later (whoops) However, I'm happy to report that it was well worth the wait.

This is an action-packed read, very much plot-based (more on that later), and very, very fun. I was looking forward to picking up the book again every time I had to stop reading, and it was interesting, funny, wholesome, terrifying, and unpredictable throughout. Realistic in parts (for example, Robin wearing her GoPro all the time to get footage for her Youtube channel, her means of livelihood), completely off-the-rails fantastical in others (but still mostly believable). I know this sounds cliche but the action really kept me on my toes, I never knew what was going to come up next, but I was always sure I'd probably be rather spooked by the end.

The writing was pretty good, I liked the addition of sound effects because it's not something I've seen a lot, but, at points, you really could tell that this was self-published, and needed a bit of editing. Some bits were convoluted or straight up boring (for example, the children trekking through the city towards the beginning, or ), and that could have easily been fixed. I see now that Tor has picked it up and will re-publish it with a different cover and title (now turned into a series as well), so I'm hoping that some of these issues will be fixed for future readers.

I was so very, very pleased with the horror/ creepy scenes. I was very much horrified at times rather than mildly spooked, which happens far too much with "horror" books, and which I realize is my fault sometimes; I've read plenty so I can see events/ tropes coming from a mile away nowadays. Like I mentioned above, Malus Domestica did manage to keep me guessing all the while.

I also thought that the entire plot would revolve around Robin, and while I enjoyed her chapters the most I was pleasantly surprised to follow many other points of view in the story. I really like it when books offer many perspectives.

However, here's my two problems with the book, the reasons it doesn't get the full 5 stars I thought it'd get for most of the book:
1. First of all, I think that the book peaked in the , and only went downhill from there. The introduction of at the last 3/4s of the book came way too late for me to care about them, Robin's was a bit much, and also progressed far too quickly for me to process the gravity of the situation properly. One moment Not to mention how quickly and easily went down. I don't think the book was quite able to recover its footing after that.

2. The characters weren't as well fleshed-out as I would have liked. We spend quite some time with them, and I shudder to imagine how much WORSE they could have been, but for a book with such a big cast where almost everyone plays a big role in the story at some point, they could have elevated the book to another level. Kenway, especially, was a bit of Just-There-Instant-Love-Interest whose job is just to love and support the protagonist no matter what (a job normally reserved for female characters, so THAT was rather refreshing, NGL), but Fish, or Leon, or even Wayne (his wasn't explored enough, either) didn't fare much better. I personally prefer character-based books, so I definitely noticed, but someone else may not even mind it.

Truth is, I was very pleased with the book. It had its issues, but I still enjoyed it, and I think you should give it a chance too, especially now, close to Halloween.
Profile Image for Dylan Hearn.
Author 3 books83 followers
October 11, 2015
You have to have some balls to put your work in the same company as Stephen King and Clive Barker (sorry, I’ve not read any Charlaine Harris), either that, or unswerving confidence in your own talent. My guess with S. A. Hunt it’s a bit of both, and in Malus Domestica I can see why. This is an excellent book, with a strong, character-led storyline that’s as unsettling as a childhood nightmare yet twice as entertaining.

A young woman, Robin Martine returns to her hometown, Blackfield, for the first time in years, finally ready to confront her past. At the same time a father and son, Leon and Wayne, move into Robin’s old home, hoping to start life anew after the death of Wayne’s mother. After a simple walk home from his first day at school goes horribly wrong, Wayne survives due to the kindness of their elderly neighbour, Marilyn Cutty. But Cutty isn’t what she seems, as Robin Martine already knows, because Cutty killed her mother years before, with magic.

In Malus Domestica, Hunt has written a story right up there with the best horror authors. From the slow drip of fear during the opening scene as two Mormons realise they should never have agreed to a meal, through to the book’s bloody denouement, Hunt has created a modern take on an old tale with a cracking female lead.

Robin Martine is a great character, both vulnerable and as hard as teak, lost and alone in the world. but driven by the need to revenge her mother. At Blackfield she is supported by equally compelling characters, her old friend Joel and ex-army vet, Kenway, who slowly provides a balancing compassion to Robin’s relentlessness, plus a whole host more.

I loved the atmosphere Hunt built through the story, gradually pulling back the veneer of normality to show us a community ruled by powers rooted in blood and fear, all the while avoiding the many horror cliches but still sprinkling enough weirdness throughout to make the premise unique. The first half of the book really did have the feeling of a Stephen King novel but by the end it was very much in Clive Barker territory, yet uniquely S. A. Hunt. And it’s funny, too.

While the story gradually darkens as it progresses, there were some wonderful carefree moments as well, especially early on as Wayne makes friends at school and agrees to go out on an adventure. It takes real skill to be able to write both light and dark convincingly, and Hunt handles this well.

The book itself wasn’t perfect, there was a little too much explaining how the powers worked for my liking, and while I enjoyed the Avengers style action with the Order of the Dog Star, I felt their sudden appearance was too convenient and needed a little more foreshadowing. That said, these are minor points and didn’t take away any of the shine from what is an excellent book. For once, the comparisons were well deserved. I don’t think it will be long before authors are selling their books “in the tradition of S. A. Hunt.” Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Stephanie Embry.
Author 1 book5 followers
August 12, 2015

This is hands-down my favorite horror novel since…I’m about to verge on blasphemous here and say since Lost Souls. (Lost Souls is a religious experience, yes.) Guys this book. THIS BOOOOK. I don’t know how Hunt can have such an amazing grip on both the fantastic and the mundane. The real world looks real. The small town, the people, the flies on the wall, the pizza-grease stains on a paper plate…every detail you can name is in 3D technicolor when Hunt is behind the wheel. And yet, while it’s all so very real, he also manages to take it to the next step. Real life gets that twist of the bizarre just enough to draw you into a fantasy world. I’m insanely jealous of Hunt’s ability to do this, it’s so damn good.

Right, ok, about the book. Robin is a YouTube star who hunts witches, and I really thought that was a cool angle. I’m really curious about the culture of turning everyone with a camera into celebrities, and I thought that was presented in a super cool way. She’s a badass complete with a mohawk and a van loaded with big knives. She’s got a handsome amputee sidekick and a creepy mentor with a shady past. But the cast of this book is huge, and not a one of them is wasted. Everyone you meet is obviously the hero of their own tale.

(Let’s take a moment to discuss my favorite, Joel. First off, Joel is not having any of your shit today, honey. He’s got a bedazzled baseball bat, a car named Black Velvet, and the attitude to match. He goes from what I feared was going to be the ubiqutous gay friend to an all-out badass in his own way. This is something I really appreciate about all of Hunt’s work: even the sidekicks have real agency.)

Robin is back in her home town to fight the witches that killed her mother, and the story just gets weirder and darker from there. I loved the type of magic Hunt came up with. The witch’s familiars were fascinating and the inclusion of the new tenants in Robin’s old house lent everything just the right amount of humanity. The plot was twisty and super satisfying, but never predictable. The action moves along at exactly the right pace. Hunt utilizes a shifting POV, but 1) you’re never taken too far away from the main characters, and 2) every chapter is crucial and very entertaining. The horror elements lean more towards the psychologically creepy than the gory, but you blood-n-guts fans will find more than enough here to keep you going.

If you can’t remember the last time you were so caught up in a story that you read till 4AM without even noticing, this is The One. Get it.
Profile Image for Eric.
599 reviews37 followers
September 4, 2015
If you like urban fantasy, but feel like the fact that characters know about magic and monsters takes away some of the fear and power, this book is probably for you. If you're into horror but wish the main characters had a bit more agency, this book is probably for you.

The story opens with Our Heroine, Robin Martine, coming back to her home town. She's been hunting down witches, which very few people know really exist, and posting videos of her exploits on YouTube. The populace thinks she's just a CG wizard posting a popular web series, but revenue sharing keeps her creeper van running and her Holy Water stocked up.

She's returned home to tackle the thing that started her on this road to begin with - taking down the coven that murdered her mother.

Before long she reunites with Joel (Jo-ell), one of a pair of brothers her mother used to watch when they were little.

At this point the book kind of diverges into two stories in two different genres, with some interstitial material tying them together.

Robin's story is a dark variety of urban fantasy. Robin is the hunter, and she's preparing herself to take on dangerous prey in the form of the coven.

Joel, along with Wayne and Leon (a father and son living in Robin's old house) are the focus of a horror story. Like most horror stories, their parts are reactive. They don't understand what's going on, and they're victims of forces and beings beyond their understanding. They aren't hunting anything, just trying to survive.

The stories come back together for the final third and blend very well.

The writing was pretty good, including some Classical reference Easter eggs in the form of certain characters names and such. However, like the Outlaw King book I reviewed before (The Whirlwind in the Thorn Tree) it suffered from a lack of good copy editing. A few continuity problems, some misuses of words, and a few homophone swaps made it into the text. Enough to notice, but not enough to pull me out of enjoying the story. It did, however, drag a very nicely crafted story from 5 stars down to 4.
Profile Image for Kate.
44 reviews
March 13, 2016
What a book! It's been a while since a book has grabbed me like this one. I was a little hesitant to try "horror" but now feel much better about the genre!

First off, a warning: horrible stuff happens to cats. brace yourself. Some of those scenes were REALLY hard to read.

Loved the characters. Hunt did a superb job fleshing them out, and they all seemed very real to me. I really appreciated the diversity of characters, too. I never expected to get teary over a horror story, but there was more than one moment that brought on the waterworks.

The internet and pop culture references were important to the story and reflected the mindsets of the characters, but I feel like that it will hold it back the more time that passes. What happens when YouTube isn't a thing anymore? (Will that day ever come?) But contrasting that was the rich history of witches, and how they function, that was built into the story. The dryad trees had amazing detail surrounding them. The references to past things reminded me of my own childhood, which was something I don't encounter often in books.

The intense confrontation with Cutty at the end was slightly underwhelming, considering the overwhelming scenes with Theresa and Weaver, but sometimes I think life is like that; a little surprising. Cutty also didn't have the support of a coven anymore, which may have made a vaster difference than I expected.

Overall, the book jumps around with different characters at first, giving little bits of story at a time. It was easy to put down, but interesting enough to keep me coming back as soon as I was able. But once enough story had been revealed that I could start connecting dots... Then I couldn't put it down. Excellent story, fabulous characters, loved the writing style. 100% recommend!
Profile Image for Stacy Koster.
591 reviews5 followers
January 23, 2020
I enjoyed this book. The story telling was good. I’m looking forward to reading book two.
Profile Image for Rike.
134 reviews17 followers
April 19, 2021
Die Hexenjägerin – Der Zirkel der Nacht ist der Auftakt einer Urban Fantasy/Horror-Trilogie.
Das Buch ist definitiv nichts für seichte Gemüter, es gibt zahlreiche eklige Szenen und auch psychischen Terror. Insbesondere Katzenliebhaber sollten mit etwas Vorsicht an das Buch herangehen, da manche Szenen leicht verstörend sein können. Wer ein bisschen Horror und Ekel abkann, kann aber definitiv viel Spaß an der Geschichte haben.

Die Story wird aus mehreren Perspektiven erzählt, den präsentesten Strang nimmt dabei definitiv Robins Rückkehr in ihre Heimatstadt und ihr Wunsch nach Rache für den Tod ihrer Mutter ein, der aber auch durch Rückblicke in ihre Vergangenheit ergänzt wird. Zusätzlich gibt es mehrere Kapitel aus der Sicht von Wayne und seinem Vater Leon, den neuen Bewohnern des Hauses, in dem Robin aufgewachsen ist. Diese versuchen den Tod von Waynes Mutter durch den Umzug in die Kleinstadt zu verarbeiten, werden aber schnell in eine Welt von Hexen und Dämonen hineingezogen. Einzelne Kapitel sind zudem aus der Sicht der Hexen erzählt, wodurch einige Verhaltensweisen der Hexen für den Leser klarer werden und einiges an Spannung erzeugt wird.

Den Einstieg in die Story fand ich unheimlich fesselnd, zunächst bleiben die genauen Details über den Tod von Robins Mutter und ihren Weg zur Hexenjägerin offen und werden erst nach und nach enthüllt, sodass ich unbedingt weiterlesen wollte. Zwischendurch hatte das Buch im Mittelteil jedoch einige Längen, denn für mich war der Zeitpunkt erreicht, an dem endlich etwas spannendes passieren musste, stattdessen sprang die Perspektive jedoch häufig hin und her und die Story fokussierte erstmal auf einigen Nebencharakteren und führte diese in die Story ein. Spätestens auf dem letzten Drittel ging es dann aber Schlag auf Schlag zur Sache, die Stränge liefen immer mehr zusammen und einiges klärte sich auf. Am Ende hätte ich dann am liebsten direkt Band 2 dagehabt.

Ich habe anfangs daran gezweifelt, dass das Buch genug Logik und Ernsthaftigkeit mitbringt, besonders in Bezug darauf, dass Robin ihre Hexenjagden und ihr Leben über Youtube 4 Millionen Followern zeigt, aber fand es mit der Zeit immer weniger störend. Stattdessen sorgte dieser Aspekt für einige lustige Dialoge und wurde auch genutzt um einige Bruchstücke ihrer Vergangenheit aufzuzeigen.

Um mit allen Nebencharakteren wirklich warm zu werden ist das Buch leider zu kurz gewesen, da erhoffe ich mir insbesondere für ihren Mentor Heinrich und ihr Love Interest Kenway im nächsten Band noch mehr Seiten. Ansonsten fand ich die meisten Protagonisten aber sehr authentisch, die Dialoge hatten viel Witz, viele Charaktere hatten ihr Päckchen aus der Vergangenheit zu tragen, dass auch ihre Handlungen beeinflusst hat und insgesamt ist eine sehr passende Truppe aufeinander getroffen.

Die Fantasyaspekte fand ich ziemlich kreativ, teilweise sind sie wirklich abgedreht und, wie schon erwähnt, recht eklig/verstörend aber ich hatte definitiv das Gefühl etwas zu lesen, dass ich so nicht bereits tausend Mal gelesen habe, wofür das Buch einen großen Pluspunkt von mir bekommt.

Insgesamt hat mir das Buch bis auf die kleinen Längen im Mittelteil ziemlich gut gefallen und macht Hoffnung auf zahlreiche weitere „Action-Szenen“ in Band 2, jetzt wo die Charaktere und die Welt langsam eingeführt sind. Wer Lust auf einen humorvollen Horror-Fantasyroman hat und ein paar eklige Szenen erträgt könnte mit diesem Buch gut bedient sein. Von mir gibt es 4 Sterne.
Profile Image for Albert.
1,426 reviews32 followers
May 9, 2016
Malus Domestica by S.A. Hunt is a tale of revenge, remorse and regret. The story of a young girl in search of the past that was stolen from her and the unveiling of the hidden secrets that will change her world forever.

"...You needs to stop playin. I assume huntin witches means killin witches, and there ain't no way you're videotapin that shit. And I want to talk to you without this camera here. Backstage, so to speak. Off the record. Cause I can tell you just puttin on a show for the people at home. But I want to talk.' He smiled darkly. 'I know what you doin. You lookin for them, ain't you?'
Her breathing had become labored without her realizing it. She felt cornered. 'Them who?'
'The ones that killed your mama..."

Robin Martine is not your average college age girl. She has survived quite a bit in her time in this world. A survivor of a home filled domestic abuse, witnessing the death of her mother and then what came after. The things she learned not to tell other people. What she was taught by the doctors and psychiatrists could not have possibly happened. What she had to believe did not happen if she ever wanted to get out of the hospital.

So Robin learned to play their game and with time and the help of a crazed mentor she got free and found herself a new hobby. She practices launching hatchets at pumpkins and washing the blood and gore off her clothes at dark and empty laundromats as she travels the country in her broken down van. With a blue mohawk and her collection of swords, she survives off the proceeds of her you tube, a show where she kills witches.

Now she has come home. Where her mother was killed. To the home that keeps calling out to her and to find the three women who live up the hill from her old home. The women who she believes, killed her mother.

The three witches of Blackfield. The three women who helped raise her.

Malus Domestica is a decent book. But if falls short in far too many ways to be a good book. The characters overall are stereotypical and borrowed from other media. This is a bad episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The young witch hunter who is trained by the older hunter who acts as her mentor as she goes around the country killing witches. The sidekicks who are damaged in one way or another, but still have the ability to outsmart or outfight witches, crooked cops and serial killers. Then when all is lost, there is a paternal demon who may or may not be helpful and a cabal of witch hunters who decide, yeah, maybe we'll help out this kid with killing some witches now.

This is bad tv and in a book it is even worse. Malus Domestica did the one thing a book should never do...it constantly reminded me that I was reading a book.

Alot of hype but that is all it was. Hype.
Profile Image for Matthew Galloway.
1,021 reviews30 followers
May 12, 2020
I am wanting book two so badly.

Now, I listened to it and I think that probably elevated the book because the narrator was phenomenal. But I bet the book stands on its own too. It's clever and creepy and not exceptionally gory. It's a little here and there, but in such a way that it definitely straddles the YA and adult fantasy divide. In fact, it even has kind of a MG story tucked inside since once of the characters is young. This isn't to say it's not a sometimes horrifying tale -- I wouldn't give it to just any kid. But I know I'm not the only grade schooler who was reading King and Koontz and Barker (though I fully admit I didn't really understand everything going on in Barker's at the time... I was a pretty innocent kid). Point being, it's not a kid book, but could appeal to readers in most age groups. Anyway...

When the tagline says it's Supernatural meets Stranger Things, the publicists actually did a good job. It hits the feeling of both those franchises pretty closely. You could plop Dean Winchester or Dustin into the story and they'd fit in just fine. (and hopefully survive) The witches are twisty and dangerous, but also interesting and enough intriguing secrets abound that it's hard to put the book down. I'd say that my only real quibble is that the ending felt like it came too soon. It's sort of mid step in the plot. Sure, there's a story beat there, but it didn't feel like an ending one to me.
Profile Image for OutlawPoet.
1,205 reviews69 followers
September 29, 2015
Crazy Creepy Cool

This was my first book by S.A. Hunt. After reading this one, I've realized I'm not done with this author. This was pretty cool.

This is a thick, meaty book, full of all sorts of crazy goodness. It's more creepy than scary, but the author has a sense of humor and pulled some genuine laughs out of me (not an easy task). By the way, Afro-cadabra is now a part of my permanent lexicon.

The faint of heart will want to know that this is definitely horror - of the sex, blood and rock and roll variety. And cat lovers may want to stay clear. But it's sharp, irreverent, and it has some darned good storytelling. There were a few times when I sort of thought the author was just throwing in every thing he could think of, but he ties up every loose end extremely well.

The end of the book hints that there could be more to Robin and her Merry Crew. I hope so. This was a surprising read.

* ARC Provided by Netgalley for review purposes.
Profile Image for Natty.
731 reviews5 followers
July 29, 2015
S.A. Hunt is an incredible talent in writing. Reading this tale is akin to sampling a perfectly aged Bordeaux after being forced to drink boxed red blends for years, it's a bloody epiphany. The pacing is tight and flows smoothly from point to point and character to character. The dialogue is masterful giving each character an incredibly unique voice and tone that is maintained throughout the story and even reflects the individual growth of the character as they progress. The style of writing again is witty and has pop culture references that while not necessary to enjoy the story make it all the more enjoyable to read. I was privileged enough to be given an advanced review copy and was so impressed that I am purchasing a physical copy for my library as well.
Profile Image for Ricky.
Author 8 books159 followers
May 8, 2021
Easily comparable to the work of Stephen King, this sizable chunk of paranormal goodness boasts some downright horrifying literary set pieces. However, the best by far comes in the prologue. I remember once hearing on the radio about a little thing Netflix did to calculate how long it takes to get hooked on most shows (like, two episodes for Breaking Bad, three for The 100, that sort of thing.) With this book, if it were to be made into a TV series, it would probably be one just for the prologue alone. I'm glad that the second book is already on the way, taking what began as one of my favorite Wattpad reads from back in the day to a wider audience in glorious Tor hardcover!
Profile Image for Shalla.
21 reviews42 followers
March 1, 2016
i am not normally a fan of horror but i really enjoyed this book...
i have read all the books in the outlaw king series and became addicted to his wit and quirky style of adding in details that fit with my generation and culture (something hard to find as i am currently living in a different country)...
i really hope that his books can hit the silver screen and that he keeps writing more and more...
i cant wait to travel through his next adventure
January 21, 2020
[Thank you to Tor Books/Netgalley for the advanced copy.]

I absolutely loved this book. Sure, it didn't tie things up at the end, but that's ok. It makes me ready for the next book.

There are a lot of characters in this book, but I love what S. A. Hunt has done in this first book. Hunt has provided us with the back story first for all of the characters. A young woman is cast as the witch-hunter (think Lisbeth Salander from "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" series). She's trained by some big, scary dude on how to kill witches. There are poor kids, a gay guy, a disabled veteran, and an African-American family with a single dad. There are people who are suffering from loss, grief, alcoholism, drug overdoses, etc. They're just regular people that are going through life with their own problems, all brought together a little serendipitously.

I believe that whatever comes after "Burn the Dark" will be more of the adventure and the 'why' this tribe was brought together. This book is more of the background story behind what is about to happen in this series. Most people do not like books like that, but I believe for this series, this introduction was needed so that you can become invested in these characters.

My favorite character is Wayne (nicknamed Bruce Wayne). He's the new kid in town. He recently lost his mother. His father is broken down and drinking away the pain. They decide to move to this new town to get away from Chicago, because Wayne is starting to fall into bad crowds, and Dad (Leon) really needed a change of scenery. They move into the witch hunter's old house.

This house is where Robin (the witch hunter) lived as a little girl. Her father killed her mother. Robin was thrown into a mental institution because she tried to tell the truth about what happened. But there's no such thing as witches, right?

When Leon and Wayne move into this house, it awakens the Red Lord. Or is it the fact that Robin is back in town that the Red Lord has awakened? But what exactly is the Red Lord? And why does he want Robin?

Wayne's mother's ring though is the most interesting thing about Wayne and Leon's story. When Wayne looks through the ring, he can see doorways, even the Red Lord. I still find it interesting that one doorway led him to Joel, who had been kidnapped. There has to be some significance to this that has yet to be revealed. Perhaps it is the house that ties all of their stories together? Maybe it was not coincidence why Leon/Wayne settled with this particular house to move into.

I liked Hunt's homage to comic books. Fisher (one of the kids Robin's mom used to babysit) runs a comic book store. His favorite character is the Hulk. Why? Because when the Hulk gets mad, he gets stronger. I liked that take on the Hulk. So Hunt throws a little love Marvel's way and a little love towards DC Comics with nicknaming Wayne, Bruce Wayne.

The story also takes a bit of a dark turn when we discover the history behind the abandoned amusement park, the husband to one of the witches, and how the Red Lord came into being. I wasn't expecting this part of the story, so I guess you can say that Hunt put a lot of misery into this book's history. I guess it has a lot to do with the struggles that people go through in life.

There are a lot of dark places these characters are emerging from. A lot of this emergence is about discovering their own identity and how they are coping with the things that broke them inside. That's what is so significant about each character. They are all broken, but somehow they've found each other. Even the kids from the trailer park are part of this story, because they come from broken homes.

They don't know what they are fighting against. They may think they know, but then they discover that maybe everything is not what they believe it is. That's where this book leaves us at the end. Yes, there are questions, but the answers will lie in the next book.

For those looking for a book for the trans/nonbinary author prompt in their reading challenge, look no further.
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