Release Date: January 25, 2022
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Price: $27.99 (hardcover)
Surrounded by barren trees in a snow-covered wilderness with a dim, dusky sky forever overhead, Siberia’s Kolyma Highway is 1200 miles of gravel packed permafrost within driving distance of the Arctic Circle. A narrow path where drivers face such challenging conditions as icy surfaces, limited visibility, and an average temperature of sixty degrees below zero, fatal car accidents are common.But motorists are not the only victims of the highway. Known as the Road of Bones, it is a massive graveyard for the former Soviet Union’s gulag prisoners. Hundreds of thousands of people worked to death and left where their bodies fell, consumed by the frozen elements and plowed beneath the permafrost road.Fascinated by the history, documentary producer Felix “Teig” Teigland is in Russia to drive the highway, envisioning a new series capturing Life and Death on the Road of Bones with a ride to the town of Akhust, “the coldest place on Earth”, collecting ghost stories and local legends along the way. Only, when Teig and his team reach their destination, they find an abandoned town, save one catatonic nine-year-old girl—and a pack of predatory wolves, faster and smarter than any wild animals should be. Pursued by the otherworldly beasts, Teig’s companions confront even more uncanny and inexplicable phenomena along the Road of Bones, as if the ghosts of Stalin’s victims were haunting them. It is a harrowing journey that will push Teig beyond endurance and force him to confront the sins of his past.
From the very first page, the reader is greeted with a bone-chilling cold that doesn’t let up for the entirety of the novel. The Road of Bones is the Kolyma Highway found in Russia where some of the coldest parts of the world outside of Antarctica exist. The road got its ominous name because prisoners forced to build the road under Stalin died during the construction, where an estimated 250,000-1,000,000 people lost their lives and were buried right into the road’s permafrost. If that doesn’t already make for a chilling horror, this novel also finds itself grappling with supernatural entities and the ghosts that haunt us even when they’re merely just a manifestation of our guilt.
The protagonist is Teig, a reality-show star that creates shows much like Ghost Adventures with his best friend Prentiss. The only issue is that his past few projects have bombed and he owes a lot of people money, including his best friend. Then he gets an idea, why not make a show about the Road of Bones? A place haunted by the past as well as the unflinching cold, where car trouble could have one dying within a matter of minutes from the extremely low temperatures.
I’m a total wimp when it comes to cold temperatures, so to have a supernatural thriller set in the cold, already has me both terrified and fascinated.
The mystery amps up when Teig, Prentiss, their Russian translator, and a hitchhiker they picked up on the way, finally arrive at their destination only to find every single home in that town empty. It looks as though the residents left their homes mid-dinner and disappeared. This is when things start getting weird and dangerous for the group.
This novel is very fast-paced and it mostly takes place in one night much like those survival horror movies do. This was a fun, freaky read and I really loved how well fleshed out the characters were. I recommend this novel for anyone who loves supernatural thrillers set in Siberia.
*Thank you so much to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!