Review: Horns by Joe Hill

Genre: Horror
Format: Paperback
Publisher: HarperCollins (originally published March 1st 2010)
How I got this book: free from a giveaway at The Ranting Dragon as part of the 2011 Locus Challenge
Links: Amazon Goodreads

Blurb from Goodreads:

Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with a thunderous hangover, a raging headache… and a pair of horns growing from his temples.

At first Ig thought the horns were a hallucination, the product of a mind damaged by rage and grief. He had spent the last year in a lonely, private purgatory, following the death of his beloved, Merrin Williams, who was raped and murdered under inexplicable circumstances. A mental breakdown would have been the most natural thing in the world. But there was nothing natural about the horns, which were all too real.

Once the righteous Ig had enjoyed the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician and younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, he had security, wealth, and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more—he had Merrin and a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

But Merrin’s death damned all that. The only suspect in the crime, Ig was never charged or tried. And he was never cleared. In the court of public opinion in Gideon, New Hampshire, Ig is and always will be guilty because his rich and connected parents pulled strings to make the investigation go away. Nothing Ig can do, nothing he can say, matters. Everyone, it seems, including God, has abandoned him. Everyone, that is, but the devil inside…

Now Ig is possessed of a terrible new power to go with his terrible new look—a macabre talent he intends to use to find the monster who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It’s time for a little revenge… It’s time the devil had his due…

My rating:
4.5/5 Stars – Almost perfect. I highly recommend it.


This book was a roller coaster – it made me shudder, cringe, bite my nails, laugh, and even cry.  It’s one of the scariest, most disturbing novels I’ve ever read, and I loved it.

The premise is unique and if you’re interested in theology or religion, you’ll love the story’s twist on the Devil.  Here, he’s not pure evil, but the embodiment of our flawed human nature.  The Devil manifests through the protagonist Iggy, helping him to fight a sociopath whose inhumanity makes him scarier and more evil than any sinful desire the Devil could ever conjure up.  Iggy is certainly not a hero in the traditional sense, but in the face of such a monstrous villain, you can’t help but root for him.  After all, there’s a little devil in all of us, even if we try to hide it, and this story draws on that concept in a major way.

Right from the beginning, you know something terrible is going to happen, so there’s a constant sense of foreboding underlying the narrative.  Even though you know what’s coming, it’s still shocking when it finally happens.  I also liked getting to experience the story’s most intense scene from the villain’s perspective because it made the moment that much more horrible.  If I wasn’t already on the Devil’s side, I definitely was after that.

One of the biggest surprises comes near the end when a huge revelation makes you see the entire story in a new light.  There’s an incredibly satisfying “Ah ha!” moment when the curtain is finally drawn back and you realize that there’s even more depth to the already complex, multilayered characters.

The events of the story are tragic and deeply sad, yet it never looses the element of horror.  At times, it’s outright terrifying, demented, gross, and purposely shocking.  (If you have a severe phobia of snakes, don’t read this book!)  It’s extremely thought provoking, with a compelling plot and a sympathetic antihero.  Overall, I really enjoyed Horns and it’s a story that’s undoubtedly going to stay with me for quite a while.

Don’t forget to cast your vote in the
41st annual Locus Awards by April 15th!  Horns is nominated for Best Fantasy Novel of 2010.  For more, check out The Ranting Dragon’s voting guide and giveaway.

Also reviewed at:
The Ranting Dragon – 5/5 Stars
Fantasy Book Critic


About Lesley

I love big dogs, ravioli, and all things nerdy. Books are my crack.
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