"The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear,
and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown."
– H. P. Lovecraft, Supernatural Horror in Literature
I cannot overstate this enough – The Croning is a masterfully constructed and brilliantly written novel, one that will more than satisfy hardcore horror fans, especially aficionados of Lovecraft. But Barron’s hypnotic writing style and his sublime fusion of popular folklore throughout make this a “must read” for fantasy fans as well. I just love the way this guy writes. Here are a few examples:
• “The Spy took a torch from a sconce and raised it high to better examine the broken ring and the mosaic of murky imagery that enmeshed it – a hunt or revel in a forest; maidens with babes in arms fled dark figures whose eyes blazed red and who grasped with elongated arms and spindly, clawed hands. He saw, as his light glanced from surface to surface, that the bones of the broken ring symbol were real human skeletons of all sizes, mortared and fused together to create a piece of unholy art.”
• “Their footsteps crunched on the gravel and Don had a vision of a carpet of dried yellow finger bones snapping beneath his shoes.”
• "Worship of Old Leech is the primary activity of the Terrestrial sect. This worship was transmitted to us by a race that exists on the rim of the universe and spreads like a mold crawling across meat. We call this race the Children of Old Leech. They dwell in the depths and the shadows, they inhabit the crack that runs through everything."
Like At the Mountains of Madness, The Croning is a novel that will stay with readers long after reading. And if you don’t think that you’re truly scared after finishing this novel, just wait a while until you go to sleep…
Bottom line: The Croning is one of the very best horror novels that I’ve read in decades – and Laird Barron is the next coming of H. P. Lovecraft. Mark my words.
Paul Goat Allen has been a full-time book reviewer specializing in genre fiction for the last two decades and has written thousands of reviews for companies like Publishers Weekly, The Chicago Tribune, Kirkus Reviews, and BarnesandNoble.com. He is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.
Keep up with all of my blogs – as well as all of Barnes & Noble’s exclusive reviews, authors interviews, videos, promotions, and more – by following @BNBuzz on Twitter!
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