The X-Files: Whirlwind

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Goblins. You can read my review of this novel [here].

I think it’s a good time to take another look at the series of original The X-Files novels that were published between 1994 and 1998. These books were based on the hit television show of the same name, but each provided a largely self-contained adventure for Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully that never made it to the screen. The series consisted of six novels in total but, for the purpose of this review, I’ll be looking at Whirlwind by Charles Grant only. Oh, and there might be spoilers. You have been warned.

A series of gruesome killings have rocked New Mexico. At first, it was just cattle that had been found mutilated – their bodies stripped of skin and seemingly drained of blood – but then the first human victim was also found. There does not seem to be any kind of pattern to the killer’s crimes – they strike out at people of any gender, ethnicity and age. No one can even figure out what weapon the murder used to carry out his crimes, especially as it seems that each victim was skinned before they even hit the ground.

With local law enforcement stumped, it’s not long before the case finds its way into Mulder’s hands. At first, he wonders if it has something to do with aliens but he soon realises that these mutilations are like nothing he has ever seen before. For one thing, it does not appear that the victims were flayed at all. Dirt in the wounds indicates that they have been scoured. For another, the killings all seem to have taken place around the Konochine reserve of Sangre Viento – or Blood Wind.

As Mulder and Scully investigate, they learn more about the secretive Native Americans and their strange religious practices. Legends say that the Konochine council have the power to harness a great magical force in the desert but no one seems to want to talk about exactly what this means. Could it be that one of them has learned how to harness this power to kill?

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The X-Files: Goblins

Now that I’m all finished with Animorphs, I think it’s time to take a look at another series that really struck a chord with me as a teenager. In celebration of its 25th anniversary, I think it’s appropriate to dedicate a few posts to The X-Files. As with the Animorphs reviews, these are retrospective posts and so may contain spoilers for the books in question.

The X-Files was a massively popular television series and so a lot of novels that tied into it were produced over its run. Although these were usually just novelisations of popular episodes, six original stories were published between 1994 and 1998. These books were penned by three different authors and were technically aimed at adult readers, but were generally light enough to be enjoyed by older teens as well. For the purpose of this review, I will be looking at Goblins by Charles Grant.

A quiet town near Fort Dix is rocked by a pair of brutal murders. Two military personnel are found dead in public places, their throats viciously slit. However, an eye witness account paints a strange picture of the crimes. The killer has the power to blend into their surroundings, invisible to its victims before it strikes.

A case of an invisible man isn’t generally enough to entice Special Agent Fox Mulder, but he has no choice but to investigate when a senator calls in a favour from his current director, Arlen Douglas. However, it will not just be his partner, Dana Scully, assisting him this time. Douglas insists that they be accompanied by two rookie agents – Hank Webber and Licia Andrews – who desperately need some time in the field.

Although Mulder is initially sceptical that the case is an X-File, he soon encounters a local woman who believes that goblins stalk the woods and realises that there is something strange going on. The local military hide a terrible secret – one with deadly applications. However, as Mulder and Scully get closer to the truth, they also risk becoming the killer’s next targets…

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Thunderhead

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Scythe. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Thunderhead was written by Neal Shusterman and first published in 2018. It follows the continuing story of Citra and Rowan – two youths who live in a world where humans are functionally immortal and the population is controlled by an order who are known as the Scythes. The book forms the second part of the Arc of a Scythe series and follows Scythe (2016). At the time of writing, no further instalments have been announced.

Ever since she passed her trial, Citra has struggled with leaving her past behind. Although she is now a true Scythe, it is hard to think of herself as being Scythe Anastasia rather than the girl that she once was. Her revolutionary gleaning method has also been drawing the attention of her fellows. Her decision of letting her victims choose the terms of their death is unheard of, and the order is divided on whether or not they support this. While Citra is initially unconcerned about their opinions, her view changes when an attempt is made on her life. Someone has noticed how influential Citra is becoming and will stop at nothing to silence her forever.

Meanwhile, Rowan now walks a different path. He has taken Goddard’s ring and now operates from the shadows as Scythe Lucifer. His targets are those Scythes who abuse their power – the ones that kill for sport or deliberately target racial minorities. While the Scythes initially struggle to stop him, matters change when Rowan finds himself captured and at the mercy of a Scythe with a horrifying agenda. His captor is about to put a terrible plan in motion, but first they wish for Rowan to suffer.

It’s clear that the world is in a state of flux and not necessarily for the better. Although the Thunderhead – the AI that controls most of the world – can see the coming storm, it is powerless to directly do anything to stop it. The best it can do is manipulate certain key players into positions where the can make a difference, although in doing so it puts them in grave danger. Meanwhile, Faraday may also have found something that could change the course of history – a legendary city, hidden from both the Thunderhead and Scythes alike. However, travelling there is unspeakably dangerous. One slip up and he will likely find himself permanently dead…

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The Runaways and the Everlasting

The Runaways and the Everlasting was first published in 2014 and is Monifa Anderson’s debut novel. It is a horror story that focuses on a group of teenagers who are forced into a deadly game by an all-powerful enemy. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Mariah is sick of her home life. Her father ran off with a younger woman and her mother seems to blame this on her. When she meets Kitch online, she knows that she finally has a chance to escape. Kitch belongs to a group of runaways who have made a home for themselves on the outskirts of London and he’s keen for Mariah to join them.

Mariah heads to meet him and is happy to discover that he’s not some elderly pervert. The Runaways do exist and live quite comfortably together, even though they have all fled from hostile home lives. Although Mariah instantly feels welcome, this is unfortunately short-lived. When one of the Runaways discovers a gold coin in the bathroom, they set off on a treasure hunt in search of more.

Unfortunately, this soon leads the Runaways into danger. The coins were hidden by an ancient and heartless race called the Everlasting and now the Runaways have caught their attention. The Everlasting love to be entertained and so pitch them into a high-stakes game against another team. The losing team will all be killed but the winners will be transformed into Everlasting and lose their humanity. It’s a horrible situation but the Runaways have no choice to play. Their only hope is to find some way to turn the situation to their favour…

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Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Fourth Closet

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for earlier instalments of this series. You can read my reviews of these novels by clicking the links below:

The Silver Eyes | The Twisted Ones

Five Nights at Freddy’s: The Fourth Closet was written by Scott Cawthorn and Kira Breed-Wrisley and first published in 2018. It follows the two previous instalments of this series, The Silver Eyes (2015) and The Twisted Ones (2017) and is based on the popular video game franchise of the same name. At the time of writing, there are no plans for future instalments to this series.

Charlie should have been dead. John saw her bleed out, trapped inside one of the springlock suits. He doesn’t know who the stranger wearing his former girlfriend’s face is but he’s not willing to accept her into his friendship circle like the others have done. There is something off about the way she dresses and presents herself. She may look like Charlie, but she is certainly not her.

As John starts to investigate into Charlie’s past, he uncovers secrets that he could never have imagined. Her Aunt Jen hides boxes of her father’s belongings, and these reveal the shocking truth behind his suicide. Yet someone else is also looking for information about Charlie and they will kill to get it.

At the same time, children have started to disappear all over Hurricane. Jessica is suspicious that these disappearances are linked to the opening of a new diner – Circus Baby’s Pizza – and takes it upon herself to find and rescue the victims. However, hidden beneath the diner, she finds that a madman is in the process of conducting a hideous experiment. Will she be able to stop him or will she become his latest victim?

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Bruja Born

Please note that this review may contain spoilers for Labyrinth Lost. You can read my review of this novel [here].

Bruja Born was written by Zoraida Córdova and first published in 2018. It forms the second instalment of the Brooklyn Brujas series and is set eight months after the events of Labyrinth Lost (2016), as Lula and her family slowly recover from their ordeal in Los Lagos. Although this novel largely stands alone, I would still recommend reading the books in sequence to fully appreciate what is going on.

Lula Mortiz is a shadow of her former self. Although her sister, Alex, saved her from having her soul destroyed by a terrible monster, she has returned to New York traumatised and scared. Her anxiety has caused her relationship with her long-term boyfriend, Maks, to become strained and he eventually breaks it off, leaving Lula nursing a broken heart.

Desperate to keep Maks, Lula tries to use her healing magic to repair the rift between them. Yet, seconds later, disaster strikes. Lula’s school bus is involved in a horrific crash and many of her friends are killed. Although Lula survives, she learns that Maks is in a coma and is not expected to ever recover. When the circle refuses to heal him, Lula knows she needs to take matters into her own hands. Alex, Rose and herself command incredible power between them. It has to be enough to save him.

What should be a simple spell quickly goes wrong. When the Lady de la Muerte arrives to take Maks’s soul, Lula tethers it to herself to save him. While this at first seems to fail, the next day all of the bodies disappear from the hospital morgue. Its not long after that the killings begin. Bodies are showing up mutilated all over New York and Lula somehow knows that they are connected. Now she must find a way to put things right and appease the goddess of death. If she doesn’t, it won’t be long before she draws the attention of those who hunt for bruja…

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Fiendish

Fiendish was written by Brenna Yovanoff and first published in 2014. It is a work of magical realism with horror elements, set in a small American town with a history of surreal and sinister occurrences. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

It started when seven-year-old Clementine discovered a weird tomato in the garden, but she remembers little after that. She was hidden in the cellar with her eyes sewn shut and left to sleep, existing in a dreamlike state as roots began to grow around her. It was ten years until she was found by Eric Fisher and freed from her prison, and Clementine found herself in a world that hardly remembered her.

In the town of New South Bend, you are either normal or crooked. The crooked live on the outskirts and are the families with old blood, in tune with the humors of dirt, creek, fire, air and fools light, and forever connected to the mysterious energies that bubble up from the Hollow. The crooked live in constant fear of these energies growing out of control. This happened once ten years before, triggering the Reckoning and resulting in the normal folks forming a lynch mob to put them back in their place.

Following Clementine’s rescue, strange things begin to happen again. The hollow grows restless, monstrous catfish appear in the creek and fiends – lesser gods of old – are seen wandering the woods. Clementine and her new friends know that they are the only ones who can bring the old magic under control but they need to do so quickly. People are starting to notice and it won’t be long before the frightened townsfolk turn on them once again…

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The Beneath

The Beneath was written by S.C. Ransom and first published in 2015. It is an urban fantasy story with horror elements that focuses on a teenage girl who discovers the existence of a dystopian community living beneath the streets of London. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to have read any of the author’s other work to fully appreciate it.

Lily has been having a rough time of it at school. She used to be rich and popular but the her parents lost everything. Now she lives with her Nan and everyone that she used to call a friend has turned against her. However, everything changes for Lily when she saves Aria from being hit by a train.

Aria is more than a little strange. She can’t read and seems confused by everything, from televisions to dogs. Lily soon learns that this is because she is seeing them for the first time. Aria has escaped from the Community – a group of people who have lived beneath London for centuries. In their culture, everything is dictated to them by the Farmer, who is the one person with control of the Crop – a deadly entity that keeps them all safe so long as they obey the Farmer’s strict rules to the letter.

Aria knows that she will be killed if she returns to the Community yet is torn by her sense of duty. She only came to the surface in the first place because she had been sent on a mission by Dane, the boy that she loves. Dane believes that the only person who can overthrow the Farmer lives on the surface but now Aria isn’t sure that she can go through with his plan. What would Lily say if she learned that Aria had only come to the surface to kidnap her?

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Jinxed

Jinxed was written by Thommy Hutson and first published in 2018. It is a horror story which focuses on a teenager and her friends as they are hunted by a masked serial killer. The novel stands alone, so you don’t have to read any of the author’s other work to full appreciate it.

The Trask Academy is one of America’s wealthiest and exclusive art schools. Teenagers who attend there are ear-marked to become the celebrities and Broadway stars of the future, and the best of them can expect to be scouted at the school’s annual showcase. Layna is disappointed when she loses out to her friend Sydney, but totally understands why. Sydney is stunning and talented, while Layna is at the school on a scholarship. However, she receives her chance a few days later after a tragic turn of events.

Sydney is found dead, apparently having thrown herself from the window of her dorm. Although the school is keen to write this off as an isolated incident, Layna and her friends can’t quite shake off their doubts. Sydney showed no sign of being unstable and was really looking forward to the showcase. It’s not long before their fears are justified when another of Layna’s friends mysteriously vanishes from the library.

The group soon discovers that they are completely isolated as the school is on a remote island and the phone lines are down. As a killer in a theatre mask stalks the halls, Layna comes to learn that he has some connection to both her and an unperformed play written by a former student. However, as the killer continues to strike those close to her, she realises that she must find out what that connection is and unmask him before the curtain falls on her forever…

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S.T.A.G.S

S.T.A.G.S was written by M.A. Bennett and first published in 2017. It is a thriller novel with horror elements, focusing on a group of teenagers on a weekend hunting trip. The story does end on a note that implies that this could be the start of a series. However, at the time of writing, no future instalments have been announced.

Greer MacDonald is lucky to have been accepted into the prestigious St Aidan the Great boarding school (known to students as S.T.A.G.S) on a scholarship, however she is painfully aware that she does not fit in. Her roommate barely speaks to her and she is often singled out by the Medievals – the school’s unofficial prefects – who make mean jokes about her northern accent and lack of class.

Greer is more surprised than anyone when she receives an invitation to spend half-term weekend on the sprawling Longcross Estate as a guest of Henry de Warlencourt – leader of the Medievals. Along with the rest of the Medievals and her fellow outcasts, Nel and Shafeer, she has been invited for a weekend of blood sports. On three consecutive afternoons, the group will be hunting, shooting and fishing. Although Greer isn’t certain that she’ll be able to stomach this, she is so flattered by the invitation that she immediately accepts.

However, it’s not long before she starts to notice that something is wrong. The Medievals are all acting strangely, friendly one minute and cruel the next. It’s not long before odd accidents begin to occur and it becomes clear that someone could get seriously hurt. Greer gradually begins to suspect that the rich kids are not only planning to hunt game that weekend. However, how can she hope to prove it when the whole village seem to be in on their plan?

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