Genre: Adult Horror
Year Release: February 7, 2023
Buy Links: Bookshop.org | Unabridged Books | Libro.fm
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Content warning: AIDS epidemic, child abuse, human sacrifice, murder, human trafficking, gaslighting, mental illness, explicit sexual content, body horror, blood, dead parent (the mother), dictatorship, mentions of political uprising, nonconsensual medical experimentation, suicidal ideation, knives, cutting, there is a dog and terrible things happen to the dog
At its core, this book is a horror. It’s got cults, it’s got something akin to a vampire that fuels the world’s most rich and powerful at the expense of local children, and there’s a heart-wrenching exploration of the ways parental protection can actually cause more harm than good. Gaspar and his father, Juan, are on the run from their family and the terrifying legacy they weave. Upsetting in its horror, heart-wrenching in the depiction of parents trying their best but failing miserably, and the tension between moving on and finding normalcy.
A great cult book, a great family saga, with mysteries and supernatural treats galore.
Even though this book is about a cult that worships the literal Darkness, family is the scariest thing within these pages along with the actions and crimes committed in the pursuit of literal immortality. Protagonist Juan is a medium who can commune with the Darkness, the Order’s literal golden boy. But he’s an outsider, adopted by one of the founders for abilities, which got passed onto his son. Communing with the Darkness leaves Juan with wounds both physical and emotional, and that’s on top of his congenital heart disease. The light in the void of this otherwise bleak tale is his love for Gaspar, his son, which frequently comes at odds with his son’s desire to be close to his father and other family. Enríquez deftly guides the reader through his decision-making,
Male sexuality plays a large role in the story, and it’s centered around Juan. He is bisexual and is shown to be in love with Gaspar’s mother while also having several committed male lovers in addition to the sex acts involved with summoning the literal darkness. But it’s not a one-off as part of that character’s depiction. Pablo, one of Gaspar’s friends, is also exploring his sexuality (not with Juan though Juan’s relationships certainly are part of it) which leads into their young adulthood amidst the AIDS crisis. With Gaspar’s hazy trauma and memories, the way the pain among those relationships unaffected by the Order are also framed by less literal pursuits of immortality. The contrast is so stark to the violence committed by Juan’s extended family, but it’s brutal in the way that he cannot protect his son from everything.
The pacing of this novel is deliberate, placing the reader in something familiar, like a road trip or moving to a new town, before the darkness both as a character and as an atmosphere starts creeping in. Things that feel safe get tinged in danger. Friendships become tenuous and secrets get in the way of anything resembling care and security. It’s heart-wrenching and horrifying on several layers.
Absolutely one of my favorite books this year, given its complexity and commitment to showing all aspects of family and the sacrifices both literal and metaphorical when it comes to protecting loved ones.