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Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Book review: Slewfoot by Brom


Book links: Amazon, Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Over the past decades, Brom has lent his distinctive visions and artwork to all facets of the creative industries, from novels and games, to comics and film. He is also the author of a series of award-winning illustrated horror novels: Lost Gods, Krampus the Yule Lord, The Child Thief, The Plucker, and The Devil’s Rose. Brom is currently kept in a dank cellar somewhere just outside of Seattle. Visit him at www.bromart.com.

Publisher: Tor Nightfire; 1st edition (September 14, 2021) Page count: 320 Formats: audio, ebook, paperback Cover art & Design - Brom


Blood, tears, witchcraft, and mayhem – that’s Slewfoot in a nutshell. We dive into the story of Abitha, a feisty woman forced to adapt to life in a patriarchal Puritan colony. In this austere community, everyone’s on the lookout for devils, witchery, and moral failings behind every corner. Almost everyone there firmly believes women should have no say at home.

When Abitha’s husband dies under mysterious circumstances, she has to fight for her livelihood. Things look bleak for her, but hey, they can always get bleaker. And Brom makes sure they do. Abitha’s greedy brother-in-law wants her late husband’s farm. An amnesiac creature, Slewfoot, awakens nearby and animal-child hybrids urge it to spill human blood. While trying to figure out its nature, the creature asks Abitha for help, offering his help in return. Such help comes at a steep price.

Since I loved Brom’s The Child Thief, I jumped into Slewfoot with high expectations. It didn’t disappoint, but it’s different - slower and feeling like an origin story most of the time. It starts and reads like a historical story with horror fantasy elements, but don’t worry, the horror escalates the further you get. Above all, Slewfoot is a dark tale about identity, humanity, and the way blind faith can turn people into monsters.

Abitha and Samson/Slewfoot are the stars here. Abitha’s tough as nails and brave, fighting for her place. And Samson? He’s a lonely soul torn between two visions of himself–a life-giver and a supposed slayer of men. What counts for him, is the truth. But here’s the twist–the truth ain’t pretty. Wallace, Abitha’s greedy brother-in-law, is a villain you love to hate and wish to see punished. The wild folk are a riot, impish, not exactly moral, and give off a vibe that amps up the folk horror.

The true horror lies in Brom’s depiction of day-to-day life in Puritan colonies and the capitalist machinations influencing their existence. The narrative delves into how ordinary people, especially women, were viewed and exploited as mere extensions of property.

I love Brom’s ability to twist sympathies for characters typically perceived as villains. In Slewfoot, the villains belong to the Puritan human camp, but Samson’s companions qualify as villains, too. The historical details are spot-on, and the narrative doesn’t shy away from bloodshed and gore.

Of course, it’s not perfect. The story is slow and some scenes may feel over-the-top to some readers. Brom’s writing gets dense here and there, and it requires attention. Speed-readers beware.

Other than that, I enjoyed it a lot and found the ending especially satisfying. Highly recommended to fans of atmospheric writing, strong female protagonists, and horror.

Audiobook narration - Barrie Kreinik's narration is decent but not outstanding.

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