As a reader who would hardly describe themselves as a fan of horror, Halloween type posts can be difficult for me. In particular, this weeks original Top 5 Wednesday theme really threw me for a loop. I mean, favorite horror settings? The only kind I can truly appreciate are the ones where I soundly fall asleep the same night. A rarity for sure. So I tweaked it a bit to encompass more of my reading territory, that being gothic settings. To be included in the following compilation, I had to consider the story macabre in nature, and drawing elements from the horror genre…without actually being scary. And when you’re a wimp who still likes Halloween-esque reads, you have a lot of material to choose from. So without further ado…my Top 5 Favorite Gothic Settings.
1.Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke
I’ve mentioned before that Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is not a genuinely scary book. Its titular “devil” is more of an excuse for Tucholke to wax poetic on the woes of being in love with a bad boy, and not much goes on beyond that. However the setting is Halloween perfection at its best, exactly what one would imagine looking at the cover. It’s moody and deeply atmospheric, reminiscent of a modern Dracula. The gothic elements are on point throughout, and it’s never lacking in some well placed purple prose. Not to mention that Tucholke incorporated every element of a macabre horror into the story. From Victorian houses, to damp and dreary coastal towns, to charismatic (maybe) villains; she definitely knew what a reader would be reaching for come October 31st. If you’re looking for a less than scary, while still atmospheric read, this one definitely belongs on your TBR!
2.The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stievfater
I just finished reading The Scorpio Races and let me tell you, Maggie Stiefvater can describe a setting. Her semi-fictional Ireland is deeply embedded in classic folklore, and will pull you in from the first page. Coincidentally, the titular Scorpio Races take place on November 1st, not far off from now at all. Maybe it’s just me, but I love it when the weather in a book matches up with real life. So if you’re from the Midwest, a cold and foggy location is in order. But more than that, there’s just something about man eating water horses that sound perfect for the season. It’s a dark (and slightly unreal) topic that will tear you from reality, while still being perfectly in tune with a Gothic fix. I also feel like the October/November months are ideal for getting knee deep in a behemoth story, and Stiefvater can not be accused of skimping on the prose. Let this one pull you in; be it for the subject matter, atmospheric world, or all encompassing story.
3.The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
Though The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly didn’t impact me in the ways I had hoped, I can’t discredit Stephanie Oakes talent for worldbuilding. While it’s rare for a contemporary to focus so heavily on atmosphere, I think it was one of Oakes smartest decisions for incorporating. We’re faced with a story where people entered a cult of their own free will, and subsequently continued the cycle of brain wash in their children. I needed to understand why and how this happened. I needed, above all else, cult leader Kevin to charm me in a way most antagonists never do. And this is exactly what happened. Not because of Oakes characterization, but the breed of desperation, hopelessness, and necessity she presented. It’s macabre in every sense of the word, and boy did it hook me. Sometimes the scariest things are those that exist in this world, and Minnow Bly will most definitely remind you of that.
4.The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle
The Accident Season is a spooky magical realism that takes place in, you guessed it, October. During this month, the family of main character Cara becomes inexplicably accident prone. They break bones, bleed rivers, and are constantly faced with death. Making this idea even creepier; they have no idea why. What follows is a lot of melodramtic soul searching (aka the stuff of a true gothic novel), that’s pretty annoying but plays right into Fowley-Doyle’s hand. Not to mention it’s also set in Ireland (which must seem like a good place to set your moody ponderings). Though I’m not a fan of this genre at all, it was definitely one of the most enjoyable settings I’ve ever read. You never know what exactly going on, and that element of mystery really adds to the gothic inspiration.
5.Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake
Out of all the books on this list, Anna Dressed in Blood is by far the scariest. Granted, that isn’t saying a whole lot. But when you consider that in the first chapter of this book a murderous ghost rips the head off a teenage boy, you can pretty much imagine what’s going on. However Blake’s debut is also a romance, which is where the aforementioned gothic elements come into play. You have a ghost whose been dead fifty years (and is trapped inside the Victorian home where the murder took place), falling in love with a hunter of said ghosts. Lots of melancholy ensures. But also some pretty hilarious one liners. It balances out. This book is absolutely perfect for the Halloween season, and is a must read across the spectrum! Irregardless of whether you’re into hard core horror (or you’re a softie like me) read this one!
What are your favorite gothic horrors? Have you checked out any I included? Let me know in the comments!