All Hallow’s Eve, or Halloween as we tend to call it, is the most mysterious night of any calendar year. It’s said that October 31st marks the night where the fabric between our world and the spirit world is at its thinnest, allowing for things to seep through. Then, there’s all the talk about monsters, ghosts, rituals and other things that go bump in the night. Although most of it is surely made up, there’s something to the night and its connotation. At least, you’d think and reason so.
When I saw the cover of Christopher Golden’s All Hallows appear on a book review site, I knew I had to check it out. Parts creepy and intriguing, the unique but minimalist cover art really spoke to me, as did the title of this book. After all, Halloween is one of my favourite holidays.
It didn’t take me too long to get to this one, and it hooked me almost immediately. The characters — although there are many — are all quite interesting and deep, the setting is interesting, and the story covers ground that truly grabs me. Thus, it’s no surprise that I’m here recommending this thing to you all. Then again, if it had taken all these things and crapped on them I wouldn’t be doing so, so I’m thankful that it’s really good.
All Hallows is the story of a residential road in Coventry, Massachusetts, and it’s set on Halloween night of 1984. There, we find the kids and adults of Parmenter Road dealing with life drama as they get ready for one of the most popular holidays of the year. In fact, Halloween might just be the most looked forward to of all; at least when it comes to this residential area. There’s a man named Tony Barbosa who, together with his daughter Chloe, set up and runs something called the Haunted Woods for charity. Then, after that’s over, folks head to a block party at another residence.
This Halloween won’t be like those which came before it, though, because a lot of shit has hit the proverbial fan and more is coming. For starters, this is going to be the Haunted Woods’ final year, because Tony and his wife aren’t going to be able to afford their home anymore. Then, there’s the fact that Barb Sweeney’s husband has left her and her kids high and dry once again, choosing to drink and sleep his way through town instead of fulfilling his husband and fatherly duties. That’s not all, either.
When mysterious children dressed in costumes that don’t fit the era start to appear in the woods and around Parmenter Road, people start to realize that something is up. Of course, they think the kids have just wandered off from parents who must be beyond reconciliation as they search for their missing offspring. However, something more is at play. Something they call the Cunning Man.
Although this book has a lot of vantage points, and is told through the use of a lot of characters — including Tony, his wife, his two kids, Barb, her kids, her soon to be ex-husband and a teenage girl named Vanessa — it doesn’t get confusing or ever seem poorly written. In fact, it’s the opposite. It’s easy to follow, the characters are deep and interesting, and the story is never anything but.
I don’t want to say too much more about this plot, because I’ll risk ruining it. However, I do want to commend the author for managing so many different characters and making them all seem so interesting and deep. I sincerely wanted to find out how each one’s plot ended, and find out how everything wrapped up as soon as possible. That kept me glued to All Hallows by Christopher Golden for hours on end. It’s hard for me to focus for long right now, because my mind never shuts up, so this was an anomaly as a result.
Now, I’ve seen this book listed as a much read horror novel for 2023, and while I agree that it’s a must read I want to temper folks’ expectations. While this is a horror novel, it’s not something you’d jump out and label horror, if you get what I mean. It reads a lot more like a family and character drama slash character study with supernatural elements than it does all out horror. That’s not to shame it or say that it’s any less worthy of your time. Just don’t go in expecting all out horror, and enjoy this book for what it is, and what it does very well.
With all that having been said, I consider this one of my own must read of 2023 recommendations. While All Hallows was my first Christopher Golden book, it certainly won’t be my last.
**This review is based on a copy of the book that we were provided for review purposes. Thank you to its publisher and to NetGalley for facilitating the process. Receiving a free copy did not sway my opinion or change my review.**