Review: To Summon Nightmares by J.K. Pendragon (2014)

“With the last sound, his mouth became unstopped like a bottle, and it was as if all sound hissed from the room. The candles blew out, the darkness expanded to envelop all. And then the darkness receded. The candles flickered back to light, and the sound came back into the room.

In the middle of the circle stood a man.”

To Summon Nightmares, J.K. Pendragon

Rating: ★★★½
Genre: Paranormal, contemporary, romance
Categories: M/M, trans, demons

Content Warnings (highlight to read): Transphobia. Graphic descriptions of dysphoria, self-harm attempts. References to torture, child abuse.

Description: A gothic-horror contemporary story set in rural Ireland. Cohen, a Jewish trans writer, finds himself unexpectedly involved in the life of Niall—a gorgeous man suspected of murder, on the run from a haunting past involving demon summoning, and possessing incredible magic powers. There’s a secret organization and a very unpleasant ex-boyfriend involved. And all Cohen wanted was a quiet place to write…

“When he inherits an old house in the country, Cohen sees it as a perfect opportunity to escape the press and work on his new book. What he doesn’t count on is becoming embroiled in a small town murder mystery and falling for the primary suspect, a man whose reality makes Cohen’s fantasy books seem like child’s play…”

Impression: I was very much ready to like this book more than I did, but unfortunately quite a bit didn’t work for me. If you’re looking for a contemporary fantasy-horror novel with likeable leads and a trans protagonist, this is that, and I would for sure encourage readers to give it a try! (Meredith enjoyed this book quite a bit! You can read her review here.) I found that there were good parts, some strong writing, and I was quite fond of both Niall and Cohen as characters. However, I distinctly disliked some of the other characters I felt I was meant to at least have some small measure of sympathy for (Jacky grated on me more than I could reason for the plot & Niall’s attachment to him) and the abrupt switch in point-of-view from Niall for the first few chapters to Cohen for the rest of the novel was jarring to me and left me consistently hoping for more from Niall’s side.

Overall: interesting characters, a pretty cute romance, and a lot of focus on the characters (their wants, needs, fears, weaknesses), but lacking in execution to pull it together.


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