Burning House is a new short novel by Daniel Marc Chant and it definitely falls under the Horror/Suspense genre. With a very original approach Chant takes the reader into a small town where the majority of the residents are living in poverty. It’s also a town where some strange events occur, giving rise to mysterious screams and even more horrific situations.
It starts with a curious prologue, which creates a keen interest then jumps into the setting for the story. A little girl wakes up in the middle of the night due to strange screams, but instead she finds smoke and flames. The apartment building she lives in with her parents is burning. As her parents desperately get her to safety she hears a cry from somebody who is trapped. In turn she alerts a firefighter by the name of Ellie McNeil. Captain Hunt, Ellie’s superior, gathers a small group of firefighters including her, and sets off into the building.
Their entrance into the smoke-filled building is uneventful and routine. The screaming comes and goes, leading them deeper into the lower floors. With every step their air gets less and time is crucial in this situation. All they expect to find is somebody who is trapped beneath the debris, but unfortunately they aren’t so lucky. A mysterious darkness remains on their heels, threatening to make the building their grave. When they finally find the survivor, Grace, she runs away from them. Captain Hunt takes this as a sign that she doesn’t need their help and orders the team to evacuate. At this point a section of the building collapses, trapping their way out. Now they also need to escape somehow, but the creatures lurking in the darkness aren’t going to let it happen easily.
Chant used a nice pace with the book. He paints a small picture of where the readers find themselves and doesn’t waste any time to get into the magic of the story. Chant’s choice of characters and narrative is a nice mix, because the former is based on everyday firefighters who need to believe in realistic laws if they are going to survive their dangerous job. Obviously Captain Hunt is the biggest skeptic of them all with 20 years of experience and making peace with the creature in the building is life-changing to say the least. As for the narrative, Chant keeps himself detached from the characters, but doesn’t lose sight of their emotions and fears. This also allows him to present every character in some personal manner.
The storyline itself is something different in terms of the opening chapters. For the reader Chant leaves little or no predictability. The horrific events inside the building present a mental, as well as physical challenge, which Chant balances evenly. The sense of mystery is never lost and the characters even develop some struggles within the rescue group. With all of them losing their grip on reality while running out of valuable time the suspense increases dramatically. Chant has great control over the creatures endangering the lives of the characters without indulging too much. They are ruthless and intelligent, making the situation so much more intense.
People who like reading stories that are driven by time and difficult choices, deceiving visions, dangerous creatures and not knowing what characters are going to survive will enjoy this book.
Damnetha is a staff writer, horror book and movie critic.
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