“Book Review: The Shadow Within”
Reviewed by Jaylynn Korrell
It’s the vacation of your dreams—and of your worst nightmare
As former residents return to their homes in the boonies, a peaceful vacation quickly turns upside down. With The Shadow Within, author Eric Butler turns a long-awaited trip home into a lustful, gruesome, and horrific summer. Be ready for it. This novel might just make you double lock your doors tonight.
When Jack takes his kids and his new girlfriend to his vacation home, he’s hoping it will bring them closer together. But they aren’t the only ones back in town. Looking to get into some trouble on his own, former local Lance ventures back into town with his cousin Kyle. It doesn’t take long for things to start getting weird in their small town. With rumors of a family curse lingering, Kyle and Lance’s fun vacation soon meets a horrific reality. Throw in the local renowned author Vanessa, and this book is chock-full of unique characters that have quite a bit of horror awaiting them.
Before I get too far, I have to mention how great of a job Butler does with these characters. They all have enough recognizable backstory and discernible traits to help the reader understand why this trip is important and why giving up on it could mean catastrophe. The stakes are high for the players in this game, whether they’re trying to hold their family together or to help inspire a new relationship. And yet, stakes only continue to get higher. Everyone has something to gain from their trip, and they’re all willing to sacrifice something to achieve it—at nearly any cost.
Suspense is ever-present in The Shadow Within, whether due to sexual tension or the possibility of a villain coming to get them. As the tensions grow in the town, this book manages to make everything feel even sexier than its beginning. From the steamy intro to the tensions running between Jack, Jill, and Vanessa, sex makes itself known as a common thread running throughout the book. Butler heats the room with romantic trysts and lines getting crossed, ultimately fitting the horror storyline well, insisting on blind, passionate romance instead of looking over their shoulder.
Gruesome and gory details go from terrifying to slightly disturbing as scenes start to resemble those from the Hostel film series, with torture going beyond anything I could have imagined. Classic in its format, the location for this book offers the perfect landscape to create the terrifying and mysterious conditions. The characters are often not sure who (or what) they should be hiding from. Their houses sit next to dark woods and abandoned barns; even the safest of places become questionable in The Shadow Within.
Though the gruesome bits are effectively disturbing in a few scenes, others seem to linger on for a bit too long. The novel continues at a steady pace for a while but then at times sits dormant with small details, slowing down the plot and turning what was initially scary into something a bit more repetitive and unrealistic.
But as a whole, this novel accomplishes what it sets out to do. Both terrifying and steamy, The Shadow Within is a horror you’ll read in a fever—and a romance you’ll read with a pumping heart.
Paperback: 354 pages
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