Author: J.H. Moncrieff
Publisher: Death Zone Books
Publication Date: 16. May 2017
Rating: 2/5. Stars
tw: rape, sexual assault, bullying, fatphobic comments, csa, incest, depression, suicide, suicidal ideation
Summary: On the day the villagers were forced to flee Hensu, not everyone got out alive.
Jackson Stone is touring the abandoned Chinese city when he slips away from the group to spend the night, determined to publish an account of his ghostly experiences there.
Then he meets Yuèhai, a strange, soft-spoken woman who can tell him the city’s secrets—secrets the Chinese government would kill to keep hidden.
As Jackson uncovers the truth about Yuèhai and the ghost city, he’s drawn into a web of conspiracy, betrayal, and murder. He must risk everything to save himself and bring honor back to Yuèhai and her family.
Order here: amazon
Disclaimer: I received an e-copy of this book on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Jackson is a tourist in China and he wants to write Horror Stories to make some money which is why he decides to slip away from his group. But in the night he meets Yuèhai, a Chinese Woman who wants him to tell her story. And she’s really persistent about it.
I really, really, really wanted to like this book more. Honestly, I really wanted to.
It looked like an interesting horror thriller with creepy ghosts, tragic background stories and some really good commentary on various social issues, but alas it didn’t happen.
First off, I just couldn’t care about the characters. While Jackson is not that bad of a character, I just found him to be deeply unsympathetic at times (he’s quite misogynistic and it’s gross!). He grew on me a bit better towards the end, but until then I was just incredibly annoyed with him.
What I really hated was all the girl on girl hate in this book. I don’t think there’s a single good relationship between girls and the one girl who is portrayed positively still thinks “most women are batshit crazy”. I can also understand writing asshole-ish characters, but Meghan, the antagonist, felt very over the top at times. She calls Kate a wh*re all the time, as well as insulting other people who she barely even knows? These scenes just felt really over the top for me and annoyed me.
There’s also mild ableism with calling the wish to have a clean room “OCD tendencies” as well as the joke that Kate could just become fat so other women wouldn’t hate her anymore for her ~good looks~. Because obviously, fat women can’t be hot, suure. And all women just to hate on other girls all the time. *yawn*
Anyway now for the triggery parts of the novel. A side-character committed suicide in the past and due to some ghost-y magic we are also transported directly into his head and get to read about his suicidal ideation. But of course, there’s more. Another side-character was raped and what happens after is really not pretty with victim blaming and wishes of more rapes. Also apparently, ghosts can be very rape-y too and the MC is sexually assaulted by one. It is well shown then that men can be raped too, but it was still disgusting to read. In another scene, we are told about a ghost that molested his own granddaughter. There’s also mass murder. Most of these things are condemned in the book.
All in all this book had an interesting premise, but a severely unlikeable protagonist (until far in the back). It also didn’t really scare me as much as it grossed me out and I wish I could have gotten trigger warnings for this before I picked the book up (I mostly only did it for the cover bc it looked amazing!). The writing also let me down a bit and I found myself not really that invested in the story as I would have wanted to be. In the end, I can’t really say that this book was good.