This book was sent to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
17.11.20 / Horror / Titan Books / Paperback / 496pp / 978-1785659973
Target Audience: Readers who like their horror fiction intense, gritty, memorable and fearsome yet conscious of life’s true terrors.
About Bone Harvest
YOU SHALL REAP WHAT YOU SOW
Struggling with the effects of early-onset dementia, Dennie Keeling now leads a quiet life. Her husband is dead, her children are grown, and her best friend, Sarah, was convicted of murdering her abusive husband. After Sarah’s tragic death in prison, Dennie has found solace in her allotment, and all she wants is to be left to tend it in peace.
Life remains quiet for twelve years, until three strangers take on a nearby plot and Dennie starts to notice unnatural things. Shadowy figures prowl at night; plants flower well before their time. And then Sarah appears, bringing dire warnings and vanishing after daubing symbols on the walls in Dennie’s own blood. Dennie soon realises that she is face to face with an ancient evil – but with her dementia steadily growing worse, who is going to believe her?
Bone Harvest Review
‘The first time he killed one of Mother’s swine it was with absolute clarity. He felt the life of the creature thrumming through as it was held, like a bowstring drawn back tight and ready to let fly, or a bullet in the breech, an explosive release waiting for just the slightest pressure of his fingers. It wasn’t the sense of power that he experienced because the power wasn’t his – it belonged to the arrow, the bullet, the creature, and the blood of the god that it had eaten. It was the sense of control over that power, the ability to unleash and direct it, to destroy or reorder the world with it as his whim, the intoxication of finally, finally not being at the mercy of vast forces beyond his comprehension but for once possibly being in charge of them. For the first time he thought he understood those fat generals issuing their orders, and it should probably have made him humble but instead all he could think was More. How do I get more? The animal squirming in his arms was just a pig; imagine spilling the lifeblood of a god’ Bone Harvest by James Brogden
Bone Harvest begins with a wild deserter in the trenches of WW1. A man who cast aside his allegiance, identity and humanity for survival. Living long enough in No Mans Land to find an adhoc group of soldiers who call themselves the Grey Brigade. A band of soldiers from many nations who survive by any means necessary. (Based on a very real WW1 legend that is beyond fascinating). One of the men, Bill, introduces Everett (a name the deserter stole) to his obscure but alluring religion.
After escaping the war, Everett goes to visit Swinley, a place Bill talked about during their time together, which is home to the Farrows, those worship the god Moccus. The Great Boar. He who eats the moon. The Leader of the Farrows, a woman named Mother, acknowledges Everett’s potential and accept him into their ranks. Moccus requires sacrifice to compensate for his gift of life. After many years in the cycle Everett becomes certain that Moccus requires more from them, and he’s happy to oblige his gracious god.
Dennie hates her echoey old house. She prefers the sanctuary of her allotment, a place of work and peace. Dennie sees her shed as more of a home now anyway. Her quietude is disrupted by the arrival of a millennial couple who want to occupy the plot next to her. A plot that has a dark past seeped in abuse and murder. If the couple know this, they’re not showing it. The site is cleared and a shed is built, much to the displeasure of the other tenants.
The couple, Everett and Ardwyn are gracious neighbours and quickly inject themselves into the community. Dennie is not fooled by this. She may be losing her mind slowly to dementia but Dennie has always been able to see trouble and these two are bathed in it. After several questionable night-time disturbances and people starting to go missing, Dennie shares her concerns with others but most believe her condition is worsening. Frustrated yet never deterred, Dennie sets out to discover what exactly Everett and Ardwyn are planning to do with their blood-soaked plot of land.
In a chilling and disturbing tale of human sacrifice, old gods, mental illness and loneliness, a story of turning nature into something purely evil, I was completely absorbed in the plot of Bone Harvest right until the chaotic final showdown that did not disappoint.
James Brogden is an absolute masterclass when it comes to tense, dark, slow-building horror novels that span multiple time periods, depicting unforgettable clashes with true nightmares. JB’s narratives are a potent mixture of history/legend (usually graphic in detail) and the reality of problems we face to this day, this case being mental health problems such as dementia. There is a ton of hideous and grisly scenes in Bone Harvest (such as human sacrifice and cannibalism) and James Brogden is still successful in making dementia and abuse seem like the scariest things that could happen to any of us.
You can fill a book with terrifying monsters (human or otherwise) but watching a mind losing its traction with reality is just devastating. Add two emotional subplots including an abused wife and a young daughter with cancer and it hit me with a real weight more than any of the gritty horror elements.
Not that I’m saying those parts weren’t good! They were superb. James Brogden loves insidious stories that twist the nature of our world into something angry and distorted. The evolution of the church of Moccus in this story was as fascinating as it was brutal. The development was fantastic and, because I knew what was really going on, I was on edge the whole novel waiting for very bad things to happen. James Brogden is so good at that creepy, inch by inch build up that is populated by increasing vivid graphic details that increase tension and intrigue in equal measure.
The characters in Bone Harvest were well thought out in my opinion. I want to say I was most invested in Dennie but I would say Everett was probably my favourite character, or maybe Viggo the Great Dane. Everett is an incredibly engrossing villain, maybe even JB’s best yet. Dennie is still a solid lead, juggling her failing memory and her desperation to protect her community was endearing as hell. I wasn’t a huge fan of the details behind her ability to see dark intentions etc but it was fine for story purposes.
After reading The Plague Stones (another great read) I kind of knew what I was getting myself into with Bone Harvest. It was even better than I imagined with all the dark, gritty horror I could stomach but with as much heart added in to compensate. I highly recommend Bone Harvest to everyone who like their fiction intense, memorable and fearsome yet conscious of life’s true terrors. James Brogden is proving time and again that he is a go to author for inventive horror fiction.
About James Brogden
James Brogden is the author of Hekla’s Children, The Hollow Tree, The Plague Stones and Bone Harvest, along with The Narrows, Tourmaline and The Realt. He spent many years living in Australia, but now lives in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire with his wife and two daughters.