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Black River Orchard


Black River Orchard

Chuck Wendig has received praise from and been compared to the legendary Stephen King. This has never been more evident than with his latest release, BLACK RIVER ORCHARD, which is destined to become a Gothic horror classic. This weighty tome is Wendig’s masterpiece, and he pulls out all the stops in telling a spine-chilling tale that readers will never forget.

In the first of two prologues, we are introduced to Calla, a young girl who recently has become suspicious of her father’s behavior. Dan is a fruit grower, and his prize crop has always been apples. During this particular time in their history, he is acting obsessively about a bit of scion wood that he feels will produce “the apple” that will change their lives forever.

"This weighty tome is Wendig’s masterpiece, and he pulls out all the stops in telling a spine-chilling tale that readers will never forget."

It does, but not necessarily in the ways that they may think or ever reasonably predict. This new breed of apple has an almost black finish, giving it a look akin to a glass of Pinot Noir. Calla is not fooled by its appearance and refers to this new blend situation as trapping her between the Scylla of Golden and the Charybdis of the apple. Along with the narrative of a now older Calla and her father, we are treated to time spent with two other kindred spirits: life partners Emily and Meg. Their stories will become intertwined with each other, as well as a horde of other interesting characters with whom Wendig peppers his tale.

We also get glimpses of a dark horror that has just awoken and permeates the very ground of the town known as Harrow. Wendig has created a great villain in the person of John Compass. An ex-special forces sniper who is more than a little obsessed with the special apple crop that has been yielded in Harrow, he will kill to find out more about it.

Calla and Dan have named their specialty apples Ruby Slippers so that they clearly stand out from the myriad of apple types on the market. Those who taste it experience something they have never felt before and are instantly hooked. The secret, though, is not what Dan did to treat and produce these crops, but rather the soil and earth that they grew out of --- the same ground that has sprung up some very odd-looking apple trees around Harrow.

The reaction to biting into one of these new apples can produce unexpected results. Emily witnesses Meg hungrily eat one and nearly bite off her own thumb in the process. She continues to be highly suspicious of both the apples and the behavior of the residents who have become hooked on them. Her research shows that historically there is something sinister going on concerning her home of Harrowsback Island, and whatever this darkness is just may be starting again. John Compass continues his own plight, which also reveals the brutal way that he murdered his fellow apple aficionado, Walt.

All of their stories will loop together in the best and most sinister of ways, which makes reading BLACK RIVER ORCHARD such a delight. When the bloody history of this town fully springs up from the roots that are deeply planted in the ground, no one will be safe from the wrath to come. This large-scale piece of horror/supernatural fiction will ensure that readers will never eat an apple the same way again.

Reviewed by Ray Palen on October 6, 2023

Black River Orchard
by Chuck Wendig