White Pines by Gemma Amor

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From the Bram Stoker nominated author Gemma Amor, author of Dear Laura and Cruel Works of Nature comes her latest slice of horror White Pines.

This is a book that is hard to categorize given its genre bending appeal, it seems to cross and blend genres at will. White Pines is like a rock falling from a cliff face near the coast, this tiny rock hits other rocks on its way down and before you know it, you’ve got an unforgiving landslide which will sweep you off your feet and into the thrashing waves – where the undertow is even less forgiving as it sucks you under and into its icy depths. Whatever happens, prepare to be swept away, to suffer and to be consumed by this unforgiving of beasts.

White Pines is a novel which is screaming to be adapted into a short television series or a film due to the cinematic qualities that Amor evokes – this is some of her best work to date – and given that the book is the largest we’ve seen from her, it allows her more space to do what she does best, build tension, create memorable characters and weave a story which is as beguiling as it is terrifying.

Gemma Amor appears to be one of those writers that is submersed in the horror genre, that she has in the darkness been shaped by it, adapted to it – the weird, the dark and the disturbing. And what springs fourth from her mind can’t be put back into the Pandora’s Box that it escaped from with screams and cackles – and so she writes these wonders down for our enjoyment.

The pages and the story literally bleed with her love of horror and the macabre, of the weird and the fantastical. I could see influences such as Under the Dome (Stephen King) but one would hasten to say done better – instead of an epic story that features every character in the town; Amor is able to hold our attention and make the carnage that much more brutal as she isolates this story to a handful of characters all of which are fully realised. I could also feel vibes from The X-Files, Fringe and Twin Peaks in the subtle and expert way that Amor constructs this almost cosmic horror (these are all big compliments in my book). There is also the elements of Greek Mythology that trickle into the story (as a child that loved the adventures of Jason and the Argonauts I wasn’t disappointed in how Amor grounded this story and the small tenuous links such as a ball of twine to mark her way etc). Then it has this strange cult vibe, akin to Adam Nevill’s The Reddening (it’s a different type of cult but the Reddening and its cult element generally frightened me, and White Pines has this same type of small town cult terror that makes your skin crawl) and then to cap it all off you also have the whole uncanny vibe which one could easily mistake as a Daphne du Maurier story such is the scope of what Amor has achieved. It’s a smorgasbord of delights all wrapped up in a thrilling plot.

White Pines is full of fear, anxieties, isolation, horror, science fiction, mythology, folklore and strange cults which are all blended into a heady cocktail that Amor forces your to swallow!

A woman, returning to her roots. A town, built on sacred land. A secret, cloaked in tradition and lore.

Welcome to White Pines. Don’t get too comfortable.

It’s a book that I strongly recommend you to read, it’s fresh, it’s brutal and above all it’s one hell of a ride. I won’t go into much detail here about the books story line, it’s a story I feel one should discover for themselves (the above quote is the blurb for the book). But there was one scene in particular that just sucked me in, that distressed me to no-end, and that was what I’m going to refer to and name aptly as the ‘purgatory scene’. When you’ve read the book you will understand more, but what Amor was able to achieve with this handful of characters trapped in a confined space in the town of White Pines was remarkable – it was the thing of nightmares and I was sucked into the terror, the tension and the horrors that unfolded – it was masterful and deranged and I bloody loved it.

White Pines has the uncanny crawling through each and every page, and it will seep into your very core if you let it – another fabulous outing from Amor!

White Pines is self published by Gemma Amor and is available here.

Gemma Amor

Gemma Amor is a Bram Stoker Award nominated horror fiction author, podcaster and voice actor based in the UK. Her books include Cruel Works of NatureDear Laura, White Pines, and Till the Score is Paid. She is also the co-creator, writer and voice actor for horror-comedy podcast Calling Darkness, starring Kate Siegel. Gemma’s stories feature on the NoSleep podcastShadows at the Door, Creepy and the Grey Rooms podcast. You can find her work in a number of horror anthologies, too.

Reviewed by Ross Jeffery

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