29 January 2014

Review: Horns by Joe Hill

Horns by Joe Hill

Published: 16 March 2010 by Gollancz

Pages: 437 (hardcover)

Genre/s: Horror, Fantasy

Source: Own library


Ignatius Perrish spent the night drunk and doing terrible things. He woke up the next morning with a thunderous hangover, a raging headache . . . and a pair of horns growing from his temples.

At first Ig thought the horns were a hallucination, the product of a mind damaged by rage and grief. He had spent the last year in a lonely, private purgatory, following the death of his beloved, Merrin Williams, who was raped and murdered under inexplicable circumstances. A mental breakdown would have been the most natural thing in the world. But there was nothing natural about the horns, which were all too real.

Once the righteous Ig had enjoyed the life of the blessed: born into privilege, the second son of a renowned musician and younger brother of a rising late-night TV star, he had security, wealth, and a place in his community. Ig had it all, and more—he had Merrin and a love founded on shared daydreams, mutual daring, and unlikely midsummer magic.

But Merrin's death damned all that. The only suspect in the crime, Ig was never charged or tried. And he was never cleared. In the court of public opinion in Gideon, New Hampshire, Ig is and always will be guilty because his rich and connected parents pulled strings to make the investigation go away. Nothing Ig can do, nothing he can say, matters. Everyone, it seems, including God, has abandoned him. Everyone, that is, but the devil inside. . . .

Now Ig is possessed of a terrible new power to go with his terrible new look—a macabre talent he intends to use to find the monster who killed Merrin and destroyed his life. Being good and praying for the best got him nowhere. It's time for a little revenge. . . . It's time the devil had his due. . . .

My Thoughts 

I read Horns for the first time in 2011, and although I'd never really intended to re-read it, I was looking for a horror book one dark and rainy night and decided I would give it another turn.  I remembered that although it wasn't particularly scary, it was a book that gave me a lot to think about, and I was interested to see how my reactions may have changed over the past two years.

Horns is essentially the story of one man, Ig, coming to terms with the murder of his childhood sweetheart, Merrin.  After a night of miserable drinking and mourning at the site of Merrin's death he awakes to find he has sprouted a nice set of horns.  

The part of the story that I remembered, and enjoyed just as much the second time around was the reaction that Ig's horns caused strangers, family and friends.  The horns allow Ig to read their innermost thoughts, and to tap into their memories - which although it sounds interesting comes with a pretty terrible price.  The synopsis for Horns actually doesn't really convey Ig's character very well - although he is from a priviledged background he's actually a very down-to-earth character.  Apart from his obvious love for Merrin, which is demonstrated through flashbacks to how they met and their relationship progressed, he's also a pretty average guy and that made him likable and incredibly easy to feel sympathy for.

At times I felt that there was a little bit too much of a focus on the past, and I wished there had been some more of Ig's mind-reading, but essentially the plot is, strangely, a type of love story.  Ig is obviously devastated by Merrin's death and has pretty much lost all his passion for life, and Hill did a good job of making me feel that Ig really was at rock-bottom.

There's a strong paranormal element in Horns, and at times it was a little too convoluted for my tastes, but there's obviously a lot of imagination that has gone into creating the plot and the actual resolution is strangely satisfying.


  1. Kristin@Blood, Sweat and BooksJanuary 29, 2014 at 1:44 PM

    Wait, isn't this a movie starring Daniel Radcliffe as well? I never knew it was based on a book! Judging by your review I'm gonna have to track down a copy of this.

  2. Ciska van der LansJanuary 29, 2014 at 6:33 PM

    I stil want to read this one so bad!!

  3. Nikki @ Foil the PlotJanuary 29, 2014 at 8:06 PM

    Loving the sound of this one, although, perhaps horror isn't the best fit genre-wise? As far as I know, Daniel Radcliffe is set to play Ig in the upcoming theatrical version and I'll probably go see the movie before I read the book. It's definitely been on my radar though!



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