by Claire Legrand
Beware of the woods and the dark, dank deep.
He’ll follow you home, and he won’t let you sleep.
Who are the Sawkill Girls?
Marion: the new girl. Awkward and plain, steady and dependable. Weighed down by tragedy and hungry for love she’s sure she’ll never find.
Zoey: the pariah. Luckless and lonely, hurting but hiding it. Aching with grief and dreaming of vanished girls. Maybe she’s broken—or maybe everyone else is.
Val: the queen bee. Gorgeous and privileged, ruthless and regal. Words like silk and eyes like knives, a heart made of secrets and a mouth full of lies.
Their stories come together on the island of Sawkill Rock, where gleaming horses graze in rolling pastures and cold waves crash against black cliffs. Where kids whisper the legend of an insidious monster at parties and around campfires.
Where girls have been disappearing for decades, stolen away by a ravenous evil no one has dared to fight… until now.
I think I first saw this book on booktube? Or maybe it was bookstagram and I was very intrigued by the cover and then, I went to Goodreads like a good girl and found out more about it. I wasn’t sure if it was my kind of book but then, recently, I went on an e-book spree and bought it. I am so glad I did.
“Come for a while, reads the sign at Sawkill’s ferry dock, and stay forever.”
This was first Claire Legrand book and what a smashing introduction to her writing and imagination! I should mention that I read it in a single day and it was simply because I couldn’t really put it down and leave it. It just wasn’t possible for me. So, I read on, there were moments when I was really left wondering ‘What the hell is happening in this book? Am I ever gonna really understand?’. That was in the beginning but as the plot evolved and more mysteries unfolded, I could really see what was happening and then, I literally couldn’t put it down.
“Decades of dead girls. Poor girls and rich girls. Black and brown and white girls. All of them Sawkill girls.”
Sawkill Rock, a lovely place full of lovely people and lovelier woods but it holds a history of sadness and horror. Girls have been going missing and assumed dead far more often than people might feel comfortable with. No amount of search parties or wish-making is able to help them find the girls. They just vanish and never come back. The way Claire Legrand describes the island and the people just makes me wish I was there. Almost. Considering everything else, I would rather not, you know?
“Tragedy had touched Sawkill, again and again and again, but after each girl’s disappearance, once a respectable amount of time had passed, everyone seemed to stop caring.”
There are three main characters, all of them, heartbroken in their own way. Marion, a young woman who has lost her father and is trying her best to make sure that her mother and her sister are alright in the face of such loss. She hasn’t really had the chance to grieve for her father in the same way as her family because she’s become the rock that carries them forward. She is also plus sized and whose sexuality I wouldn’t want to define but she likes girls? Then we have Zoey, she’s black and sort of on the asexual spectrum and has had a tough time since she lost her best friend to island just like untold number of girls. Her father is the town sheriff and she has a really good relationship with him that is tested as the story progresses. Lastly, we have Val, who belongs to one of the most prestigious families on the island and who has some pretty dark secrets which are damaging not only the island but her too. She has had relationships with guys but she is also attracted to girls. Her sexuality isn’t quite defined and I wouldn’t want to.
There’s also a few more secondary characters two of which I am not even how to describe but one of them I can happily talk about. Grayson. Zoey’s ex-boyfriend who is best friends with even after the break-up. He’s a precious bean and I was so happy whenever he was the page. Seriously. Such a bean. There’s the island itself, yes, it’s a character with feelings and thoughts and strategies. The Rock has its own role to play in the whole mystery and the parts are written so well that sometimes I just read them again for the sake of it.
“What I’m saying is that girls hunger. And we’re taught, from the moment our brains can take it, that there isn’t enough food for us all.”
This book, along with the horror and the fantasy element of it, also deals with how girls are viewed and raised and pitted against each other in littlest of ways. How they are generally underestimated without much conscious thought, it’s just almost default thought process sometimes and that speaks volumes. It also deals with how people, even people who know better, sometimes can’t help their thoughts. It dealt with the asexuality spectrum in a way that felt realistic. Because even when people understand, there are times when words leave lips that aren’t well-thought out or deserving but are only the after effects of emotions. Those words are unforgivable and yet, we are shown how those things can happen. Ace-phobia is very much real and very different from homophobia but just as important and I am so glad Claire Legrand addressed it in such a way.
This book is very feminist and I am glad for it, it shows three very different girls from different backgrounds who are trying to deal with loss and grief and life in general in their own way. They are brought together because of tragedies around them and are then almost made part of the cult and sacrificed but they change the cliche. I had and still have mixed feelings about the cult shown in the book, the way the men are shown to be very one-dimensional and almost too offensive. I understand that was the way they were supposed to be and one of the members did have doubts and decided to be better but on the whole, I wanted a bit more flesh? More personality. I understand that they were supposed to represent the entitlement that men have enjoyed for far too long but well, something didn’t sit well with about that, hence the four stars and not five.
“You are mighty. You are one, and one, and one.
You are fragile. You can move mountains.
You are breakable. You will never break.
This power is mine. And now it is yours, too.”
Another problem with the book was the main villain, the Collector. Initially, I was really intrigued and frankly, that was one of the reasons I couldn’t put it down but near the end of the book, I was left a bit disappointed? I mean, the way it all worked out even with the background information we got about the Collector. I was…sort of not in awe. Also, the ending. It’s not that I didn’t want a good ending but the way the plot had moved in the last few chapters, I had sort of got my closure near the end and then to read the actual ending. It was…not bad? But not what I would have expected from all that happened in the book so far, you know?
However, overall, this book is really good. I am seriously so, so glad that I picked it up. Claire Legrand’s writing is so good and the atmosphere and the aesthetic of the whole book just made it so easy to get lost in it. I would definitely be on the lookout for her next works and I want to read Furyborn too! If horror and fantasy along with some gore is your thing, then you should definitely pick it up. There are some trigger contents and if you are uncomfortable about the following things then probably don’t pick it up. Violence, grief, loss of a loved one, gore, parental abuse, sexual abuse, blood, bleeding, talk of miscarriage, animal death, descriptions of murders, etc.