Book Review: The Accursed Huntsman
“A terrifyingly familiar feeling strummed furiously against the frayed strings of Jack’s psyche. Deep in the repressed recesses of his mind, the slope-backed shadows from that hellish mountain manifested. They hounded him, just as they had in every nightmare for the past seven years. Haunting, yellow eyes glaring at him over gnashing fangs. They nipped at his heels and thirsted after his blood as they ripped away the frozen flesh of his best friend’s lifeless corpse…”
The days are growing shorter, the nights longer. The gradual darkening of days brings with it tales of monsters lurking in the shadows and evil afoot. Vampires, werewolves, witches and warlocks, and hosts of beasts and creatures whose names may be less familiar but remain as terrifying. It just may be the most wonderful time of the year. Fall is here, and just as the leaves turn and begin to retire from the branches they call home, we find ourselves in our homes with tales of horror and misadventure beckoning us to pick them up and breathe new life to them. I can think of no better way to celebrate the turning of the seasons than to find myself transported to another world with my only hope of escaping the continual turning of the page.
Frankly, I love scaring the shit out of myself. I can’t quite pick out a date for when this fascination of mine began, as I used to be a complete coward when it came to horror. I can distinctly recall watching the movie Signs with my older brother and feeling paralyzed with fear when he jumped up and ran out of the room as the tv showed an alien walking down a street in Mexico. But the times have changed, and in my post-traumatic growth, I’ve found myself with a hankering for some gut-checking, bloodcurdling fear. The crashing of adrenaline through my veins as I read yet another anxiety and terror-filled page or watch another scene where tension is piled atop of tension is a gift for me. It’s hard for me to put into words why I dig the pain and anxiety of fear, but I suppose it has something to do with projecting my inner fears and concerns about what-ifs and could-have-beens onto something that simply isn’t real.
Author and Marine veteran Douglass Hoover (who you may recall from an earlier review) published his debut novel, The Homestead, in 2017. He recently released The Accursed Huntsman, which is just the sort of dark and twisted tale you need this fall. Taking place in the cold, windswept landscape of Nova Scotia, the story centers around a team of misfits and has-beens recruited by a mysterious billionaire searching for an ancient treasure long lost by time. The treasure hunters themselves represent a cross-section of our society that shines on the surface but doesn’t quite neatly mask the problems plaguing our world and this story. From a billionaire endowed with daddy’s riches and all the morals of Harvey Weinstein to a once prominent researcher relegated to the fringes of society because of an addiction she can’t shake, each character is more than meets the eye, which makes them feel human, real.
Our main protagonist, if you can truly call him that, is Jack Steward, a disabled hunting guide haunted by past decisions that send him ever deeper into the wilderness, both physically and spiritually. Hoover wonderfully crafts Jack’s character around the story briefly related above. Jack flits between the past and the present, where one fatal decision continually colors his world and shapes the aperture through which he sees the events around him. He is desperate for redemption, but not necessarily for life, and certainly not for glory. His story, his development, and his trajectory are a fitting tribute to any number of veterans trying to shape their lives after the radical change that comes from deploying and re-deploying, from living life after a time we thought we wouldn’t live past. What comes then?
Hoover masterfully weaves this tale from start to finish. Interlaced throughout this tale of modernity is a very well researched recounting of Welsh folklore, adding yet another layer to this fascinating tale. As you turn each page, each character’s story weaves a web through time that leads to the present, pushing the narrative ever forward to a cataclysmic climax. While the figural storm clouds gather, so do the literal storm clouds, as the adventurers find themselves besieged by circumstance and weather. You can feel the skies darkening as you read, swelling with moisture and violence, ready to unleash on those foolish enough to be caught in the open. I rate this book a sturdy four spades and I highly recommend that you pick this up and let it consume you this fall.
Written By Caleb Taylor
Caleb spent five years in an assortment of infantry roles in the Marines during the height of the Afghan surge. After hearing that the war was over in 2014 (lol), he left the Corps and went to school. He now works as a government stooge and as a writer on the OAF Nation team.