Epeolatry Book Review: Leech by Hiron Ennes


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Title: Leech
Author: Hiron Ennes
Publisher:  Tor
Genre: Horror
Release Date: 27th, September, 2022


In an isolated chateau, as far north as north goes, the baron’s doctor has died. The doctor’s replacement has a mystery to solve: discovering how the Institute lost track of one of its many bodies.

For hundreds of years the Interprovincial Medical Institute has grown by taking root in young minds and shaping them into doctors, replacing every human practitioner of medicine. The Institute is here to help humanity, to cure and to cut, to cradle and protect the species from the apocalyptic horrors their ancestors unleashed.

In the frozen north, the Institute’s body will discover a competitor for its rung at the top of the evolutionary ladder. A parasite is spreading through the baron’s castle, already a dark pit of secrets, lies, violence, and fear. The two will make war on the battlefield of the body. Whichever wins, humanity will lose again.

In “Leech,” Hiron Ennes plunges us into an immersive universe that oscillates between the familiar and the fantastic, a world that is at once horrifying and captivating. This debut novel, with its evocative gothic horror ambiance and its innovative protagonist, The Institute, offers a fascinating exploration of a post-apocalyptic world and the human experience within it.

Ennes’ narrative is characterized by a harmonious blend of the ordinary and the extraordinary, a hallmark of the fantastic genre. The protagonist is a hive-mind entity that navigates a world that has been reshaped by a catastrophic event. The Institute, a healthcare system that operates in this broken world, provides a perspective that is both inhuman and deeply intriguing. Their omnipresent viewpoint enriches the narrative by offering glimpses of the world through the eyes of a collective consciousness, a novel approach that elevates the horror genre. (And, I hate using the term elevated horror.)

Moreover, the novel’s setting, the bitter cold and isolated land of Verdira, enhances the sense of the uncanny. This, in conjunction with the narrative’s slow, atmospheric pace, generates a sense of dread, creating an aura of suspense that compels the reader to engage with the narrative despite the underlying terror it induces. This balance between curiosity and fear, between the need to know and the fear of the unknown.

Furthermore, the theme of infection and contamination, embodied by the parasitic disease, challenges the boundaries between the human and the non-human, inducing a sense of existential horror. We’ve seen a lot of takes on infection when it comes to horror over the years, and an increase more recently, but this one shouldn’t be overlooked for using such a widely written topic.

However, the narrative is not devoid of grounding elements. The detailed exploration of the socio-political dynamics within Verdira, the historical references, and the rich character development ensure that the narrative retains a firm grip on reality, further reinforcing the dichotomy that defines the fantastic genre.

Despite. and perhaps because of the novel’s somewhat bleak and desolate setting, “Leech” remains an engaging and thought-provoking read that pushes the boundaries of the horror genre. It is a testament to Ennes’ skill as a storyteller that he can create a world that is as unsettling as it is fascinating, a world that is both strange and familiar, a world that embodies the essence of the fantastic. As such, “Leech” is a must-read for those who appreciate narratives that transcend the conventional boundaries of genre and offer a fresh perspective on the human condition.


Available from Amazon and Bookshop.

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