Friday, January 1

James Herbert: The Magic Cottage

When a young couple out to escape life in the fast lane find a cottage in the country it seems it was meant for them. Not only does the money required for the purchase seem to fall into their laps but the place turns out not to need the extensive, and expensive, renovations they originally thought. The garden seems to be in constant bloom and even the local wild life is tame. The change in lifestyle does them no end of good. His music and her art develop a depth that has hitherto escaped them; even their relationship reaches new, unexpected heights. They truly believe they have found a slice of paradise.
But such happiness can not last indefinitely and trouble arrives in the form of seemingly friendly neighbours. Actually a magical cult, the neighbours want their house. They were willing to kill the house’s pervious owner-reputedly a witch whose power was linked to the land the cottage is built on-in order to get it and are not happy at having their plans thwarted.
They attempt plan B and almost succeed in indoctrinating the young woman but her partner sees the signs of her defection in the slow disintegration of their cottage and extricates her at the last minute leading the cult to stage a full magical onslaught.
This they fight off but at a high cost to all involved.
I’ve long enjoyed James Herbert’s particular brand of horror but I don’t feel that this book is one of his best.
The main problem I had was one of pacing. For a good two-thirds of the book very little happens. The stage is well set, the characters established and the foreshadowing heavy but very little of interest takes place.
When the action does pick up, it picks up quickly and comes across as rushed. There is no gradual increase in tension, no time to savour the scare. There are a couple of surprise twists near the end but they are all but lost in the frenzy of the story’s culmination and so don’t have the impact that they might have.
This one is strictly for the fans-Lynn

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