Review: Boys In the Valley by Philip Fracassi

Boys In the ValleyBoys In the Valley by Philip Fracassi
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Boys In the Valley is a classic Horror story; an absolutely delightful scarefest that gripped me from the start.

In the opening scene, we meet a young boy on the night that he loses both of his parents and his home in one bloody tragedy. The violence of this scene aptly sets the tone for the entire story, tense and atmospheric.

From there, we find ourselves at St. Vincent’s Orphanage for Boys, a self-contained parochial orphanage and school set in a remote valley in Pennsylvania.

It’s the early 1900s and being in such a location makes for a dire lifestyle. The boys at the orphanage, under the careful watch of several priests, grow their own food and only ever socialize with one another.

There are occasional supply runs to a distant farm, but only one of the priests, Father Andrew, and one of the older boys, Peter, ever go. For the rest of the boys, the grounds and the orphanage make up their entire world.

On a dark and dreary night, as all the boys lie in their bunks in the dorm, they hear a disturbance below. Someone has come seeking help from the priests.

It’s a group of men, one of whom is badly injured. The injured man is raving, dangerous, he has occult symbols carved all over his body. As the priests attempt to aid him, he dies suddenly, releasing an ancient evil with his last breath.

The boys upstairs aren’t privy to these events, but as the doors to their dorm room suddenly burst open and the cross hanging sentry above their door falls to the ground, many can feel a shift in atmosphere.

Soon a few of the boys begin acting strangely. They’re suspicious and mean, bullying in ways they never attempted before. They begin forming groups and taking sides.

Peter, the oldest and golden boy of the orphanage, an aspiring priest, becomes the unofficial leader of one side, as another boy, Bartholomew, leads the dark side.

As the tension rises, so does the danger and before the innocents can even wrap their minds around it, all hell breaks loose at St. Vincent’s. It’s chaos.

Fracassi transported me with this story. I loved the historical feel and the remote setting was so well done. I felt like I was there in the dark and the cold. I literally felt cold and I read this during one of the hottest weeks of the years.

That’s a damn good story.

It scared me. There were scenes, particularly in the beginning as it begins unfolding, that got my pulse-racing. I was simultaneously horrified and delighted.

This felt like a treat to read. There are no tricks, or gimmicks. It’s just a well-told, well-plotted, well-developed, atmospheric, engaging and creepy tale. A story that could be told just as easily around a campfire, as read in the silence of your own room at night.

It’s got that epic good-versus-evil feel, but stripped down to a fluid Lord of the Flies meets The Exorcist combination.

I would absolutely recommend this to any Horror fan, particularly if you are creeped out by things like religion and kids. If you are, this will play right into your sweet spots.

Thank you so much to the publisher, Tor Nightfire, for providing me with a copy to read and review. I’m really excited to pick up more from this author!

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