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  • Writer's pictureE L Crocker

Deerleap Hollow Book 2, Born to Endless Night: A Review

The return of the town where not harming the deer is just as important as not getting murdered.

Note: This review has also been posted on Amazon and Goodreads. If you like the book, please consider doing this too; it helps authors. Thanks!

The Deerleap Hollow Series is a satisfying blend of genres: small town mystery with supernatural, spiritual and occasionally downright creepy elements. The series follows a new inspector of the eponymous town who must grapple with its shockingly high murder/disappearance count, helped by his young psychic assistant who he has feelings for. Meanwhile, in the forests outside the town, spiritual deer gods mix with deadly spirits who have fallen victim to an old tribal curse, and woe betide anyone in the town who harms a deer… Seriously though, don’t touch the deer.

I loved the first entry in the series; I enjoyed Ali’s artful blending of the fairly out-there spiritual elements with the more human-like evil of the town, in particular the compelling, horrific portrayals of the villains and all the macabre details she loves to thrown in. So I’m delighted to report that all this continues in the sequel, but now we see wider worldbuilding (or should I say town building); showing an author growing in her confidence in the creepy world she is weaving.

The plot this time revolves around two threads. First, young women are disappearing from the nearby asylum. Second, someone is killing the local deer which, if you haven’t guessed, is a massive no-no in this town, akin to breaking into the Vatican and using the Pope’s robes for toilet paper (or so I would imagine). All the while, psychic Lila has someone enter her life who reveals secrets about her past she didn’t know, and must also try and reconcile with her cousin Daisy, who blames her for the revelations of the previous book.

You see this deer? Don't touch it. Don't even look at it wrong. You'll thank me later.

It’s a heady mix of plot threads, and the way they skilfully weave together and all bring something to the plot shows how confident Ali is getting in this second entry about the town and world she is building. Once again we have a plot full of both human evil and supernatural menace. The human villain is compellingly odious; Ali’s talent for getting in the head of psychopaths is once again on show here. But the supernatural deer-god this time gets its own plot line, thus highlighting one of the best things about this series, how the ethereal and the prosaically villainous intertwine.

Ali has clearly advanced in her confidence in her own world in this book too; Deerleap Hollow has begun to feel like a proper location, filled with minor characters and ancient lore and festivals and secret family history revelations. There is one revelation in particular that adds a whole new spiritual element to this series, with so much potential for lore going forward. Ali is creating a world here, and a fun one it is too spend time in (though not too much time, for the sake of your soul).

Another of Ali’s strengths is documenting the depths of despair and emotion a character can go through, and this is on show here with the Daisy plotline as, unwilling to reconcile her family revelations of the previous book, she goes on a decidedly downward spiral. I actually found this the most compelling part of this book, and sort of wanted more of this, but it’s a sign of how adept Ali is at heightening dark emotions until they genuinely unsettle the reader that this minor plotline felt so utterly compelling. Oh and it’s worth pointing out as well that Ali is on fine macabre form again. Put it this way, I will never look at deer antlers the same.

All in all, this is a fine sequel that shows the first wasn’t a fluke and presents an author painting in the lines of her world, making me look forward even more to what she has in store. If you’re not reading this glorious genre mash yet, then make sure to grab this series by the horns. Well, technically antlers. Sorry.

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