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Monday, January 16, 2023

Book review: Briardark by S.A. Harian




Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

AUTHOR INFO: S.A. Harian grew up near Yosemite and now lives in Portland, Oregon with her partner and dog. She’s been writing since she was eight, around the time she became obsessed with Nancy Drew. Now she writes stories that are much scarier.
While she loves reading, most of her inspiration comes from video games. You can find her survival and horror gameplays at https://www.youtube.com/c/SAHarian.

Sometimes, she even hikes, which in her opinion is very, very brave.

Publisher: Compass and Fern (January 16, 2023) Length: 360 pages


If you liked Dark, 1899, or The OA TV shows, you’ll probably like Briardark. It’s not the same (different format, horror-vibe ), but it defies expectations and IS mind-bending, especially in the story’s second half.

It also ends with a cliffhanger, but the sequel is on the way to the shelves in 2024.

Dr. Siena Dupont and her team explore the Alpenglow glacier for research. Things get tricky when they discover a hiker dangling from a tree. Normally, they would call the rangers at Deadswitch Wilderness, but their satellite phone isn’t working. And then the body vanishes. As if it had never been there. Siena’s map no longer aligns with the trail. It also seems the landscape changed slightly here and there.

The second important character, Holden, has wasted his potential working in IT at the university. The job doesn’t pay well, and his relationships suck. When he comes across old audio files on a discarded hard drive, he can’t resist the temptation to unravel the mystery. Dr. Siena Dupont recorded the files under huge stress and emotional turmoil. They give glimpses of the expedition and traumatic events, including the death of Dr. Siena’s colleague. 

At first glance, the story seems familiar. A regular guy wants to solve a mystery (actually more than one, because another group of people has disappeared without a trace somewhere in the Deadswitch Wilderness). Things get complicated. Except that the author sets an ominous tone here and raises certain expectations that soon prove to be inaccurate. The story is much more complicated and mind-bending than expected, playing with time and twisting reality.

Briardark impressed me with the tight plotting and wide cast of compelling characters. While I had no clue where the story was going, I felt it was going somewhere instead of simply trying to confuse the reader. I didn’t get the resolution, but the way plotlines converge, I expect exciting things to happen in the sequel. 

The story is packed with tension and credible characters that propel readers forward. But it also has some flaws: it offers no conclusion, and some characters are more interesting than others. I'm using the word mind-bending to describe it because I like mind-bending stuff (like the shows mentioned at the beginning of the post). Some readers, though, may call it confusing and DNF the story.

For me, Briardark was original and exciting, with good prose and great timing. I recommend it to fans of unsettling stories that push the genre's boundaries and to readers of the uncanny.

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