Faith York was a young girl when she saw her father dragged into the ground by a spider-armed woman, never to be seen again. Twenty years later, the events of that day continue to haunt her, and her need for answers has only grown stronger with time. After her estranged mother's death forces her to return home, old wounds are reopened and Faith finally decides to face her demons. What started as a search for closure soon pits her against a shadowy cult known as The Gathered and the eldritch beings they worship. With reality becoming more blurred by the day and the thousand eyes of an alien deity fixed on her, Faith must decide if the dark secrets of White Crow Mountain are really worth losing herself over.
S.H. Cooper is a Florida based, multi-genre author with a focus on horror and fantasy. Her titles include the Victorian gothic novella, INHERITING HER GHOSTS, the cosmic horror novella, THE FESTERING ONES, and the YA fantasy novel, THE KNIGHT'S DAUGHTER, in addition to three short story collections and the horror comedy podcast, Calling Darkness. She is also a regular contributor to the award winning anthology series, The NoSleep Podcast. When not writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband, pets, and a cup of Earl Grey.
Well hello there, S. H. Cooper. What an impressive debut novel. THE FESTERING ONES, at first blush, sounded like it was going to have too many ideas and not enough pages. Creature-Feature? Check. A mysterious cult? Check. Cosmic Horror? Check. I was skeptical that such an ambitious plot could be squeezed into less than 200 pages and still manage to strike that necessary balance of character development and pacing. About 30 pages in, I was hooked. The protagonist, Faith York, is an assured, determined woman on a mission. I feel like Cooper gave her both personality and authority. I liked her immediately. I love that trope where some kind of tragic event from the past forces a person to go back to the scene of the "crime" and do some research or solve a mystery or exact revenge. Do you know how the kids from IT have to return to Derry and fight Pennywise again? LIKE THAT! This book wrestled with that trope pretty well and in some unique ways. I feel as though there is more to this story--the last page ended very abruptly (**if this does have a sequel or it's part of an intended series, maybe "Book One" could be added to the title in order to set up the right expectations for the reader?) and left me wanting more closure. I'm leaving out some descriptions of the cult and the creatures because they're best left for reader discovery moments but I will say this: I hate eight-legged *anything* so I was sufficiently creeped out. I hope there is more to come, S. H. Cooper certainly has my attention.
If you like your horror with creepy many armed lady monsters who jump out of a hidey-hole in the woods and grab a man and drag him down to their lair where he’s never seen or heard from again, you’re going to love this one! I might know a few folks I’d like to lead down that path myself, haha (I, eh, kid?).
Anyhow, if you’re looking to escape our dreadful reality for a little bit this book will help you out. It’s full of adventure and monsters and a main protagonist attempting to make sense of her past and prove that what she witnessed as a child was not all in her imagination. Faith was only 9 when she was allowed to go on her first hunting trip with her dad but the trip took a nightmarish turn and she’s spent the rest of her life wanting to uncover the truth. What she finds delighted me. Things get weird very early on and continue to escalate as truths and secrets are revealed. I love a good secret, especially a monstrous one! I’ll keep this short because I don’t want to ruin it for you and it’s 120 something pages.
Faith is a great character. She’s strong-willed, she’s nosey and determined and fearless. I hope there is a book 2 because there are things I NEED to know because I am nosey too and I would love to read it!
The Festering Ones kicks off with a bang, following our main character Faith as a child who's just been forced to sit helplessly by and watch her father get dragged off by some ungodly creature in the woods. Years pass, nobody believes Faith, and she grows up to try her best to forget what she saw — until her mother passes away, and her mother's belongings include documents that stir up old memories and questions for Faith. Naturally, she's always wondered what happened to her dad, so she sets off on a mission to discover the truth.
I love cult-themed stories, and this story in particular had some interesting twists surrounding the cult that I really enjoyed. The descriptions of the creatures are a lot of fun, and I was certainly kept in suspense a lot of the time. That said, the characters felt a bit flat to me (though I did love Sasha, who I kept picturing as Cybil Bennett from the Silent Hill movie) and I found myself a little frustrated with how many questions I was left with in the end. If there's ever a sequel, I'll be first in line to pick it up because I would LOVE more answers, but as it stands, the ending felt unreasonably abrupt.
Despite the loose ends left untied, I definitely recommend The Festering Ones for a quick, fun read, especially if you like cult horror, and I can't wait to read more from S.H. Cooper!
I read The Festering Ones this month in celebration of Women in Horror Month (although every month is WiHM around here). It was such a perfect start to kick off the month.
The novella length is one of my favorite formats for a horror story. One of the complaints I often see regarding novellas is there's not enough time for development. The Festering Ones is a great example of how well a story can be developed in this format if it's done right.
I'm not even sure how to describe The Festering Ones, but if you like cults and monsters, this one's for you! I'm happy to hear there's going to be a sequel because I'm here for it.
"Reality isn't quite so solid as most would believe."
The Festering Ones was my introduction to SH Cooper's work, and I loved it! This book opens really well, and it drew me in right away. The story is unsettling; I was completely captivated, and dying to know more. There are some great creepy moments, and the wordbuilding was good.
I was so interested in the story that I found myself wishing there was a more information. The ending felt a little incomplete, so I'm hoping that means there's another book coming after this one. I enjoyed this one so much, so I would love to see more stories set in this world. If you love reading about cults, creepy creatures, and good characters, I highly recommend picking this one up!
** Edited as review is now live on Kendall Reviews! **
The Festering Ones just came onto my radar and it absolutely was something I snagged because of that outstanding Elderlemon Design cover. Elderlemon continues to create stunning covers and this was another one that snagged my interest and I’m glad I did.
After reading the synopsis, I knew I was in for a fun ride.
If you’ve ever read anyone my reviews or even any of my own releases, you’ll know I have a large spot reserved in my soul for stories set in the woods, with creepy creatures and monsters. I have an even bigger spot for those stories that involve elder gods, other worlds and redemption/revenge stories.
This one checked all of those boxes.
After witnessing her dad be killed by a creature she dubs ‘the spider-armed lady’ on a hunting trip, Faith has lived with the truth for years, while everyone around her declared it to be the ramblings of a PTSD suffering child.
After her mother dies, Faith finds out there is more going on and decides to investigate, which prompts a return visit to the small town she’d never thought she’d return to again.
Cooper writes creepy alongside the best out there and her deft prose sucked me in within chapter one and had me hooked. I would have read this in one sitting if I didn’t have two other books currently on the go.
Faith is a great character and the two others that join her in her quest work really well. I’m going to remain spoiler-free so I won’t name them, but when you read it, you’ll see how they aid in pushing the narrative nicely.
This would have easily been a five star read for me, except the ending.
Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a horrible ending at all, it just felt unresolved and minimized after what we’d just been put through. I’m hoping it was set up like that for another book in the series, which I would absolutely read, but I still think that could have been accomplished with a slightly longer, drawn-out conclusion. Just how I feel, friends! Some of you may love the ending!
Wrapping this up – well done S.H. This was a book I wasn’t expecting to grab me so hard and I couldn’t stop reading it. People are going to love this and that cover is bang on perfect for the creatures but also the atmosphere!
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: novellas are probably my favorite format for storytelling. There’s something about being given enough to want more, but not enough to leave you feeling totally sick of the world built by the writer, that really gets to me and keeps me coming back to these short gems for more.
When I saw the cover for The Festering Ones, I knew I wanted to own it – the cover is super cool, and I wasn’t surprised to find that it was made by Kealan Patrick Burke of Elderlemon Design, since he’s become a prominent book cover designer – and author – in the horror community as of late.
Since it was already on my radar, it’s no wonder that I jumped at the chance to receive a copy for review shortly after its October release last year. And the convenient size allowed me to push it up on my TBR, which made it one of the first few books I read this year! Talk about starting off with a bang – I loved it!
The Festering Ones is fast-paced enough to have pulled me in from the very first page, and held on so tightly that I didn’t put it down until I finished it an hour and a half later. The action and pacing are so well done that I found myself flipping through the pages quickly, eager to find out what Faith, the main character, was going to get into next.
I really enjoyed Faith’s character, and the amount of life-altering change that occurs for her in such a short book. While going through her recently deceased mother’s possessions, her entire world is turned upside down, and she’s fierce enough to charge head first into the unknown – a quality I really admire in my protagonists! Having your entire life and childhood based on lies is such a gripping theme, and the realistic nature of what Faith deals with in the book juxtaposed against the otherworldly horrors that await her later in the plot makes for some seriously compelling storytelling.
Along with strong women characters, I also really love creepy creatures, and there are plenty of them here. It’s almost wild how much happens in this novella, and I don’t want to say too much ’cause I’d hate to spoil something I went into nearly blind and ended up thoroughly enjoying. I’ll say that if you enjoy Lovecraftian creature horror, or scary un-god worshipping cults, stop reading this review right now and click this link to buy the book – you won’t be sorry!
This was the first thing I’ve read by the author, but it won’t be the last. Her ability to completely engross me in a fun, gory, entertaining read has put her on my radar for one to watch all new releases from, and I’ve added what I could find that she’d already published to my wishlist TBR already! The only single negative I could say is that I wish there were a little more to it – not necessarily that it were longer, but that a few things were more fleshed out, and that the world, creatures, and cult were expanded upon more. I love the world she created – I just want more, haha.
Overall, an excellent introduction to a new author, and one I’ll be recommending to fans of creepy creatures, quick & absorbing reads, and to Lovecraft-lovers seeking to expand their reading horizons a little bit!
Superbly entertaining monster/cult novella. For me, a lot of times, a novella doesn't have great character development and plot. Due to format, it would seem novellas sometimes lack in one of the other, but this one felt to be a great mix between backstory, characters and the main plot. It felt longer, deeper than it was. I am not normally a big fan of monster horror, I know, I know - How can you be a horror fan but not really dig monsters? Anyways, what I am trying to say is that the creature part of this feature was really well done. The physiology and concept behind it all just worked for me. My favorite part though was the cult, the creature's human followers - and the backstory that went along with all that. This was my first experience with reading SH's work. It was a really fun ride and I look forward to reviewing more stuff in the future.
I reviewed this book earlier today but for some reason it didn't post. So here goes round 2. A solid 4 stars. Another rec from Well Read Beards youtube channel (highly recommend). An exciting and fast paced little novella. I was getting "I could totally see myself reading something like this on r/nosleep and for good reason because the author writes a bunch of shorts for the nosleep podcast. For such a small book it has decent character growth, very thrilling moments, and some very imaginative monsters. It had its hooks in me from the first chapter. While the writing can be a bit spotty at times and in my ebook version I noticed a bunch of typos neither of those things took away from my enjoyment. I highly recommend if you're looking for a quick new read.
Hugely entertaining journey through tangled mountainside and an 'invisible' town in search of monstrous being responsible for murder. A daughter, a mother and a sister seek answers from the cult worshipping this figure. Strong women setting the scene for the next in the series. Great fun.
Really cool little horror novella. I would def like to check out some more of this author's work. I loved the cult aspect and there were some really creepy moments. The Daughters are amazing. I wish there was more from this world though, just seems like there is so much more to explore and I'd love to go for that ride.
Earlier this week, one of my Twitter friends was reading this book and it reminded me that I had it on my Paperwhite.
Today, I decided to get started and couldn't put it down!
When Faith York was a little girl, she watched a spider-armed woman drag her father into the ground. She hasn't been able to forget what happened, it's been haunting her most of her life but she's managed to stop talking about it because no one ever believed her.
Twenty years later, after her mother dies and she goes through her things, Faith finds information that leads her to a dark cult and a dangerous journey where reality blurs and monsters exist...
Wow. This was such an awesome novella.
I was hooked from the beginning. Not only was the first chapter creepy as hell, but it was so emotional. What Faith went through when she was a kid was horrifying and I felt her emotional turmoil. And when she stumbles on her mother's research, I couldn't wait to find out what was going to happen next.
And it turned out to be such an unpredictable journey into the belly of the beast. This was everything I enjoy in my cosmic horror, surreal and so disorienting. Features a smart, brave and stubborn character who doesn't give up. And what she uncovers is freaky as hell. The vivid descriptions filled my mind, until that very cool conclusion.
I also really liked the supporting characters. Janice and Sasha were interesting. This nightmare affected them in different ways, but it was great how they worked together through all of this insanity.
Women working together against monsters always appeal to me.
I seriously enjoyed the hell of this story. Loved it!
In S. H. Cooper’s debut novella, The Festering Ones, we learn the tragic tale of Faith York. After years of begging, a young Faith is finally allowed to accompany her father on his annual hunting trip. What begins as a wonderful bonding experience quickly turns sour when her father is attacked by an impossible looking creature. He is never seen again. Years later, Faith returns to her home town in the wake of her mother’s death and stumbles upon a collection of research that her mother had been conducting into the circumstances surrounding the disappearance of Faith’s father. She becomes determined to finish what her mother started and learn the complete truth behind the monsters that took her dad. Her search takes her down a rabbit hole of family secrets and cults; kidnappings and murders, all in the name of the terrible eldritch god Gorrorum.
My absolute favorite thing about Cooper’s world is the Gorrorum mythos. Cooper has crafted a well thought out and structured series of realms, creatures, and even competing gods. The Gathered, the cult who worship Gorrorum, are creative and terrifying and dark. I loved the way Cooper implements dream-visions of the Ibsilyth realm. Dreaming of the cosmic dimensions that the big bad monsters come from is a staple in the cosmic horror genre, but I’ve never seen it quite done like this. It’s Cooper’s ingenuity and originality that made this such a fun read. However, don’t be misled by my calling this a fun read. It is horror, through and through. The characters endure some seriously dark happenings. The Gathered does not shy away from brutality and bloodshed in the worship of their rotting god. The violence in this novella is not particularly graphicly or gorily described, but the viciousness is there. The scenes where we learn more about The Gathered and Gorrorum are like a twisted history lesson, and when the action gets going, it is absolutely gripping.
A particularly noteworthy aspect of Cooper’s writing is in that of the main character, Faith. Faith is a relatively normal girl at the beginning, despite her very troubled childhood. She isn’t shown to be amazingly strong or capable. She isn’t a hero type; she’s a classic everyman (everywoman?). That, in and of itself, isn’t unique or noteworthy. In most fiction where the hero is an everyman, they quickly step up and become a hero when destiny calls. Faith is a little different, and that’s where she shines. Faith never becomes the Perfect Hero. Throughout the entire story, she is terrified and confused. She practically spends the whole novella on the verge of a breakdown. She still does what she needs to do, and that indicates incredible strength and fortitude. But her real, human weakness and fear never go away. It’s so much more believable that this regular person, when thrust into incredible circumstances, still behaves like a regular person.
With such realistically crafted characters and inspired cosmic mythos, Cooper will certainly draw you in and make you hungry for more. My biggest complaint here is with the ending. It seemed to come rather abruptly, and left me wishing for the story to continue. When I looked down and saw that I had reached 96% completion, I wasn’t sure how there could be a satisfying conclusion in such a short space. As it turned out, there wasn’t enough room to fit a complete and satisfying ending, and we are left wanting. That wanting could have been satiated if this had been expanded to a full length novel. Hopefully, we are granted a continuation of the story by means of a sequel. To clear, the ending isn’t poorly crafted. There is no unsatisfying Deus Ex Machina, or blatant plot holes hastily covered. The ending, as it is, simply pumps you up for what is to come next, and then refuses to provide it. Of course, perhaps that is Cooper’s intention. If so, it definitely served to leave me hooked and awaiting the next course. If there is a next course, I’ll be first in line.
I enjoy Cooper’s writing. I’ve been reading and being creeped out by her tales of terror and woe for years. When I heard that she was releasing a new novella, I jumped at the chance to get an ARC. I received this ARC in exchange for an unbiased review.
In The Festering Ones, main character Faith, witnesses a monstrous tragedy in the woods. Her entire childhood she’s told that what she saw wasn’t possible, that she was crazy. Now an adult, her search for the truth will lead her down a rabbit hole to a land of monsters, Lovecraftian cults, flare guns and a town that doesn’t exist.
I had a great time reading this story. At 135 pages, it makes for a perfect rainy day read or a good case of the shivers right before bedtime. I enjoyed the way the story builds until you find yourself having to turn the pages faster to discover what happens next, even if spells doom for the characters.
My favorite part was on page 22. “…they get into your room and drip bits of their body into your ear…” When I read that I actually gasped out loud and startled the dog! The little details and bits of horror are what make the story. I am looking forward to reading it again a bit slower this time. S.H. Cooper’s writing pulls you in, grabbing your imagination and transporting you to a place both familiar and yet full of monsters.
Cooper leaves the story a bit open ended, the original problem is resolved, but there is enough left to continue, and I hope she does.
I absolutely loved this story. S.H. Cooper is one heck of a storyteller - The Festering Ones delivers on the promise of its title and blurb. We have a creepy, horrifying inciting incident, convincing fallout, then a catalyst for our protagonist to finally solve the mystery of what happened to her father. We've got so many fascinating horror elements here, woven together seamlessly into a tale that flies off the pages. I don't want to give anything away, because the world that's slowly revealed is done perfectly, and I don't want to rob the reader of discovering it, but The Festering Ones is inventive and engrossing. A strong and appealing narrative voice, beautiful pacing, and all the high points of my favorite reads. Strongly recommend!
What to say about this novella.... While I was reading this, I was thinking that after the initial "happening" that it's pretty slow, BUT I wanted to turn the page. I think after the first encounter happens, there is a build up with each step until the big find. There is a "WTH" ending, but I find that happens often in horror. The daughters are descriptively creepy. The anticipation of what will happen next will keep you reading. The idea of the story is quite chilling. A story worthy of any horror fan.
‘A monster lurking in the mountain. A mysterious cult seeking a doorway. An otherworldly evil waiting to be unleashed...With reality becoming more blurred by the day and the thousand eyes of an alien deity fixed on her, Faith [York] must decide if the dark secrets of White Crow Mountain are really worth losing herself over.’
The Festering Ones is the first book that I have read by S.H. Cooper, and I had a blast reading it. I can’t wait to read more of her work. If you like Occult fiction, then I highly recommend reading this book!
Thank you, S.H. Cooper, for reaching out to me and providing me with an eBook copy of The Festering Ones in exchange for an honest review.
A well written short horror story that moves quickly. It starts out in a style that reminded me of King but soon changed. A girl goes on her first much anticipated hunt (in Pennsylvania) with her father. The next morning "something" grabs him and he is never seen again. She runs away screaming and isn't found for a day. The story resumes years later. Her father has been declared dead and an unspecified wild animal is blamed. Monster in the woods turns into cult in the woods and then there is a trip to Florida, the authors residence, where things get all weird because it's Florida. The ending is an opening for the next novel.
This was such an incredible book! It had me gripped from beginning to end, invested in all the characters, and, honestly, it was hard to put down. I found myself reading 3-4 chapters a night just because I HAD to see what was going to happen next. The characters themselves are relatable, and have tons of personality; they don't fall flat as other characters would in such a dramatic and traumatic story. If you're a fan of horror, twists, and turns, or just a good ol' supernatural mystery, I cannot suggest this one enough!
I read this in one sitting on a sleepless night after it showed up on my TL.
There’s a certain heightened tension that hits around 2 or 3 am that makes horror/true crime almost unbearable to watch/read/listen to. For better or worse, that never happened here. (Better: I was able to finish it; Worse: it was okay)
The story is generic, the language is basic, the main character is a bland avatar. There were some brilliant moments that saved this from being a 2-star read. But I was kind of baffled by the overwhelming positive reviews, here and on Amazon, until I noticed a good number of them were returning readers or established SH Cooper fans.
Glad to see an author build their audience, but I doubt I’ll pick up other titles.
Wonderful world building and back story, really creepy monsters and gross things happening. Lots of action. Would have been 5 stars save for three things: 1. I would like to have got to know the characters better, to have had some down time and explored the world further. There is so much in this story that it has the complexity for a longer novel. 2. Despite being written in first person, I don’t feel I know the main character at all. There are occasional horror tropes, such as abandoning their weapons. 3. Despite a somewhat satisfactory ending, it is obviously set up a sequel, which makes me feel a bit cheated. However, all this means that what could have been an amazing book is still a good one, and I recommend it for horror fans.
If you are seeking a quick and fast-paced slice of cosmic horror, then S.H. Cooper’s The Festering Ones could be the novella to dip your nose into for a couple of hours. This tight story crams much into its 135 pages and gets off the ground running with an outstanding opening sentence:
The first time I saw it was the last time I saw my father.
S.H. Cooper is one of my favorite authors of any genre. When The Festering Ones was announced, I was beyond excited. And it did not disappoint! From start to finish, this story was an adventure full of rich characters and creepy lore that drew me in from the first paragraph. Definitely pick this one up if you like adventure with your horror!
I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.
From the first few pages, I was captivated by this frightening idea of evil entering our world. I did want to clarify that evangelical and what is presented in this book are opposite ends of the spectrum of religion. Having said that, this story held me through to the end and it was a fantastic end, with room for more story! I am glad too because I will definitely read it.
I received a free copy of this book via Booksprout and am voluntarily leaving a review.