Epeolatry Book Review: Foxfire by Rowan Hill
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Author: Rowan Hill
Publisher: Bayou Wolf Press
Release date: 10th October, 2023
Synopsis: In a remote Finnish resort, a group of potential investors gather to enjoy the Arctic beauty and the mesmeric Northern lights. But many of the guests aren’t who they appear to be, and everyone is hiding something–from the gaudy Americans to the adventurous German and Australian couple to the quiet Yakuza and his former Geisha wife.
Owner Mattais and his skeptical daughter, Aino, have ignored family legends, dismissing the warnings of honoring their ancient forest as silly, old-fashioned traditions. But when the guests start to be picked off one by one, their blood soaked in the snow, the old tales don’t seem so far-fetched anymore. A spectre haunts the forest and the survivors must decipher who–or what–is taking revenge.
This is my second Rowan Hill book. I read her debut, In the Arctic Sun, and enjoyed its depiction of the arctic wilderness, and Foxfire has that same eerie landscape, albeit in Finland instead of Alaska, but with the same stark, empty terror. I have never been that far north, but I have experience with deep snow and blistering cold winters, and Hill’s depictions of the isolated coldness is convincing, which is why I was surprised to read from her author bio that she has “Southern roots, California born, and raised in Australia”. I do note her mention that she has travelled extensively.
In the Arctic Sun was good, but I enjoyed Foxfire even more. I can see Hill’s growth as a writer starting to take shape. Foxfire is more complex with its twisty-turny plot and rotating viewpoints. It takes skill to distinguish multiple points of view, and Hill accomplishes this well.
Foxfire casts a group of potential investors coming to a remote area in Finland where Mattias, against his family’s wishes, is desperate to turn his ancestral land into a booming tourist attraction. Hill fills her small cast with a variety of larger-than-life characters. We meet Rocky and Regina, the garish American couple; Tetsuya and Mimiko, from Japan; new couple, Kurt and Carly. Each character is distinct and comes with their own skeleton-filled closets and personal baggage.
The Foxfire title is a translation of the Finnish word for the Aurora Borealis “revontulet”, which forms the backdrop to this tale. This group has come together not only to consider investing in a resort, but to witness this natural wonder of the north. Only, because this is a horror book, everything goes terribly awry.
Soon after everyone’s arrival and introduction, in a plot reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s And then there were none, the guests start dying. The death scenes are well-written and poignant. There is a gruesome beauty to some of them. The book doesn’t give the reader a lot of time to get attached to most of the characters, but even in their short scenes, they are distinctive and memorable. My personal favourite is Carly, the badass Australian survivalist.
As a slasher mystery, the book works well, but what makes it even more exciting is the constant twists and turns that change the narrative and keep the readers on their toes. I thought I had figured out who/what was killing everyone, only to be proven wrong multiple times. Despite the chapter titles offering some spoilers, I still didn’t piece everything together and the exciting final sequence of the story left me reeling.
Full of colourful characters, gruesome deaths, and action, Foxfire is a delight to read when you’re safe and warm while storms rage outside.
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Melody lives in Ontario, Canada and writes short, dark fiction. She has been published in several anthologies and online publications. In university, she studied Ancient Greek and Roman Studies and often infuses her work with elements of Greek mythology. She also loves reading, embroidery, and martial arts. You can follow her homepage at: https://www.blog.melodyemcintyre.com/