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Review: The Thirteen by Susie Moloney

The Thirteen
by Susie Moloney

When she was a teenager, Paula’s mother sent her away to live at a boarding school after she gets pregnant, and their relationship remains strained. But now her mother has suddenly become desperately ill, and Paula is returning to her hometown of Haven Woods for the first time in years. At first, it’s just as she remembered it – a perfect slice of suburbia where all the women are strong, the men are good-looking and the children are above average. (Apologies to Mr. Keillor.) But there’s something off about this quiet town and the women who live there. Paula’s mother is in the hospital, yet she can’t ever get in touch with a doctor. Her mother’s friends are as friendly as they’ve always been, but there’s an odd intensity to their interest that frightens Paula’s daughter, Rowan. Behind the scenes of this picture-perfect town, twelve women have made a covenant with a dark power that grants them beauty and prosperity, and they want Paula to join their coven. But when you make a deal with the Devil, there’s always Hell to pay…

The Thirteen is a very odd blend of chick lit tropes wrapped up in horror worthy of Stephen King. So in one chapter, you have the young single mother falling in love with a handsome, brave childhood friend, but a few pages later you have a grisly, gory animal sacrifice. The two styles never coalesce into something tangible and coherent.

The plot is initially intriguing. Rather than the more typical tale of a group of friends discovering witchcraft and growing into their powers, these women are well-established in their craft and have benefited from their powers for decades. Their immediate problem has been brought about through the death of a member of their coven; to keep their evil master happy, they must restore their ranks to thirteen as quickly as possible. These witches are aging, their control unraveling. They are in decline. It makes an already twisted tale even darker and crueler.

There is a large cast of characters, and the narration freely jumps from one to the next with no rhyme or reason. This necessitates shallow development, since we don’t really spend that much time with any individual. The story quickly slides into different basic character types: The Bitch, The Clinging Friend, The Glutton, and so on.

Unfortunately, the book is both confusing and boring. It starts out slow and plods through the crises of far too many women, and it’s really hard to care about any of them. When the tension should be rising, it’s muddling instead. I persisted to the end not because I was interested in the book, but only because I had nothing else on me to read. It’s dark and it’s gory, but The Thirteen just isn’t threatening or scary.

It’s just bad.

2 out of 5 stars

To read more about The Thirteen, buy it or add it to your wishlist click here.

Peeking into the archives...today in:
Flower in a Storm, Vol. 1 by Shigeyoshi Takagi
2010: The French Blue by Richard Wise
2009: News: Library Goes All-Digital
2008: Guernica by Dave Boling


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