The Curse of the Mountain by: Tyler Cram

Synopsis

Death stalks a town. An ancient evil. A long-buried secret.

A young officer responding to a call in the middle of the night about chickens being slaughtered turns into a night of reckoning when a deadly creature emerges from the woods.

Years later, while on a hike in the North Carolina wilderness, four friends discover an old book. When they open it, they black out – only to find on waking that they have released the evil things that live within the pages.

As they fight to keep their neighbors from dying, they unravel a dark secret that the leaders of their town have held since their ancestors first settled.

But can the boys really stop the devil?

Evaluation

Keep the lights on and don’t read before bed! The grim, vivid imagery is what nightmares are made of, and the unholiness of the demon will infest your mind. If you dare read it before bed, at least say your prayers first.

Instantly Relatable Characters

Wally, Dan, Ray, and James are four teen boys graduating high school. Each of their back stories, uncovered at just the right length, reveal an instantly relatable personality. Ray, racially bullied; Dan whose mother’s health suffered; James, struggling with his love life; and Wally, ridden with guilt over his sister’s disappearance. All characters going through personal stuff, just like we did when we were their age.

That instant connectivity to these boys made every one of them valuable to the reader. And when the antagonist is the bringer of death, having characters so close to home makes every interaction between hero and villain an edge of your seat battle.

Stephen King, Clive Barker, and…the Prophets of the Lord?

Cram’s writing styles closely resembled Barker’s barbaric darkness and King’s imaginative villain It. The way the demon in Cram’s book manifested and transformed its host reminded me instantly of King’s iconic shape-shifting clown. Especially the boy-spider the characters happen upon in Cram’s novel; the transformation from innocence to massive evil flawlessly mirrored It.

Clive Barker is the author of Hellbound Heart and the director of the well-known film adaptation Hellraiser. If you’ve read/seen them, you know the Cenobites are merciless hellions who brutally torture their victims before dragging them to Hell. Blood is just the beginning with them…and the grimness in Cram’s book not only suited his Hell-summoned villain, but it induced a level of fear that made me dread having nightmares after reading.

“The blade was rusted from the jagged tip to the hilt. Warm, waxy liquid dripped over her hand.” (page 8)

Willard being a coroner and thinking: “Every night he felt he was lying next to a warm corpse [his wife].” (page 23)

The most surprising of Cram’s inspirations was the Bible itself. He referred to specific Biblical names (not the most well-known) and correlated them with the story with familiarity. I absolutely loved that element. Especially the way he twisted Catholicism EXACTLY the way the Devil does. It’s accurate and not a way you’d catch Christians writing. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t true, and that part might be the most terrifying of the whole book.

“…Jesus had been vandalized. Horns were added, painted with red. The glass itself changed somehow. He looked happy, a mischievous smile, no agony on his face. Mary’s hand that was on Jesus’s stomach had a knife in it. Blood streamed from the wound down the glass and left a shallow, burgundy oval pool on the concrete of the church doors. James was scared…” (page 111)

…and so was I after reading that.

I also found the twisted Biblical references suitable considering the villain the book focused on. The example ahead is a perfect description of how the Devil manipulates the Bible to suit his tastes: “The Decayed with the taillight eyes lead the pack of a dozen. Their last supper which consisted of the souls of downtown Roanville.” (page 186)

Downfalls

  • The end of the book felt the most unrealistic, and that says a lot because the entire 200 pages it took to get there were packed with supernatural entities and unbelievable events. But the reaction of the townspeople felt unnatural, the parents were unnaturally accepting, and the end before the epilogue felt like a forced happily ever after.
  • The sequel bait came AFTER the epilogue in a final chapter with an explanation that we desperately needed. I thought it was weird, especially since readers often never read anything past the epilogue (if they read the epilogue itself). But it was weird because the final chapter wasn’t marked as a means to READ ON. Maybe it’s the way the book is formatted, but I honestly thought that final chapter was a teaser for Cram’s next book.
  • The editing was almost painfully lazy. Sorry, but it’s the truth. I wouldn’t say anything if it was a missed period here, a misspelled word there. This was almost every other page, and it got worse toward the end of the book. Characters names were missing letters, the spelling was so confusing I had to read sentences twice, periods were often commas instead, it got confusing sometimes and the cosmetic errors distracted from the mood Cram worked so hard to build in each scene.
  • In the end, I have no idea what Chapter 1 had to do directly with this book. I think Cram was setting us up to understand the succubus or the origin of this demon, but the fact that it happened centuries ago and then didn’t directly tie back into THIS story with the boys made it seem completely unnecessary and irrelevant. And the fact that so much of that chapter picked at the Christian in me (I almost gave up on the book the first time I read that chapter, I was slightly livid). So why include it?

Overall, this book was an unforgettable read. The nightmarish darkness was mastered by Cram, and the images it leaves us with are truly haunting. Pick up your copy today, if you’re brave enough to handle the Curse of the Mountain.

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