Thursday, October 26, 2023

Review: Knock Knock, Open Wide by Neil Sharpson


Knock Knock, Open Wide by Neil Sharpson
Tor Nightfire
Publication Date: October 3rd, 2023
Hardcover. 336 pages.

About Knock Knock, Open Wide:

"Knock Knock, Open Wide weaves horror and Celtic myth into a terrifying, heartbreaking supernatural tale of fractured family bonds, the secrets we carry, and the veiled forces that guide Irish life.

Driving home late one night, Etain Larkin finds a corpse on a pitch-black country road deep in the Irish countryside. She takes the corpse to a remote farmhouse. So begins a night of unspeakable horror that will take her to the very brink of sanity.

She will never speak of it again.

Two decades later, Betty Fitzpatrick, newly arrived at college in Dublin, has already fallen in love with the drama society, and the beautiful but troubled Ashling Mallen.

As their relationship blossoms, Ashling goes to great lengths to keep Betty away from her family, especially her alcoholic mother, Etain. As their relationship blossoms, Betty learns her lover's terrifying family history, and Ashling's secret obsession. Ashling has become convinced that the horrors inflicted on her family are connected to a seemingly innocent children's TV show. Everyone in Ireland watched this show in their youth, but Ash soon discovers that no one remembers it quite the same way. And only Ashling seems to remember its a small black goat puppet who lives in a box and only comes out if you don’t behave. They say he’s never come out.

Almost never.

When the door between the known and unknown opens, it can never close again."

I don't know exactly how to describe what Knock Knock, Open Wide is other than a complex, multilayered, and unbelievably eerie horror story centered around Irish folklore. This was a fascinating horror story that left me both intrigued and uncertain at different points. I feel like this book is not going to work for everyone because of everything it has going on and how it's all put together, but if you have the patience and find yourself intrigued by the first couple chapters, then I'd say it's a read that's well worth it. 

Knock Knock, Open Wide opens with a punch and caught my attention right away. It's eerie, highly atmospheric, and sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the book. I loved how we slowly learned about Celtic myth and folklore from the very start and continued to be introduced to more and more of it throughout the rest of the book. We start out following Etain as she comes across a corpse in the middle of the road deep in the country, and from this moment on everything for the rest of the book is set into motion. I'll confess that I was a little disappointed at first when I realized we wouldn't be sticking with Etain throughout the rest of the story, as I found myself immediately intrigued by her and her story. However, as the story progressed I came to become invested in plenty of the other characters and loved seeing how the author developed each one and their individual stories and backgrounds–and also realized how Etain would still play a role.

There are a lot of different storylines going on in Knock Knock, Open Wide, and with these storylines come a lot of different jumps in timelines, character focuses, and tone of the story. The first third and last third of this book were easily the strongest, with a some parts in the middle that I personally felt dragged a little. All of these shifts affected the overall tone of the story and often felt a bit abrupt or took me out of previous storylines and left things feeling a bit disjointed, or almost at times like they were part of different stories. Because of this, the pacing also felt very stop and go and I was constantly wavering on how much I actually liked the story. For instance, I loved the first portion of the story following Etain's storyline and Betty's initial storyline, but then there were some shifts mid-story that lost some of my interest and almost made me consider whether I wanted to continue the story. Fortunately, anytime this feeling felt too strong the book would shift again and I'd be interested once more, so the end result was overwhelmingly positive for me. 

What I appreciated about all these different storylines and characters, however, was seeing how they were all interconnected and eventually came together in some really genius and intriguing ways. Neil Sharpson is an author I want to keep my eye on and whose previous work I'd like to check out. There is so much detail and careful plottingin Knock Knock, Open Wide, and I loved how well he managed to develop each character in such a way that I felt fully invested in their lives. Ashling, in particular, had so many intriguing layers that I actually started out feeling unsure about her and ended up really rooting for her and wanting to see how her relationships with her mother, Betty, and her aunt would work out. 

I've also already mentioned how eerie and well-crafted the atmosphere of this story is, but I really just want to emphasize and drive that point home. This book is not constantly throwing out crazy things left and right, but the overwhelming sense of dread and a sort of "waiting" for something to happen was strongly present throughout the entire book. There are things constantly lurking that just feel unnatural and wrong. You know when you watch a movie and the entire thing is sort of bathed in a dreary fog or misty backdrop that tells you 'hey, this is a dark movie?' That's exactly what this book felt like, and I couldn't have found the kid's TV show featured in this creepier any creepier than I did. This book absolutely nails atmosphere and creating a setting that brings the horror and creepiness to life. 

Lastly, I just have to note that the ending of Knock Knock, Open Wide is honestly pretty wild, and I really loved and appreciated everything about it. The author knew what story he wanted to tell and he really went for it. Everything came together and provided me with constant surprises and some shocks–I really do mean it when I say things get weird and somehow eerier than that they were.

Overall, I've given Knock Knock, Open Wide four stars! If you need a fall read to make you feel weird, then this is the book for you. 

*I received a copy of Knock Knock, Open Wide courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*

Buy the book: Amazon |

1 comment:

  1. I wasn't able to get to this in October, but I hope I can catch up. I think I will enjoy it๐Ÿ˜