Publisher: William Morrow
Released: February 16, 2010
Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with a thunderous hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples.
At first Ig thought the horns were a hallucination, the product of a mind damaged by rage and grief. He had spent the last year in a lonely, private purgatory, following the death of his beloved, Merrin Williams, who was raped and murdered under inexplicable circumstances. A mental breakdown would have been the most natural thing in the world. But there was nothing natural about the horns, which were all too real.
Once the righteous Ig had enjoyed the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician and younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, he had security, wealth, and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more—he had Merrin and a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.
But Merrin's death damned all that. The only suspect in the crime, Ig was never charged or tried. And he was never cleared. In the court of public opinion in Gideon, New Hampshire, Ig is and always will be guilty because his rich and connected parents pulled strings to make the investigation go away. Nothing Ig can do, nothing he can say, matters. Everyone, it seems, including God, has abandoned him. Everyone, that is, but the devil inside.
Horns is a really good book. Annoyingly there are a few things which prevented me from loving it, but don’t get me wrong. It’s a really good book.
The premise is great. Simply put (and I’m grossly oversimplifying so as not to spoil anything): we have a main character with an intriguing backstory who is put in a position where he is forced to see and confront the worst secrets of everyone he meets. This is a great tool with which to tell a story, but can easily go over the top if not handled carefully. Fortunately, most of the book is done brilliantly. Unfortunately, there are a some places in which the book crosses the line from telling the story to abusing the powers it has given itself. This doesn’t happen often, it doesn’t happen badly, but it happens just enough to rip me out of the otherwise rather effective, and consistent, mood of the book.
There are so many scenes and moments in this book that feel completely genuine in the way the convey shock and emotion, which is why it feels a little out of place when “cheap shots” are taken to add just a bit extra. The book doesn’t need the overegging, and it feels wrong.
The understated complexity of the story is also wonderful. There is always a little more to it than meets the eye. Nothing very big, but enough for the reader to pause and think back when a piece of the puzzle they didn’t necessarily know existed is put in place. Unfortunately this is also slightly overplayed, and a few times I think the story goes just a little too far in making sure the reader has understood exactly what it is doing. Again, I think the story is solid enough that less would be more in some cases. That said, for a book in this genre Horns definitely has a layer of complexity to it which makes it stand out. Most of the time it does strike a balance perfectly: subtle enough not to distract, but present enough to really add a lot to the story.
I’m not sure whether or not these are the reasons for the book never properly gripping me. I enjoyed it throughout, and it dragged me in, but never far enough for me to become truly engrossed in it. I’m not complaining, it’s a great book, and while it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it lacks, I just feels that it lacks something.