Epeolatry Book Review: Kosa by John Durgin

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Title: Kosa
Author: John Durgin
Genre: Horror
Publisher: DarkLit Press
Release Date: 17th May, 2024

Synopsis: In a secluded mansion hidden away from the outside world, young Kosa lives under the strict and overpowering rule of her enigmatic mother. For Kosa, the rules set by Mother are the guiding principles of her life, shaping her beliefs and actions. She has been sheltered from the truth about the world beyond the confines of their home, conditioned to fear the darkness and malevolence that supposedly lurks outside.

However, as Kosa grows older, she begins to question the reality she has been presented with. Doubts eat away at her, fueled by a deep-rooted curiosity and a burgeoning sense of independence.

But Kosa possesses a mysterious and powerful ability that Mother desperately needs to sustain her own existence. Mother, a figure shrouded in shadows and secrets, will stop at nothing to ensure that Kosa’s power remains potent and under her control. The sinister grasp that Mother has on Kosa becomes increasingly suffocating as she tightens her grip, isolating Kosa further from the truth that exists beyond their home.

In this dark and captivating tale, Kosa’s journey unravels the intricacies of control, the strength of one’s convictions, and the true nature of the world beyond the shadows. The choices she makes will not only determine her fate but also influence the fate of those around her.

A sinister retelling of the fairy tale, Rapunzel, Kosa is a terrifying, bleak, but still hopeful read. Filled with complex and interesting characters, it’s easy to fall into this tale, but be careful about getting too attached to any of them because this story does not hold much back.

 

We open with a flashback of sorts. Alan Brock breaks into a mansion looking for something to steal. He’s drained his family’s savings with his drug addiction and lost his job. Also, his wife is about to give birth. He’s desperate and the secluded mansion where an old woman lives seemingly alone seems like the perfect target. Unfortunately for him, she is no ordinary old woman, but a powerful witch. Alan manages to escape with his life and a single amulet he hopes to sell, but the power in the amulet transfers to his newborn daughter and, like the fairy tale, the witch takes the child and hides her away.

 

Named Kosa for her hair, our heroine grows up in solitude. She is a sweet, naive, abused girl that certainly deserves the reader’s sympathy and makes for a good, classic Rapunzel. One of the most naive fairy tale heroines, she tends to go along with what she’s told because she doesn’t know better—Durgin captures this in a believable way. He also recognizes that spending an entire novel inside her head might be a stretch, and so he fills his work with a variety of points of view that keeps the narrative fresh.

 

The witch is a truly terrifying creature. Pure evil with no redeeming qualities, she preys on poor Kosa and everyone else. She makes for a formidable villain, and I liked that she was so evil. I believe I have said this before, but I tire of authors trying to flesh out their villains with undeserved sympathetic backstories that ring hollow. Durgin resists this urge, and even when we do get information on her origin, it is manipulative and fits her character.

 

In Rapunzel, there is one more main character—the prince. Durgin includes a prince-like figure, but changes the parameters and makes the relationship unique. Instead of the classic story where the prince climbs up her hair and takes advantage of the shut-in waiting there, he visits the home for a different reason. Without spoiling too much, he works with Kosa against the witch, and the surprising end sequence gives both Kosa and the prince-figure agency that fairy tale characters don’t always get.

 

Kosa is a scary, compelling horror retelling of Rapunzel. It remains true to the source material, but changes it in key ways to make it feel fresh. This novel could appeal to those who do not particularly enjoy retellings.

/5

Available from Amazon and Bookshop.

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