Posts Tagged: Southern Gothic

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Disappointing: The Toll by Cherie Priest

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Disappointing: The Toll by Cherie Priest
The Toll
Cherie Priest
Genre: Adult, Gothic, Horror
Publication date: July 9th, 2019
by Tor Books

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From Cherie Priest, the author of The Family Plot and Maplecroft, comes The Toll, a tense, dark, and scary treat for modern fans of the traditionally strange and macabre.

State Road 177 runs along the Suwannee River, between Fargo, Georgia, and the Okefenokee Swamp. Drive that route from east to west, and you’ll cross six bridges. Take it from west to east, and you might find seven.

But you’d better hope not.


Titus and Davina Bell leave their hotel in Fargo for a second honeymoon canoeing the Okefenokee Swamp. But shortly before they reach their destination, they draw up to a halt at the edge of a rickety bridge with old stone pilings, with room for only one car . . .

When, much later, a tow-truck arrives, the driver finds Titus lying in the middle of the road, but Davina is nowhere to be found.
 
-A copy was provided by Tor Books for review-

I love southern gothic with a dash of horror and I’ve enjoyed everything I’ve read by Cherie Priest so when I came across The Toll, I was curious. I ended up being disappointed. Maybe this book never stood a chance because I read it in the midst of an extreme book hangover from finishing Spin the Dawn but here we are.

For one, there are too many different POVs for my liking. Sometimes many POVs work, especially when distinguished. They were not distinguished in this case so the transitions were always sudden and it took me a bit to figure out who I was following. Honestly, it wasn’t until I hit the 33% mark that I was actually able to differentiate the names and the voices of the characters. So for about 100 pages, I was basically lost and confused. 

The pacing was too slow for my tastes as well. The atmosphere is deliciously creeptastic but… there is literally nothing else going on. Titus’ wife goes missing and the town is sort of weird and there are weird things happening but only the first of those things is a plot point. There is an increasing tension propelling the plot forward but the book is fairly tame. I was not creeped out or concerned.

I also did not connect to any of the characters. Maybe except the old ladies who hate everybody because that’s a big mood. I don’t know. 336 pages is a lot to read when you don’t feel connected to anyone or that invested in the plot or really in anything at all. 

So why did I keep reading? Maybe I just have issues and don’t like DNFing but honestly, the one good thing I can say for this book is that Cherie Priest is undoubtedly a terrific writer. This seems to contradict all of my issues with the book but also, I don’t know what else to say. Something kept me just invested enough to keep turning the pages and I think that for all these book’s faults, Priest is good at her craft.

The Toll is not the worst book I’ve read this year (although I cannot actually think what the worst book I’ve read is.) I think it just needed a lot more work to keep me invested. I think characters needed to be developed, voices distinguished and the plot needed to become more exciting. People who like slower books with that hint of horror sort of lurking in the background will genuinely enjoy this book. Simply put, I was the wrong reader for The Toll and all my love for southern gothic books cannot make up for that.

2 Stars
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