Book Review: Sundial by Catriona Ward

You can’t escape what’s in your blood….

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Release Date: March 1, 2022

Publisher: Tor Nightfire

Price: $18.99 (hardcover)

PLOT SUMMARY:

All Rob wanted was a normal life. She almost got it, too: a husband, two kids, a nice house in the suburbs. But Rob fears for her oldest daughter, Callie, who collects tiny bones and whispers to imaginary friends. Rob sees a darkness in Callie, one that reminds her too much of the family she left behind.She decides to take Callie back to her childhood home, to Sundial, deep in the Mojave Desert. And there she will have to make a terrible choice.Callie is worried about her mother. Rob has begun to look at her strangely, and speaks of past secrets. And Callie fears that only one of them will leave Sundial alive…The mother and daughter embark on a dark, desert journey to the past in the hopes of redeeming their future.

GRADE: A

REVIEW:

Unsettling. That’s the best word I can find to describe Ward’s latest novel. It’s told in multiple POV’s in a nonlinear narrative which some readers found hard to follow, but that I personally love because it allows for the story to slowly unfold, the secrets to slowly be revealed for the picture to finally come into view, although the reader’s perspective will continuously change because much like The Last House on Needless Street, the heroes and villains aren’t so easily distinguishable.

Ward takes us deep into the Mojave Desert (a place that I already find creepy due to all the real-life disappearances that occur there every year). Rob and Jack are twins living with their research scientist parents Mia and Falcon. They live a somewhat hippy-ish life, isolated from anyone of their own age. Something terrible occurred in that desert and initially the reader isn’t sure exactly what it is or how it all ties in with Rob’s present – now married to a professor whose equal parts charming and terrifying in his subtle cruelty. But what’s got Rob worried is her older daughter Callie, who displays the typical signs of serial killers and thinks that the only way she can save her daughter is by taking her to the one place she vowed to never return to: Sundial. And so a terrible family saga unfolds.

I read this book in a matter of days, because I was so invested with wanting to know what exactly happened at Sundial, because from the very first page the prose is steeped in blood and dread and you know that the journey you’re about to embark on will be a dark one. It’s difficult to use the word “enjoyed” in terms of reading this book because of the unsettling things that occur that leave you cringing or feeling sick, but I did want to know more so it kept me flipping the pages well into the night.

There’s a story within a story, and I wish I understood the symbolism behind it because I’m quite unsure exactly what it revealed (if it revealed anything at all).

Overall I loved the darkness of this novel but if you’re a reader who detests any forms of animal cruelty in literature, then steer clear of this read – you’ve been warned.

*Thank you so much to NetGalley and Tor Nightfire for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!

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