Jeremy has been isolated and adrift since the death of his brother. Most people just see him as the skinny emo kid who wears eyeliner and plays drums. No one gets him. Nobody tries. He thought the indie rock band Stygian would become his anchor, but, lost in their own problems, they're far from the family he sought.
Still, hoping to get close to Kennedy, the band's enigmatic guitarist, he follows Stygian to northern Louisiana for a summer retreat. They had planned to spend six weeks focusing on new music, but things go awry as soon as they arrive at the long-deserted Caroway mansion. Tempers flare, sexual tension boils over into frustration, and Jeremy turns away from the band to find a friend in his eerily beautiful landlord Hunter Caroway.
Kennedy suspects there's something off about the creepy mansion and its mysterious owners, but Jeremy thinks he's finally found somewhere he fits. It isn't until Kennedy forces the Caroways' secrets into the light that Jeremy realizes belonging sometimes comes with a price.
©2015 Santino Hassell (P)2016 Dreamspinner Press
I received a free copy of this audiobook to listen to and review for Wicked Reads.
I’m not entirely sure how to review Stygian. Having read the book’s description on the publisher’s website and knowing that it’s listed as a vampire novel, I still had a hard time wrapping my head around the vampires. Yes, I have read enough vampire romances to know that it’s the authors’ twists on the legend that can make or break a book and that there are a myriad of ways an author can make their vampires different. Yet I still had difficulty with Stygian, and as I write this review, trying to parse it out for myself, I think it’s because Hassell has pulled off an astounding feat of misdirection. Bear with me while I ramble.
Almost every vampire romance I’ve ever read involves the main character falling for the vampire – truth be told, I’d be hard pressed to name one that didn’t. As the story plays out and Jeremy spends more and more time with Hunter (even if we don’t see it actually occur), it would appear that Hassell is taking the reader in that direction, that Jeremy and Hunter will be a couple. That is, when the author isn’t distracting the reader with the ongoing strife between the band members. Misdirection. Even when the band members aren’t making any progress on their music, there is an abundance of personal drama between them. More misdirection. When Kennedy steps in and draws Jeremy’s attention away from Hunter, and then Hunter later convinces Jeremy that Kennedy’s sudden surge of attention is because Kennedy feels threatened by Hunter being the focus of Jeremy’s attention, we begin to see how Hunter is attempting to manipulate Jeremy. Even more misdirection. On top of that, we have secrets among the band members, secrets that affect Jeremy directly, as well as seemingly unstable personalities, especially Watts, who can be downright nasty at times, making them hard to like. Yet. Even. More. Misdirection.
But what is the reader being misdirected from? In short, everything. It’s almost ingenious how Hassell uses the various elements of the story to distract the reader from what they know from the blurb and then what is actually going on, which left me grasping at threads as the topics shifted, almost seamlessly. The events speed up and slow down to keep the reader off balance, and because the characters are off balance themselves. Just as Jeremy seems to be grasping at what’s occurring around him, something happens to distract him from the truth that is edging his consciousness, keeping him off balance. Even when the scenes play out to reveal what I knew from the blurb, I was still unsure of its truth because Hassell did such a good job of shoring up doubt, denial, and the need to come up with a more rational explanation. I should note that I felt as though the book ended rather abruptly, but that’s probably because I was caught up in the story and wasn’t yet prepared to breathe easily. With that said, Geoffrey Alan’s narration probably contributed to that as well because he kept me glued to my Kindle, immersing me in Jeremy’s emotions – fear, anxiety, loss, and love – and leaving me hanging on his every word, waiting to see how the story would play out. In short, I was utterly captivated by Stygian.
I received a free copy of this book to read and review for Wicked Reads.
I have to say that this book really was hard for me to get into at first. There were so many people and so much that was going on that it really did take me a bit to get into it. However, it was still good enough that even though I was confused with all the characters and the setting, I didn't want to put it down. The further into the story that I got, the more I didn't want to put it down.
I really enjoyed the way the author yanks the reader's emotions around and gets us so involved in the story. I really hope we get more stories like this from Santino Hassell. I enjoyed his Five Boroughs series, I liked this one just as much if not more.
I did get the opportunity to review the audiobook version of this book as well and I sadly have to say that I really didn't feel like the narrator did a great job. While he didn't do terrible, I really felt like he read entirely too fast and that may have contributed some of my confusion in the beginning.
I usually love this author's work. The content is an interesting departure for him, a Southern Gothic. However, I am unable to pass judgement on the writing as the audiobook is so poor. So I gave it 3 out 5. The reading is completely alienating and prevents the listener from engaging with the text. Although part of me wanted to get through it just to see how it ended, I gave up about 3 hours in.
The book is not actually narrated, but rather read, and not even read fluently. Despite the fact that the main characters are Texan and the setting is Louisiana, and that their voices and accent are mentioned in the text, there is virtually no attempt to differentiate between them. It is often difficult to discern which character is speaking during dialogue and I was confused for at least the first half about how many characters there were in the band and what their names were.
Aside from the failure to provide distinct voices to the characters, the narrative also provides little evidence of reading comprehension. Listening to it is not like being immersed in a story but more like listening to learners reading in a stilted fashion as they try to decipher the words. Reading on quickly and without pause when able, then stumbling over a few words. There is hardly any attempt to provide emphasis to words in sentences, let alone any conveyance of tone.
The 'narration' is no better than a text to speech program. It's a shame that we lost the opportunity to hear this book read competently. Hopefully it will one day be re-recorded with a different narrator.
Avid reader, reviewer, blogger and budding author.
The flow of the story. Each piece of the puzzle is put in place at the exact, right moment and it left me on the edge of my seat throughout.
When Jeremy finally put all the ill fitting pieces together and figured out a key thing in the story. As I said above, this is a very creepy book. I mean, you know something is amiss pretty much from the start and as more secrets are revealed and more questionable things start to happen you're just drawn further into the web the Author has woven.
No, this was my first from him and I quite liked it. Definitely be on the lookout for more from this narrator.
Oh yeah, when Kennedy finally opens up to Jeremy. Kennedy keeping his feelings buried is partly why Jeremy finds himself in.... danger. But then it takes Kennedy being honest for Jeremy to open his eyes and see the danger for what it truly is.
Stygian is an up and coming Indie Rock band that recently lost their drummer in a car accident. When Jeremy showed up to audition the guys hired him on for a few reasons. Not only was he a good drummer, he was the first one their ill tempered lead singer Watts could say anything nice about, and he just happens to be the littler brother of someone else that was close to Watts that died way too young. To stir things up and try to get the group to merge, Watts rents a run down, broken and mysteriously creepy plantation in Louisiana for the summer. Bad tempers, drugs, alcohol and a couple of landlords that redefine the term hovering all work against the group to ensure that they continue to disagree. In fact, the arguments and fights reach an all time high pretty much the minute they step foot on the tainted soil of the rental.
I was intrigued with this story from the start, perhaps because I'm from the deep south, but the way the book opened with Jeremy and Kennedy dragging everything out of the van, the stifling heat and the fact that the plantation home did not have air conditioning. It all rang very familiar to me, so I could kind of picture the four guys from the beginning. Watts is the ill tempered lead singer of the band. His favorite things in life are bitching, yelling, moaning, complaining and snorting coke up his nose every hour on the hour. Quince is the resident door mat, meaning that he willingly allows Watts to use and abuse him, in more ways than twenty. Kennedy is the enigmatic guitarist. He is very mellow and laid back for the majority of the story. And then there is Jeremy, the newest member of the band. Jeremy only wants three things in life. To play the drums, to have Kennedy return the love he feels for him, and to belong. So it is quite easy for the Caroway's to play off of Jeremy and Quince's insecurities and willingness to belong.
As the story progresses, more and more secrets are revealed, and they are all perfectly timed and placed to keep the flow steady and engrossing. While there were a few things I figured out early on, there were still some surprises. Hassell definitely left himself open to write another book for Stygian, especially fans of the Jeremy/Kennedy romance saga. I will admit, I wanted to choke Kennedy a couple times, but he finally pulled his head out of his ass by the end. There is mystery, suspense and out right terror involved as well as a few steamy encounters here and there. If you like scary stories with a paranormal type of edge, then I think you'll really enjoy this one. It is one of my top reads of 2015!
Lily reads, writes, and reviews m/m romance.
Geoffrey Alan is a new narrator to Audible and this is his first story there. At first, I thought his voice was rather monotone with no clear distinction between the character voices. Yet, as the story unfolded, I grew to appreciate how his storytelling suited the spooky story, and I noticed the slight variations for each character. At times the editing could have been improved, though. Sometimes there needed to be a great pause between sentences or scenes. Occasional words were mispronounced or deviated slightly from the text. It may be there was a more up-to-date version of the story for the audiobook. Overall it was still a very enjoyable story to listen to.
This is the first Santino Hassell book I’ve read/listened to and I definitely grew to like the descriptive style of his writing. Stygian means very dark, and the scary atmosphere is certainly portrayed skilfully in this book.
The characters created by Hassell are both physically and emotionally diverse and distinct. Each member of Stygian is flawed—damaged by their past with issues and guilt that need resolving. I particularly enjoyed how the different relationships between the guys was shown.
Jeremy is the insecure outsider. Even though he was invited to join the indie band after the death of its previous drummer, he doesn’t feel like he belongs and is hoping a summer of making new music with his band mates will improve things for him. He’s crushing on the guitarist, Kennedy, although he doesn’t seem interested in him. Plus Jeremy is still dealing with the shock of discovering his brother after he’d committed suicide. Tension runs high from the start, with vicious remarks and attacks against each other, especially from moody Watts, the lead singer. Quince is nice and makes an effort to mediate, but tempers fray in the Louisiana heat, and the drugs and alcohol don’t improve matters. Jeremy feels like he’s ruining the band’s vibe. Things go from bad to worse and Jeremy isn’t sure who he can trust as secrets are slowly revealed.
They’d planned to write songs for their next album and rehearse over the summer in an isolated and very creepy mansion in the middle of some woods. Its history is obscure as none of the locals wish to talk about it and as time passes the band members fall out and argue even more. They are all seeking something but not quite sure what it is. There’s UST between Jeremy and Kennedy, especially when Hunter, the beautiful yet manipulating owner of the mansion interferes.
We are treated to a couple of hot loving scenes. Although weird, I liked the steam and ‘romance’ that existed between Watts and Quince. I wondered about Jeremy and Kennedy at first, but this was the main love interest of the story, and so was rooting for these guys to sort out their issues. Their make out scenes are lovely.
The scene setting is excellently accomplished. The paranormal element was creepy and atmospheric; the foreboding mansion with its dark history, the mysteriously beautiful and charismatic owners, the eerie woods, the river and the clearing. Even the way the locals and the police behave isn’t quite right. And all these elements impact on the band and their interaction with each other.
Things build to a very exciting and scary climax. Will they all escape in time? This was definitely a favourite part of the story for me. Shame it all ended so swiftly, with not all the paranormal backstory fully explained.
I've long been waiting this one's audio release, and it's finally here! An eerie, beautifully written story of 4 disaffected youths and the supernatural beings who are determined to prey upon them.
So much fun.
Narrator was wonderful and brought his emo new adult A game.
Jeremy lost his brother to suicide. Since then he hasn’t been the same. The guys in the band, Stygian, are his lifeline. But they are a thin thread. Watts, his brother’s friend, is mostly an asshole, totally self absorbed and hateful. He’s screwing around with Quinn, a trusting, open soul who knows he’s being used but can’t help himself. Then there’s Kennedy. Kennedy has entranced Jeremy since they first met.
The band takes a hiatus to Louisiana to work on their next album. Watts decides the atmosphere to be found in a haunted ante-bellum mansion in the swamps. Nothing about the house feels “right”, especially not the brother and sister, Hunter and Laurel who live nearby and who are the house’s owners.
When emotions run high, Jeremy flees into the woods. There he meets Hunter, a stranger who somehow feels more connected than he should. He wants to run to Kennedy, but Kennedy fights their attraction.
A girl dies, Quinn starts acting strangely and Watts continues to spiral downward. Kennedy and Jeremy connect, but is it going to last? Will Hunter drive them apart? What is the deal with the locked rooms in the house?
This is a dark, dark story. Gritty and dirty. The emotions aren’t sugar coated and there are a lot of deep, dark, angsty moments between all the guys in the band.
At times this felt more like a horror story than a romance, but the emotional connection between Jeremy and Kennedy is real and strong.
I can’t tell you what it is, but there’s a (somewhat predictable) twist having to do with Hunter and Laurel. They aren’t who they seem to be. When the climactic moment hits it’s somewhat shocking in its brutality but countered by the love that gets shown in the end between Kennedy and Jeremy.
We leave on a tenuous HFN and I believe there’s more to this story…
If you are a fan of dark, haunted love stories this will be right up your alley. Angst? New Adult drama? This has it in spades. Emotional musicians and a mystery in the swamp? You betcha!
4 of 5 stars
Geoffrey Allen is a new to me narrator but he was an excellent choice for this book. His tone and pacing was dark and perfectly matched the tenor of this creepy story. He added the right inflections and subtly voiced each character differently and appropriately and I think this is a great way to enjoy this story!
5 of 5 stars
Overall 4.5 of 5 stars
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