5 out of 5
Book by Stephanie M. Matthews
The Gift is a Haunting and Gothic Treat for Horror Fans.
Fae Peeters, a young architecture student in Belgium, receives a mysteries letter from her grandmother inviting her to visit her childhood home for Christmas, a quaint village in Southern Belgium. Fae is to receive her Christmas “Gift” in this village, but upon her arrival she learns that the picturesque township she’s delighted to explore has a hauntingly dark past. Strange behaviour, hearing voices, seeing dead faces in the mirror, Fae’s scepticism of religion and the supernatural unravels when she is forced to confront a demonic entity that has the entire village controlled like soulless puppets. Is the “Gift” really a gift, or a curse?
Matthews’s writing style is slow but builds in speed and intensity, taking the reader from a sleepy village holiday escape to nightmare terror. The research into religious iconography, architecture, and history are in-depth and to be commended, making this world more intriguing, believable, and horrifying. This is a village that you can believe is real. The characters, though mysteries, are executed well, their motivations and sometimes wicked intentions becoming apparent as clues and secrets are brought to life.
Our heroine is both intriguing and infuriating as she struggles to fight for what is right but is tempted by what is wrong. As readers we feel for her, but also cringe and despair when Fae is drawn to evil. She is perhaps the most mysteries character of all. Complex, rebellious, and suffering from a childhood trauma that destroyed her faith, Fae is a strong and feisty woman who is forced to confront her own weakness amid the supernatural.
Matthews has skilfully crafted this novel to blend nightmare and reality, sanity and madness. Some of the scenes and events, particularly the prologue, could be described as long-drawn-out and in need of a trim, but as a whole the novel falls into place and is a suspenseful and enticing read for horror fans.