First published back in March of 2014, ‘Above’ formed the second novel for South African born author Isla Morley.

DLS Synopsis:
It was on the 22nd July, the night of the big Horse Thieves Picnic celebration, that sixteen-year-old Blythe Hallowell was taken.  It was getting late and she was on her way home when Dobbs Hordin told her to come with him.  Because Blythe was told that something had happened to her brother, she didn’t think twice about getting into Hordin’s rusty old car.  Concern for her brother was the only thing filling her mind as she allowed the man that she knew to be her school librarian, to drive her out to a darkened field in the middle of nowhere.

The next thing Blythe knows is that she’s waking up in a room without windows.  In fact, Blythe Hallowell is now in one of twelve decommissioned missile silos that now remain in Kansas.  Her captor, Dobbs Hordin, has spent years preparing the underground silo.  Hordin was convinced that the apocalypse was almost upon them.  And he’d spent years of his life, and every penny that he’d earned, in order to prepare for the end.

Locked away in his underground silo, Hordin had enough provisions to last for years.  He had collected together a vast cache of documents and jars filled with specimens in order to assist with the creation of a new world following the apocalypse.  And now that he has Blythe, he finally has everything he needs in order to live through mankind’s near annihilation.  Everything he needs to begin a new life after everyone else’s life ends.

For Blythe Hallowell, her life above ground now seems to have come to an end.  As the days, months, and years pass by, the once defiant young girl gradually gives in to her captor’s will.  The world above ground becomes nothing more than a lingering memory.  And Blythe’s entire world has become confined to this underground concrete prison…

DLS Review:
What we have here is one hell of a compelling read.  From the very moment that you embark upon Blythe Hallowell’s story, you’re hooked.  Within a matter of pages this innocent young girl is ripped away from her world and thrown into this underground decommissioned missile silo.  Disorientation hits the reader square in the face.  And slowly but surely, as author Isla Morley starts to put the pieces together, the true horror of the young teenaged girl’s predicament fully reveals itself.

For the first half of the book, the situation in the underground silo just gets worse and worse.  The unrelenting claustrophobia crushes you, the bleakness of Blythe’s close-quartered existence depresses you, and the once strong young girl’s final resignation and ultimate acceptance to her fate eventually chills your blood.

I say for the first half, because Morley has very purposefully split her book into two distinct halves.  The first half is a downward descent into a lonesome hell; held prisoner in the underground silo without any lasting hope of ever seeing the world above.  The second half…well I can’t comment on the second half without giving one of the critical twists in the tale away.  However, what I can say is that Morley has got some jaw-dropping surprises up her sleeve.  And they smack the reader in the face with the force of a sledgehammer.

To say that ‘Above’ is a page turner is one mother of an understatement.  From the very first page the novel is absolutely addictive reading.  Blythe’s terrifying predicament drags the reader into the claustrophobic hell that is Dobbs Hordin’s survivalist silo.  The purposeful drip-feeding of information about Hordin, how Blythe had been snatched, and the poor girl’s own past, builds up an inter-woven nest of intrigue that keeps the reader sucked into the very fabric of the plot.

Blythe Hallowell is a wonderfully and lovingly created character.  Morley has breathed so much life into the girl.  By around a quarter of the way into the tale you will swear that Blythe is real.  There’s so much detail in her personality.  So many layers to her.  Her strength, her emotional tolerance, her inner-struggles, and perfectly identifiable human qualities.  You relate to her on so many levels.  You respect her.  And as a testament to Morley’s astonishing skills as a storyteller; you end up loving Blythe Hallowell for everything that she is, and everything that she is not.

There’s such a tightly-packed tangle of emotions pulsing through the novel.  And so often these emotions are in direct conflict with each other; causing an inner-turmoil in Blythe to reveal itself to the reader.  And these near-cannibalistic feelings are ultimately projected onto the reader; swamping them in a flood of their own deeply provocative ripped-raw emotions.

There is so much in this novel that will keep you gripped to it from the very start to its final page.  Your emotions will be pulled taut, your heart will fill your mouth, your pulse will race, your breath will get caught in your throat, and you’ll find it impossible to leave Blythe for the night without first finding out if she’s going to survive it herself.  Ultimately, for a short time ‘Above’ will become a part of you.

This is a truly stunning tale that takes the reader through more emotions than you would ever have thought it could.  There’s no sitting still with this novel.  Anything could be round the next corner.  And Morley uses this scope to its full effect.  Utterly breath-taking.  Unbelievably captivating.  A colossal novel of desperation, fear, love, remorse and heart-wrenching compassion.

Quite simply, you should read this novel.

The novel runs for a total of 342 pages.

© DLS Reviews

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