[Fairy tales are] such dark, peculiar, amoral stories – stories that warn us to stay out of the woods but that also teach us how to survive.Cassandra Parkin
When I interviewed Cassandra Parkin at the publication of her last novel Underwater Breathing, I do wonder is she was already in the midst of writing The Slaughter Man as it vividly portrays all the themes she mentions above. It is even set in the woods.
The Slaughter Man is definitely a modern day fairy tale. Yet it is more than this as it explores the themes of grief and identity in a sinister, uneasy manner. It is Willow’s story; the story of her survival following the sudden death of her identical twin sister Laurel. But who is Willow in danger from? The Slaughter Man? Herself?
Struggling with Laurel’s death, seventeen-year-old Willow’ is devastated . She feels that with Laurel gone, her identity has disappeared; she cannot face looking at herself in the mirror as it is Laurel’s face that looks back at her; and she feels guilty that when her parents look at her, they are reminded constantly of their dead daughter.
As Willow’s parent’s become more concerned over her wellbeing, she goes to stay with her estranged Uncle Joe’s in his remote cottage surrounded by woods. Here she encounters Luca who appears gentle at times but also dangerous. Deep within the woods Willow also comes face to face with the Slaughter Man.
This is a haunting, dark story about loss, secrets and survival. It is also in a sense a coming of age story. I did find this a heavy read but it is a story dealing with a very emotional and raw subject. Willow’s loss of Laurel is portrayed with such visceral intensity, it is truly heartbreaking.
I enjoyed the exploration of Willow’s relationships with Luca and her Uncle Joe. Luca is a complex, troubled character which intrigued me throughout. Luca adds extra emotional layers to the story which Parkin reveals fully at the end, which is viscerally shocking.
However a lot of the book is written using Willow’s stream of consciousness, a style I’ve never been a big fan of if I’m honest. Hence at times I did struggle with it – but that is just my own individual taste.
The Slaughter Man was published on 16th September 2019 by Legend Press.
Thank you to Legend Press for inviting me to part of blog tour to help publicise this book. To follow the tour and read the reviews from my fellow book bloggers, please see below.