First published back in June of 2013, Polish born author Ania Ahlborn’s novel ‘The Shuddering’ took another noticeably apprehensive slice at the horror genre.

DLS Synopsis:
After hearing that his father had put the luxurious mountain cabin that they had grown up with up for sale, Ryan Adler decided that they needed one last trip up there.   One last holiday in the mountains of southwestern Colorado with his twin sister and his best friend Sawyer Thomas.  After all, following this final break at their family cabin, none of them were sure when they’d be able to get together again next.  With Ryan about to move to Zurich, it was to be their final sending off, not only for the mountain cabin that they had enjoyed so much as kids, but also for all of them as a group.

But there was a lot of history between them all.  Ryan’s sister, Jane, hadn’t seen Sawyer since the two of them had broken up all those years ago.  Since then she’d been married and then divorced.  But Sawyer had remained in her heart ever since.  And so it was going to be tough seeing him again.  Especially considering he would be bringing his new girlfriend, April Bennett, along with him.

However, she would not only have the support of her twin brother but also her best friend Lauren Harvey who had come along with them.  Nevertheless, she knew it wasn’t going to be easy seeing the true love of her life with someone else.  But it was time she moved on.  After all, Sawyer evidentially had.

But when they all eventually arrive at the cabin, things soon turn sour, with Sawyer’s feelings for Jane gradually emerging once again.  April purposefully distances herself from the group, not wanting to snowboard or get involved in any way.  And with the tension between them all rising, breaking point was never going to be that far away.

However, with the snow not letting up outside, the group soon find that they are trapped within the cabin until the weather changes.  But, as they are soon to find out, being stranded in the cabin is to prove the least of their worries.  For outside in the bitter cold of the snow covered Colorado mountainside, something is getting hungry.  Lurking in the shadows of the pine trees, movement can be glimpsed, cautiously creeping about in the waist high snow.  Something is watching...waiting...and hungering for flesh...

DLS Review:
Like with her previous novel ‘The Neighbors’ (2012), Ania Ahlborn’s snow-topped horror tale finds much of its storyline concerned with the intricacies of the group’s relationships rather than the actual beastly horror aspect.  Indeed, if you stripped away all of the emotional heartache, relationship issues, personal hang-ups from the past and emotionally-distraught conflicts – then the story that would be left behind would barely last more than two or three chapters.

Okay, so the premise is very much a paint-by-numbers 90’s horror film affair.  A bunch of good-looking kids are stranded within a cabin out in the middle of nowhere without any way to communicate with the outside world.  Throw in a bunch of flesh-hungry creatures who are staking out the cabin, and you’ve got yourself the plot for another classic 1990’s horror movie.  And that’s very much what ‘The Shuddering’ reads like.

The marauding creatures are depicted as humanlike beings, although they’re much taller than us, with shovel-like hands, a vicious mouth full of razor-sharp teeth, and a strength far beyond that of the average human.   In fact, the story is very possibly inspired by the freakishly-evolved cannibalistic race from Jeff Long’s ‘The Descent’ (1999), along with elements from Neil Marshall’s ‘Dog Soldiers’ (2002) and  Guy De Maupassant’s ‘The Inn’ (1890).  Indeed, the creatures and premise as a whole has such a 90’s horror feel to it.  However, what’s nice to see is mixed in with this is an unashamedly pulpy quality the horror.

The characterisation is particularly accomplished, having such a strong bearing and dominance over the entire story.  And Ahlborn certainly knows how to get stuck in with the complexities of human emotion where relationships are involved.  However, with so much of the novel given over to this aspect of the story, it does feel more like you’re reading an Agony Aunt column half the time.

That said, when our starved-to-desperation beasties attack, Ahlborn goes for the visceral jugular every time.  Expect bloodshed and gore, with plenty of edge-of-the-seat fury thrown into the violent mix.  From an emotion-heavy tale of troubled relationships, the novel suddenly shifts gears, and all of a sudden were confronted with sheer unadulterated gore-drench pulp horror.  Hats off to you Ahlborn – it’s at these moments of visceral carnage that the tale really comes to its peak.

Sadly, these moments are just too few and far between to keep up any steady momentum, and so the novel just trundles along with the intrinsic character inter-play, waiting for the next bout of intense horror-fuelled action to give the tale’s pace that much needed shove once again.

The novel runs for a total of 307 pages.

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