Horns is the second standalone novel from Joe Hill, also known for his dark and twisted graphic novel series Locke & Key. Horns follows Ignatius Perrish a.k.a. “Ig.” On the one-year anniversary of his girlfriend Merrin’s rape and murder, Ig finds that he has grown horns on his temples. The horns encourage people around him to uncontrollably confess and act upon their sinful thoughts. It’s not easy to live with people’s unfiltered opinions—after all, almost everyone in town thinks Ig killed Merrin, his childhood sweetheart and true love. But with this newfound power of suggestion, Ig can now conduct his own investigation and seek out Merrin’s killer.
An engrossing mystery
Horns is a supernatural murder mystery, but it is also an emotional mystery in that people’s intentions unfold in many unexpected ways. We start the journey when Ig discovers his horns, but then we also go back in time to see how Ig and Merrin first met and later fell in love. We are also introduced to the people in Ig’s life, and when those people later start confessing their thoughts (thanks to Ig’s horns), we’re in for a hell of a ride.
Romance for the twisted
Nothing about Ig and Merrin’s relationship is twisted, but Horns is the kind of book that really appeals to my romantic side in the vein of Twelve Monkeys—dark, gritty, but powered by love. Merrin was the one thing that Ig ever fought for; the rest of his life was unremarkable while Merrin was alive. Ig was devoted to Merrin, but he also let her down when she needed him the most. Horns is complicated—it challenges both the idea of a pure and true love and its disbelievers.
For those with delicate sensibilities, there are a few later chapters told from the killer’s perspective, which is an extremely chilling point of view—powerful, but disturbing. I mentioned earlier that Merrin was raped and killed, and that scene gets a visceral first-person treatment.
As for those with delicate ideological sensibilities, Horns also throws out the idea that given all the bad and the evil in the world, the devil may bring more justice than God. Horns leads you to feel that revenge may be justified. But if revenge is the moral high ground, isn’t the devil a good guy?
I’m not providing these warnings to scare people away; rather, I hope that those who otherwise may be unpleasantly surprised with the subject matter be forewarned and approach Horns prepared. This is a book that begs to be read.
Why should you read this book?
Horns is on the Locus recommended reading list as one of the best fantasy novels of the year 2010 for good reason—it’s entertaining and thought-provoking at the same time. Not only does Joe Hill have his father’s talent (his father is Stephen King), I’m hoping he will be just as—if not more—prolific.
Buy the book and get a specialized bookplate!
With March seeing the paperback release of Horns, the author is offering the following deal: the first 1000 people to order the book and then email firstname.lastname@example.org with proof of purchase will receive a specialized bookplate from Joe—he’s been signing and doodling all sorts of creations on bookplates for days now! For more information on this giveaway and the rest of Joe’s books, visit www.joehillfiction.com and follow Joe on Twitter @joe_hill.
Benni received a review copy courtesy of Harper Collins and TLC Book Tours.