Epeolatry Book Review: Night’s Edge by Liz Kerin
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Title: Night’s Edge
Editor: Liz Kerin
Publisher: Tor Nightfire
Release Date: 20th June, 2023
Synopsis: Liz Kerin’s Night’s Edge is a sun-drenched novel about the darkest secrets we hide and how monstrous we can be to the ones we love most.
Having a mom like Izzy meant Mia had to grow up fast. No extracurriculars, no inviting friends over, and definitely no dating. The most important rule: Tell no one of Izzy’s hunger – the kind only blood can satisfy.
But Mia is in her twenties now and longs for a life of her own. One where she doesn’t have to worry about anyone discovering their terrible secret, or breathing down her neck. When Mia meets rebellious musician Jade she dares to hope she’s found a way to leave her home – and her mom – behind.
It just might be Mia’s only chance of getting out alive.
Kerin’s novel introduces us to Mia and her mother with an explosive hook—“I’m hungry and it’s two in the morning. The fridge is empty. And Mom is dead on the couch.” Told in first person present with Mia living in Salt Lake City in year 2010, the story then flips to first person present with Mia living in Tucson in the NOW. As a somewhat coming of age story, the novel continues to flip back and forth in time. In this post-pandemic setting, Mia reflects and narrates how her mom became a victim of the pandemic. It isn’t COVID. “Saras” are not a reference to a woman’s name, and they’re not anyone you’d want to encounter.
Midway through the book, you learn the pandemic’s official name: Saratov’s Syndrome. The disease has been circulating in the USSR since the 1990s. Like COVID, patients are reluctant to report their symptoms to the CDC, and they resist hospitalization. Like COVID, people tend to switch off the news because it’s depressing, and saras are about the only thing the talking heads talk about. You don’t want the CDC to have you on record, because you might get picked up and shipped out.
The relationships (Kerin gives us readers more than one) portrayed in Night’s Edge border on negative co-dependency; one half of the relationship gives, the other half takes. As her quest, Mia must decide which ones are worthy of her time and effort. Her life is ultimately at stake, even though she is surrounded by those she is supposed to trust. Throughout a good portion of the book, most of the conflict was inner. Does s/he love me, or does s/he just want what I can offer?
It didn’t satisfy my supernatural itch, but that’s okay. Like a zombie book that scientifically explains the monster’s mutation (think, Mike Carey’s The Girl with All The Gifts) Kerin’s vampire novel similarly rationalizes the blood-sucking trope. Saras are stronger, live longer, and the disease results “…if you can even call it that…” in an evolutionary metamorphosis. “No vaccine, no cure. Because the body wants it.”
I’m a lover of similes and metaphors, and Kerin gave me quite a few effective images. (“I withdraw and she moves with me like a magnet.”) But I cringed at a couple of the clunkier ones. (“I slip out of the cabin, quiet as falling snow.” Yes, it snows in Salt Lake City, but keep in mind the story takes place within the desert’s heat, and the sun and its heat are emphasized.) I could highlight one or two more, but maybe I’m nit-picking?
And I love original characters. We’re introduced to a clique of young women, one of them “…revealing a mouth of huge tombstone teeth.” Mia focuses on the teeth (I would too!) with great descriptors, but I felt letdown when nothing came of this character or her teeth. I wanted her to matter, to see the teeth become bigger, and dangerous, and ultimately lead to either a demise or a delivery. But it was like Kerin inserted the character for comic relief, and that’s all. A tad disappointing as far as I was concerned.
I wanted more terror. More, dare I say, gore. I kept expecting dread to step out of the shadows where it lingered—bring on the mean girls and then let them get their comeuppance. For me, the lack thereof slowed the story, but that’s not to say it suffered from a lack of action; it’s there, but it’s simmering on the back burner—until the ending. Which I found quite satisfying.
Ultimately, I see Kerin’s manuscript played out on the big screen, garnering a huge draw with lofty aplomb. And as I turned the final pages, I wanted to yell, “Atta Girl, Mia!” So, I liked the main character enough to root for her, and that’s every author’s goal. Atta girl, Liz Kerin!
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Catherine Jordan is the new review coordinator for Horrortree.com. She’s a horror movie fan and a horror novelist, although she edits and writes in many genres. Ms. Jordan has been featured in a variety of anthologies, on-line publications, and print magazines. It was her pleasure to serve as judge for the Bram Stoker Award and for the ITW Young Adult Award. Catherine also facilitates writing courses and critique groups. She credits her five children with inspiring her writing material.