The village of Krume is plagued by a haunted wood and a hungry witch. Its been that way for as long as Hans and Greta can remember, though they have never seen the witch themselves; no one has.
Partial synopsis provided by Goodreads.
The Shrike and the Shadows
Series: The Shrike and the Shadows #1
Author: Chantal Gadoury, A.M. Wright
Publication Date: March 3, 2020
Publisher: The Parliament House
Page Count: 365
Genre: New Adult, Horror, Retellings
Cover Artist: Shayne Leighton
My Rating: ★★★
I received an ARC of this book via the publisher, The Parliament House, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! In no way does this affect my rating or review.
All included quotes have been taken from an ARC and may not match the finished publication.
Content Warning: Death of a loved one, Murder, Gore and graphic injuries, Body Horror, Attempted rape, Premarital sex, Cannibalism
”We must all of us be cautious of the woods. The Shrike comes for all young boys and men now. Don’t speak to strangers! And don’t leave the path.”
The Shrike and the Shadows is an incredibly dark story, highlighting the dangerous paths that lust can lead one down. A Hansel and Gretel retelling, it draws inspiration from horrors like The Blair Witch Project. The tale is definitely tailored to mature readers, as there is a lot of sexual and horror content that is not suitable for young readers.
It is disturbing what the mind will believe once it has been deceived. Hans and his sister Gretel have always looked out for one another. Being twins naturally blessed them with a special connection. Their life in Krume, however, has never been very pleasant. Living on the outskirts of town near the woods, they haven’t managed to keep out of the town’s gossip and prying eyes.
”Make no mistake, Hans–the Shrike is evil.”
Despite the poison the town harbors, Hans loves having dalliances with some of the women there. Living alone with his sister is a lonely existence for a young man. So, he sneaks away to indulge in his escapades whenever able. Gretel, none-the-wiser, stays at home, refusing to go into town. The villagers had not taken kindly to them after their mother passed years ago, and their father in recent years. When their mother was found in the woods mangled, the villagers began whispering that she was a witch and deserved her fate.
The town’s cliche hypocritical “religious leader” only makes matters worse when he tries to blackmail Gretel after she refuses his sexual advances.
”But there is a kind of evil that is shrouded by what should appear as good. There are men like Father Emory who play their part. Suck the trust from those around them. Fill the minds of men and women with lies. And they are often the first who are willing to cast the first stone of condemnation.”
Hans stands up for his sister, but his devotion to Gretel comes into question by one of his lovers and makes him doubt his decisions of commitment. Ultimately, this is the moment where selfishness infiltrates Hans and begins to turn his focuses on his personal desires instead, and is the beginning of the downward slope for his character.
When a man comes up missing from town, the superstition of the Shrike (the witch of the woods) reignites. Coupled with the recent allegations of Father Emory against Gretel of being a witch herself, the twins are forced to flee town. In a place where men and boys aren’t safe, Gretel fears for her brother’s safety, and that he will become the next target of the terrible Shrike.
What Gretel doesn’t realize is that Hans’ demeanor is slowly shifting, as the Shrike has already begun the process of seducing his heart to her will.
Following the path through the treacherous woods to find a new life for themselves, the twins are accompanied by Brugg, their long time friend and mentor of sorts. The woods, however, has different plans for them. Death follows in their wake and a shadowy figure with unclear intentions joins the twins on their journey. With a harrowing past, this character may be the savior that holds the twins together.
This gripping, horrifying Hansel and Gretel retelling certainly makes one question: how far will one go in order to fulfill their own desires? Hans’ character especially undergoes this transformation, from the loving brother to a bitter, resentful “protector” of Gretel. Complex, and not always likable characters gives this already edgy story even more bite. Heartache, betrayal, and revenge weave a tale that is dark and gruesome to teach its readers how selfishness comes at the heavy toll paid with other’s trust and dignity. As to the overall rating, this story’s reliance on the amount of gore and disturbing content ultimately placed it on a lower rung for me personally.
Sexual content: Markedly- including explicit sex scenes and disturbing sexual rituals.
My Rating: ★★★
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