Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Review: Black River Orchard by Chuck Wendig


Black River Orchard by Chuck Wendig
Del Rey
Publication Date: September 26th, 2023
Hardcover. 544 pages.

About Black River Orchard:

"It’s autumn in the town of Harrow, but something else is changing in the town besides the season.

Because in that town there is an orchard, and in that orchard, seven most unusual trees. And from those trees grows a new sort of apple: Strange, beautiful, with skin so red it’s nearly black.

Take a bite of one of these apples and you will desire only to devour another. And another. You will become stronger. More vital. More yourself, you will believe. But then your appetite for the apples and their peculiar gifts will keep growing—and become darker.

This is what happens when the townsfolk discover the secret of the orchard. Soon it seems that everyone is consumed by an obsession with the magic of the apples… and what’s the harm, if it is making them all happier, more confident, more powerful?

And even if buried in the orchard is something else besides the seeds of this extraordinary tree: a bloody history whose roots reach back the very origins of the town.

But now the leaves are falling. The days grow darker. And a stranger has come to town, a stranger who knows Harrow’s secrets. Because it’s harvest time, and the town will soon reap what it has sown.

Black River Orchard is horror story that will make you both love and fear something you would never expect: apples. It's a wild ride from start to finish that is sure to keep you turning the page as if your life depends on it. Chuck Wendig has a very specific style to his horror books, and if you like his style, then you will certainly have a fantastic time Black River Orchard

Black River Orchard is basically about a town where some apple trees start bearing magic apples that people eat, become addicted to, and weird shit starts happening. That's honestly all you really need to know going into this book. Also, you will learn a lot about apples, probably more than you really need to know, but honestly I enjoy having this excessive apple knowledge at this point. I also want to go try a lot of apples now. Anyway, let's get to the review! 

We largely follow Dan, developer of the problematic magic apples, and his daughter, Calla, who consistently puts up with her dad's apple obsession. We also meet some additional POV characters, such as: Meg and Emily, a married couple who recently moved to town; Graham and Joanie, another married couple that live in town, though they actually rent their house out fairly often and also live in a nearby city; and lastly, a man named John Compass who ends up having quite a history that ties in well with other events in the town. It's a pretty large cast, as most of Wendig's novels tend to be, and we spend plenty of time getting to know all of them. A cast this large can often feel overwhelming and hard to keep track of, but Wendig works his magic and somehow creates individual, unique characters with distinct storylines and personalities that makes it easy to follow along. 

When Dan's magic apples start making the rounds, people in town start losing their minds a bit (and by "a bit," I mean absolutely, completely going crazy). Calla is one of the few who hasn't eaten an apple and it stuck trying to figure out what is going on, as well as how to stop it. This is a pretty intense story at times, and there's plenty of gore and gross things that happen along the way as people become more and more addicted to the apples, which leads to a culmination of events that are difficult to comprehend. In addition to the present day apple issues, there are additional layers to this story including past events that combine John Compass' storyline with the present. Everything happening in this town has a long history that goes back to intertwine with the indigenous Lenape peoples that previously lived on the land, and I really love how Wendig managed to tie all of this together. 

Wendig has a very verbose style of writing and pacing that really takes its time to set up the story, allow characters to develop, and build tension, which all works really well creating a slow burned and complex horror story that never leaves a moment for boredom. I love how much time and effort Wendig puts into developing his characters, as well as how much detail is put into developing history and background for both them and the setting. There's an ever-present creepiness that permeates the entire atmosphere of the story and really leaves the feeling of not knowing what to expect. 

Black River Orchard is a very "on brand" story for Wendig when compared to his other work, and while part of me really loves that, I also somehow felt as though I'd read this book before or parts of it just felt very familiar. I always have a great time with the crazy stories that Wendig takes us on, but I find I really have to be in the mood for a lot of side journeys and what feels like a bit of rambling at times (it's not actually rambling because everything plays into the plot, but it just feels like a lot of digressions) in order to fully appreciate his work. If you've read Wendig before and know whether you like his style or not then you'll probably have a good idea if this book will work for you or not. 

If you like a slow burn horror that unleashes creepiness at every corner and has a constant sense of unease, then Black River Orchard is the perfect fit. For me, it didn't end up clicking as much as some of his other books, but I still had a great time with it and will certainly be giving all of my apples a suspicious glance before I eat them now...

*I received a copy of Black River Orchard courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon | Bookshop.org

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this, but it did feel a bit long in places. I think I was just anxious to find out what happens😁