Review: Stygian by Santino Hassell


Title: Stygian
Author: Santino Hassell
Date of publication: 26 Oct 2015
Genre: MM romance, Paranormal

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My rating: 4 Stars


Jeremy has been isolated and adrift since the death of his brother. Most people just see him as the skinny emo kid who wears eyeliner and plays drums. No one gets him. Nobody tries. He thought the indie rock band Stygian would become his anchor, but—lost in their own problems—they’re far from the family he sought.

Still, hoping to get close to Kennedy, the band's enigmatic guitarist, he follows Stygian to northern Louisiana for a summer retreat. They had planned to spend six weeks focusing on new music but things go awry as soon as they arrive at the long-deserted Caroway mansion. Tempers flare, sexual tension boils over into frustration, and Jeremy turns away from the band to find a friend in his eerily beautiful landlord Hunter Caroway.

Kennedy suspects there’s something off about the creepy mansion and its mysterious owners, but Jeremy thinks he's finally found somewhere he fits. It isn’t until Kennedy forces the Caroway’s secrets into the light that Jeremy realizes belonging sometimes comes with a price.


Stygian is the story of four queer bandmates going on a summer retreat to compose some music but instead find themselves in the midst of a Gothic horror tale of manipulations and lies.

I'm not much of a horror fan and initially wasn't sure if this story was for me but I really like Mr. Hassell's writing and decided to give it a try and I'm really glad I did it.

It's not a horror story of gore and blood and violence but rather a creepy, atmospheric tale of emotional abuse, manipulation, isolation and nightmares.

It's told from Jeremy's point of view and found his perspective truly fascinating. He is as an unreliable a narrator as they come, worried that he's going mad and then determined to keep it together. His thought process of discerning the truths and lies around him was scary but also totally absorbing. More than once I wanted to jump into the pages of the book and shake him and hug him and tell him "You are OK. Everything will be all right. Trust yourself and your instincts."

I have a soft spot for characters like him - a little lost, a lot of mistreated, yet good-natured and kind and loving. And he acted like a hero just when it was needed. Jeremy is definitely my favourite of the four bandmates. I saw Kennedy through the infatuated eyes of Jeremy and found him likeable but didn't feel as deeply connected with his as I felt with Jeremy. 

On the other hand, we have Quince and Watts involved in a dysfunctional (non)-relationship, each fighting his own demons. 

Then in come the Caraways - Hunter and Laurel. Seen through eyes of Jeremy they were both entralling and mesemrizing and at the same, scary and inhuman. It was only Kennedy that didn't fell under their spell. Jeremy repeated kept giving in to their sweet-talking and false loyalty and friendship only to back away and "come to his senses" after that. 

Hunter and Laurel were not your typical in-your-face dark blood-sucking vampires, though things got pretty bloody towards the end. I read them throughout most of the story as the embodiment of negative, manipulative people who prey on the most velnerable and emotionally fragile around them. Unfortunately, we all meet such people in our lives and I could fully see how both Quince and Jeremy (to a lesser extend) fell into their charms. Jeremy's journey to his ultimate resistance was a fascinating.

The story was well crafted, it sucks you in and never lets you go, even after you read the final page, especially then. The ending leaves the characters all safe and sound but I fear it's a long way till their HEAs.

I really wanted more at the end - more of Jeremy and Kennedy being together, of Quince hopefully recovering from whatever happened to him, of Watts finally getting his sh*t together. of Hunter. 

Fans of Mr. Hassell's writing will enjoy this story and I can defintiely recommend it to fans of paranormal romances too. 

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Are / Dreamspinner 

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