Shepherd’s Warning – Review

Shepherd's Warning

Shepherd’s Warning by Cailyn Lloyd

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Shepherd’s Warning by Cailyn Lloyd
Review of a NetGalley eARC.

This is a haunted house story in the vein of The Shining or The Amityville Horror (which is referenced explicitly in the text). The McKenzie family: Lucas and Laura, with Lucas’s brother Nathan and his wife Ashley, along with Lucas and Laura’s granddaughter Leah, arrive at the brothers’ inherited house in the Wisconsin countryside. A grand old Tudor mansion, they decide to renovate it for HGTV, but things soon take a terrifying turn. As you would expect from a horror novel.

This first book from Lloyd shows its influences on its sleeve, while working in a lot of unusual takes that would make for something refreshingly new, if so much of it wasn’t just confusing.

The Old English spells, the nearly immortal wizard, the circularity of the events are all interesting and unique. They add flavor to the book and would help it stand out a lot from the crowd, if the rest of the pacing and structure stood up to them. Unfortunately, I don’t feel like they did.

Events unfold in an awkward way, with things that seem really important at the time just fading away. For example, in one scene a young contractor falls off the roof, breaking his arm and impaling himself on a rusty piece of metal. This event IS NEVER MENTIONED AGAIN by the main characters, and only vaguely referenced by a side character (a “ghost” that made it happen). Not only that, but people continue to work on the roof without taking any safety precautions, and indeed someone falls again.

Then there’s the idea that they are renovating the house for a TV show. This dominates the situation for the first few chapters, then it’s just… Gone. No more cameras, no more interviews, no repercussions. Which could be code for the whole book: lots of things happen with no real impact.

The pacing is overall quite uneven. The book opens with a couple of big events, but then nothing really happens until halfway through. There is a lot of pointless running around, and I’ll be honest–all the “L” names warped it into one big, blonde blur.

There is also an odd insistence on specificity, especially regarding brand names, that almost reads like advertising. The main characters don’t drink beer, they drink Spotted Cow (which halfway through the book becomes italicized); the 1,000 year-old wizard doesn’t drink port, he drinks Old Tawny port; Laura doesn’t use a genealogy website, she uses; Tom Wolff doesn’t wear a trucker’s cap, he wears a Purina cap. It stands out in an odd way, rather than adding any kind of realism or immediacy.

These all seem like minor points, but they build up until the text becomes a struggle. And it doesn’t help that the essential conflict centers, once again, on the corruption of the father figure through his repressed Id. Ugh. Does the father grow distant from his family because of his inability to deal with loss? Yep. Does the father fall into dissolution through alcohol? Yep! Does the father betray his wife, who just wants him to get help, and call her concern nagging and prying? Bingo! At least he wasn’t a writer.

Overall, I really struggled to finish this book, and once I did I wasn’t satisfied.

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