Friday, June 10, 2016

Book Review: Stygian by Santino Hassell

Title: Stygian
Author: Santino Hassell
Publication Date: October 26, 2015
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Pages: 204
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Jeremy has been isolated and adrift since the death of his brother. Most people just see him as the skinny emo kid who wears eyeliner and plays drums. No one gets him. Nobody tries. He thought the indie rock band Stygian would become his anchor, but—lost in their own problems—they’re far from the family he sought.

Still, hoping to get close to Kennedy, the band's enigmatic guitarist, he follows Stygian to northern Louisiana for a summer retreat. They had planned to spend six weeks focusing on new music but things go awry as soon as they arrive at the long-deserted Caroway mansion. Tempers flare, sexual tension boils over into frustration, and Jeremy turns away from the band to find a friend in his eerily beautiful landlord Hunter Caroway.

Kennedy suspects there’s something off about the creepy mansion and its mysterious owners, but Jeremy thinks he's finally found somewhere he fits. It isn’t until Kennedy forces the Caroway’s secrets into the light that Jeremy realizes belonging sometimes comes with a price.

It's not often that I'll pick up a contemporary romance. In the off chance that the mood does strike, though, I always go for New Adult. For some reason, I cannot (usually) stand contemporary YA romance, but love New Adult romance. I stumbled across Stygian recently while hunting for a good NA romance to devour over the course of a day, which is how that usually goes, and went in somewhat blind. I saw "romance" and "horror" in the genre list on Goodreads and knew I definitely had to give it a try!

Stygian is about a guy named Jeremy who has been dealt too much loss during his relatively short life. He's joined a dysfunctional band that has seen its fair share of hardships and this book begins with that band going on a music retreat where they hope to find themselves again. Jeremy wants nothing more than to fit in with his band mates since he really doesn't fit in anywhere else, but he is met with constant hostility from bandmate Watts, who apparently has way too many problems of his own (that no one wants to confront him about). In the midst of it all, Jeremy has developed a terrible crush on Kennedy, the band's lead guitarist, and hopes the summer retreat will allow them to get to know each other better, despite the fact that Kennedy isn't really interested.

Jeremy was a hard character to figure out for me, at least in the beginning. There were times when he really seemed to want to bask in self pity and drag everyone else down with him. I have experienced depression before, so I could kind of sympathize with him, but there were still moments where I wanted to smack him for being so whiney. Still, his emotions came across really strong, which is something I think some authors struggle with. I felt for Jeremy and I wanted him to find the love and acceptance he craved so much.

I also really liked all three other characters, despite their flaws. In fact, I think I kind of loved them because of their flaws (and there were many). Watts was seriously like an onion. As the book went on his layers kept peeling back and I found myself learning more about him and, surprisingly, liking him more. But what I really, really enjoyed was the romance between Jeremy and Kennedy. There were so many more elements at play than I realized at first and I loved watching each wall break down between them, especially on Kennedy's side. Their relationship was real and authentic, though not without issues.

Of course, I have to talk about the horror. That is, after all, one of the things that pulled me in in the first place! To be honest, I wasn't all that creeped out by anything that happened. Hunter, the creepy landlord mentioned in the blurb, was definitely super weird and a little disturbing on a few levels, but I was never truly scared of him. There were certainly moments that made me uneasy, but not as much as I'd hoped for. Then again, there are very few horror books that have ever left me terrified.

I didn't know what to expect from this book, really, and I'm really kind of glad I didn't go in with expectations because I ended up enjoying the not knowing so much! Because of this, I can't really go into the actual plot. Suffice it to say, I found Stygian to be original and unexpected and sometimes disturbing.

My major problem with Stygian was the ending. While I can understand why the author chose to end it somewhat abruptly, I was really hoping for more. I really wish there had been some kind of epilogue or follow up. Still, this was a really good read! I loved the combination of horror with romance and I'm really hoping Santino Hassell decides to write more in this genre!