Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
“The only sound he could hear was his own anxious breath and his heart drumming against his chest.”
I think I’ve found myself a new author who has perfected the horror genre, oh my god! Reading this book gave me goosebumps from the strong first chapter all the way to the end and I was genuinely surprised with how much I enjoyed this. I’ve been scared, relieved, sad and shocked all the way through and I can’t stress enough how much I loved this! This is my stop on the Shadows of the Woods blog tour for Panther Publishing and I’m honoured to be able to share my review!
Faceless shadows, a night that will never be the same, and a sinister force. If you go down to the woods tonight, you’re in for a sinister surprise.
When a stag party decide to camp in the woods, they soon discover that a malevolent force has them in their sights. As the unknown creeps ever closer, Joe and his friends must survive. To survive, Joe must learn to fight. If he fights, he could lose it all.
I knew this book was going to be a bit of a creepy read, but I didn’t expect it to be SO creepy in the very first chapter! We dive straight into the story of a newly engaged couple camping out in the woods, and my first thought was, “Guys, please get out of there…” Why does this always happen when reading something scary or watching a scary film? People always seem to put themselves into terrifying situations and you find yourself telling them to run away or ‘don’t go over there!’ When hearing a noise and laughter coming from the outside of the tent, the couple begin to get a little concerned, as did I. Who or what is outside of their tent?! The author seems to effortlessly draw in his readers with such a strong opening chapter and I feel like many will find themselves unable to put the book down – I was faced with the exact same issue!
This chapter, however, only set the scene for what we were about the experience. Things were about to get much worse. The main chunk of the story follows the life of Joe, an outdoorsy type with a love of extreme sports. His stag do is approaching and his final night of freedom would be spent with his closest friends… camping in the woods. The alarms in my brain were going off and I felt like screaming, “JOE, DON’T YOU DARE.” After the terrors of the first couple spending a night in the woods, I was very concerned for Joe and his friendship group. Would things be different this time, or would Joe become the next victim? I really wanted to know just what this ‘thing’ in the woods was, and whether this group of guys would survive the ordeal. I haven’t really been a fan of camping all my life, but after reading this book, I’ll not be trying it out any time soon!
I really enjoyed the author’s way of writing and found the book particularly easy to read. Some authors feel the need overly describe everything, but this book has a kind of simplicity to it which really worked in its favour. I think with the horror genre, less is more when it comes to description. The mind is a powerful tool and if it wants to be scared, it’ll build on what it reads and create a whole new kind of terror. That’s how my mind seems to work anyway! As Joe and his friends get settled for an eventful stag night, little things begin to bother Joe. Firstly no mobile phone reception. Then, they find the mess of previous campers who seem to have left in a hurry, leaving many belongings behind. For the reader, excitement was mounting and things were only going to get more terrifying in the pages to come, I could feel it!
“The woods were more alive now than they had been at any time throughout the day.“
To my delight, we learn more about that terrifying first chapter and are reunited with one of the characters. But are they safe? The beginning of the book was such an incredible ride – questions were building up in my mind and my imagination was trying to solve the mysteries that all these characters are faced with. When one of the group sees a shadow, he assumes it is his own. That’s until it screams! This shadowy creature was quite possibly one of the most terrifying things I’ve read about in a book and quite frankly, I’ll be looking over my shoulder whenever I go for a walk in the dark for a while! Again, the author has done such a great job of not only making his characters feel the terrors of the woods, but of also making his readers feel this same level of terror. Absolutely incredible!
One unlucky member of the group goes missing and it’s up to the rest of the group to find him. This means they need to put on their brave faces and venture out into the night. This was the last thing I would be doing with strange creatures lurking, so I really admired their determination! As the group split up in search of poor Mike, I found myself thinking about everything they’d experience along the way and just how they plan on bringing him back to camp. I really liked how our main character, Joe, steps up to become a leader and shows immense bravery, not only when looking for his lost friend, but when also looking after his younger brother. All characters in this friendship group have specific personalities which I loved – it made them all come to life! It was so heartwarming seeing them all work together, and I wanted more than anything for them all to come out the other side safe from harm!
Just when you think things couldn’t get any creepier… they do. The book also takes a gruesome turn which I secretly loved, even though it’s pretty much guaranteed I’ll not be sleeping tonight because of it! The description in these gruesome scenes was simply extraordinary and I found myself pulling the most disgusted face when reading, which I actually laughed at myself for when I realised. I love the effect this story had on me up to this point, and in only a few pages, I’ve been scared sh*tless, felt so much love for Joe and his bravery and been in awe of the author’s flawless talent for writing. I was really looking forward to seeing what comes next and if the first half of the story was anything to go by, it’s not going to be pretty for the characters. (I couldn’t wait!)
Part two of the book started just as part one ended with such an awesome cliffhanger! As desperate as I was to find out what happened to Joe as he finds himself in the worst position imaginable, this new part of the book excited me no end. We’re taken back to a time a few hours before the camping trip and we learn some new information about others that fell victim to the woods. The two different parts of the story seamlessly fit together which was very impressive, and things really start to become more mysterious. The cops witness the shadows in the woods first hand as they try to piece together what happened to Joe and his friends. The ‘Shadowmen’ use a clever method to get out of the woods and into the real world, which was absolutely terrifying! The ending of each chapter makes it impossible to stop reading – so gripping and full of suspense.
“The only clarity he had was the haunting melody that now sang in his head; voices he now followed and obeyed.”
To those who hadn’t yet experienced an encounter with the Shadowmen, it quickly becomes apparent at this point that something was seriously wrong. The whole police force are faced with something way out of their comfort zone, something they don’t actually understand. The author has effortlessly drawn his readers into the middle scenes of the book through descriptions of sights and smells, and I found it so easy to imagine everything described. If I’m honest, it felt more like watching a film than reading a book, that’s the best way I can explain it! Things continue to get even more gruesome and I began to worry about Joe in particular. I was losing hope for him and I hoped the ending of the book gave us some answers – or would the cliff hangers continue in true Duncan Thompson style?!
Communicating with a Shadowman was not what I expected at all, but I loved it! Joe shows immense courage as he takes the lead, but at what price? I was getting nervous thinking that he’d sacrificed too much at this point and that he was beginning to deteriorate. This really made me think about how far the characters had come and just how much I’d grown attached to Joe from the beginning of the book. So much had changed and I was beginning to question whether anything could go back to how it was or if the Shadowmen had managed to secure their place in the real world. Worry consumed me at this point and again, I simply couldn’t tear myself away from the pages! I must admit, the further I got into the story, the harder I found it to sleep once I turned off the light, so thanks Duncan for forcing my childhood fear of the dark to return. 🤣
One thing that felt really striking throughout the end of the book was just how dark things became as we share the journey of these characters. The author keeps the terror in the story at a consistent pace, which is not lost at any point. I enjoyed how visual everything was and just how easy it was to place yourself in the characters’ shoes. I find it rare that an author can draw you in in such a specific way and I think no matter how long I try to explain, I think it’s definitely something readers of horror should experience. This book should sit proudly on any horror-lover’s bookshelf! As the story becomes ever darker, I was SO excited to see how the author would end the book. I had a feeling we weren’t going to get a happy ending…
As Joe’s wife-to-be and a police officer go missing, Joe is more determined than ever to find them. We find out more about a character I had been questioning for a while and learning his story helps us to put more pieces together, even though they’re not necessarily what we want to hear. At this point, I realised there was so much happening and so much at stake that there MUST be plans for a sequel. If not, I don’t think my brain could cope without knowing how things continue! With the police force and suspected ‘criminals’ being forced to work together to reach the desired outcome, things don’t seem to be settling down and the Shadowmen seem to be getting ever stronger. Just how much will these characters have to cope with in order to return to some sort of normality? Would it even be possible anymore?
“After what happened back there, I’m starting to… I’m starting to lose faith.”
The final few chapters of the book were filled with some action-packed, nail-biting and mystery-solving scenes whilst also staying true to the horrifying terror we’ve experienced throughout the book. The author has really pulled out all the stops to bring an ending that is not only incredibly memorable, but one that also makes you want to burst into tears! With the betrayal of characters, unanswered questions and a deep desire to know what happens next, I think the ending of the book was absolutely perfect and ends in true Thompson style. The book has exceeded all expectations I had for it and is a solid five star read. Horror lovers, get a load of this!
I’ve not read a good horror book for years and I’m so glad I stumbled upon this gem of a book! It’s absolutely terrifying, I’m not going to lie, and it was the book I needed to really get into this genre again. You can really tell the author was in his comfort zone when writing this book and it seems the words just came naturally to create a horrifying tale. The description was incredible and really helps you to visualise the scenes in the book from start to finish. Creepy, captivating and gruesome as hell. I loved it!
Thanks so much to Panther Publishing for my copy of the book and for my place on the blog tour! Also, a huge thanks to Duncan Thompson for rekindling my love for horror. You can purchase your own copy of Shadows Of The Woods from Amazon, available on Kindle or paperback. You can follow the author over on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more updates.